Andrew Sopko literally waited until the last minute to announce the fate of his baseball future.
The recent Loyola Sacred Heart graduate had already committed to play collegiate ball at Gonzaga when he was selected in the 14th round of the Major League Baseball amateur draft by the San Diego Padres early last month.
The deadline to sign with MLB clubs for those picked in this year’s draft was 3 p.m. Friday. And Sopko, a right-handed, fireball-throwing pitcher who won’t turn 18 until next month, wasn’t ready to come forward with his decision until after that deadline had passed.
Just moments after the golden hour, Sopko made his intentions public in an interview with the Missoulian.
“I’m going to Gonzaga,” Sopko said. “I’ve pretty much had it set in my mind for a while, but I’ve still been weighing my options the whole time.”
By choosing not to sign with the Padres and begin his professional career in the minor leagues this summer, the 6-foot-2, 190-pound hurler won’t be eligible for the draft for another three years.
But by taking as much time as possible to come to a final conclusion, Sopko is confident he’s made the right decision.
“I had two great offers,” Sopko said. “I took into account what my parents were saying and what my advisor was saying about what I should do. I just thought about it for a long time and I decided that going to school, going to college and getting better would give me a better chance of getting drafted after my junior year and maybe getting drafted higher.”
In three American Legion baseball seasons with the Class AA Missoula Mavericks from 2009-2011, Sopko amassed a 23-3 record while holding down a 2.70 ERA.
Sopko gained his first taste of notoriety as a 15-year old in 2010, when he led the Mavs to their first state championship in 12 seasons by going 10-0 with a 2.43 ERA in 85 1-3 innings pitched, including a complete-game victory in the state title tilt.
Sopko said that signing-bonus money wasn’t a big factor in making his decision.
“Money didn’t play that much into it, but in a way you kind of have to take it into consideration,” he said. “It’s going to be a job if you take it. You have to decide if it’s going to be enough money to change your life or if it isn’t. I decided it wasn’t.”
Sopko is the second former Maverick in as many summers to turn down a shot at pro ball in favor of a college career. Last year, outfielder Ben Roberts was taken in the seventh round of the draft by the Arizona Diamondbacks, but chose to honor his commitment to Washington State, where he was a redshirt this spring.
For now, Sopko is just happy to be finished with the process and can’t wait to start his collegiate career at GU.
“It’s been kind of frustrating this whole time,” Sopko said of coming to his decision. “But I’m glad to have it over with and glad to have something set in stone. I actually just talked to the (Gonzaga) head coach and told him. They’re glad I made the decision to go to school.”
Michael Heinbach can be reached at 523-5209 or at email@example.com.