Posted on March 29, 2010 at 1:42 PM
Matt Purke was rated as one of the best pitchers coming out of high school last year. That's why he was a first round pick of the Texas Rangers.
"He's special," says TCU head coach Jim Schlossnagle. "He's as good as advertised for sure."
Purke turned down millions of dollars in bonus money to play for the Texas Rangers last year. Because he turned it down, he has to spend two years in college. He'll be 21 before he's eligible to be drafted again.
"I thought it was a really good experience. I learned a lot through it," says Purke. "The Rangers, I mean they've got good people. I have no problem with them. They run a pretty tight ship over there and I'm just glad I had this place to come to and I'm really enjoying being here."
Instead of being a teenage millionaire, Purke's focus is on helping TCU maintain its status as one of the top five teams in the country.
Every time he pitches, his parents are on hand to watch. His father still logs every pitch, something he's done since Matt was six years old.
"I'm not his personal agent but I am his father and we realize that if he's going to have a long career, that we should keep close eye on this," says his father Lawrence Purke. "We tell every parent that we talk to that's a pitcher; they should keep a very close eye on him."
Purke's mother, Margaret, says her son got hooked on baseball at an early age. "I think it was age two and he would watch the baseball game on TV and we have video of him just in a diaper and no shirt with his glove and his ball and he's watching the pitcher and as the pitcher winds, up he winds up and watch out in the house because you don't know where the ball is going."
"It was about my second or third birthday, someone got me a glove, my first left handed glove," says Purke. "I was watching TV and I’d see the pitcher throw the ball and I’d wind up and throw the ball and try to be just like them on TV. Each year, I’ve tried it more and more and just became more in love with the game."
Purke's enthusiasm has rubbed off on the team. When he takes the field, he doesn't walk to the mound, he runs. And when an inning is over, he runs back to the dugout. He never seems to just walk.
"I like to have fun," he says. "I love playing baseball and I love to show my guys that I'm pumped up, and that gets them pumped up, and then we put in some good things, we hit the ball, we play good defense. I think the more fired up we get, the better we play."
"I think we could use more of that in the game of baseball, at all levels, and it's easy to pitch with energy when you're as good as he is," says Schlossnagle.
In the meantime, his stop at TCU should help Purke mature into an even better pitcher. His father is convinced that his day is coming.
"Oh most definitely barring any serious injury, or anything, Matthew will have a nice long career," his father says. "We talk about it, 20 plus years, simply because that's what we're looking at. We have to build, we realize there are stepping stones for a nice long career, you don't get there over night, and we're willing to make that journey as we go along."
"I'm not privy to all that went on between him and the rangers," says Schlossnagle. "All I know is that college is not a bad place to develop as a young person both on and off the field, and I think that barring injury, he'll end up where he was supposed to be in the first place."
And that's all Purke could ask for even if his expected career in the major leagues has been delayed for a while.