Zach Lee introduced to Dodgers fans
LOS ANGELES -- Less than 48 hours after agreeing to terms with the Los Angeles Dodgers on a $5.25 million signing bonus that will be paid out over the next five years, Zach Lee, the club's first-round pick in this year's draft, already was at Dodger Stadium on Wednesday night. He was being introduced to the players and coaches, standing on the field and being announced to the crowd before the game and meeting with the media in a club-level suite during the bottom of the first inning.
It was the culmination of a whirlwind period for Lee, who as recently as Monday morning was participating in preseason football drills at Louisiana State University, where he had signed on to play quarterback in the fall and baseball in the spring before deciding to sign with the Dodgers just before the deadline for doing so.
"It has been a little bit overwhelming, especially with the travel," said Lee, a right-hander out of McKinney High School in suburban Dallas who will turn 19 next month. "But I guess the travel is something I need to get used to, going into this profession."
From the time he made his decision late Monday night, Lee had informed LSU football coach Les Miles of his signing, cleaned out his campus dormitory room, returned home to McKinney, spent Tuesday night there, flown to the West Coast on Wednesday, undergone his physical and, on the way to the ballpark for the game, experienced his first Southern California traffic jam on the Harbor Freeway.
Once he arrived in Chavez Ravine, though, he wasn't looking back.
"[The decision] was extremely difficult," Lee said. "LSU is a great program, and I really enjoyed my time being down there. They were tremendous people. But here, as well, these are tremendous people. It's a very good program in terms of player development. I just felt at this time, this opportunity was too good to pass up."
Lee said Miles understood his decision.
"He was a little disappointed from an emotional standpoint, but he made it very clear he supported me either way," Lee said. "I really appreciated him for doing that."
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Lee probably would have gone much higher in the draft than the 28th overall pick, where the Dodgers were waiting to snatch him up, but signability concerns scared teams off because Lee had let it be known before the draft that it would take about $5 million to get him to spurn his scholarship offer from LSU.
Lee said negotiations with the Dodgers -- which were handled almost entirely by his father, Steve Lee -- never really heated up until Monday. Once that happened, Lee simply waited in Baton Rouge for updates from his father until he finally made his decision.
Lee will report almost immediately to the Dodgers' spring-training complex in Glendale, Ariz., where he will work out but not pitch in the Arizona Rookie League because he hasn't thrown a baseball since the end of the high school season. Instead, he will gradually work his arm into shape before pitching in the loosely structured Arizona Instructional League, which gets under way in late September.
Logan White, the Dodgers' assistant general manager for amateur scouting, said Lee might be sent to the club's rookie-level affiliate in Ogden, Utah, for next month's Pioneer League playoffs, but not to actually pitch.
"We might do that just to expose him to that atmosphere," White said.
Tony Jackson covers the Dodgers for ESPNLosAngeles.com.