One day after winning the Class 3A state baseball title with the Solon Spartans, Derrick Loveless was meeting his future coaches and teammates with the Blue Jays in the Gulf Coast League.
Loveless decided to forgo a scholarship at the University of Iowa and start his pro career right out of high school.
“It’s a big decision for me,” Loveless said. “I’ve been thinking about it basically the whole summer. I’m just relieved I don’t have to worry about it any more.”
If it weighed on his mind this summer, it didn’t show up in his statistics. Loveless hit .554 with 14 doubles, six triples, 11 home runs and 64 RBIs. The No. 3 hitter on a loaded team that repeated as state champions, Loveless also had 28 stolen bases.
For his sensational senior season, Loveless is the 2011 Press-Citizen Hitter of the Year.
And now it’s on to bigger and better things.
“I’m just going to have to be patient and see how I do,” Loveless said. “It’ll be their decision when to move me up. I’m just going to sit back and enjoy what I’m doing right now and try to get better.”
Drafted in the 27th round of the Major League Baseball draft, Loveless said he signed his contract Tuesday morning. Terms were not disclosed.
He will start his career with the Blue Jays’ rookie league club in Dunedin, Fla., will begin practice today and hopes to start playing in games by the end of the week.
“Just being down here, seeing what they do, this choice is the best thing for me,” Loveless said. “It’ll be fun to just worry about baseball and play with these guys.”
Loveless was a multi-sport star for the Spartans, playing football, soccer, track and baseball. He could have perhaps tried his hand at Division I football, but his talent and love for baseball have always been unquestioned.
“He was someone that we had identified when he was younger,” Solon coach Keith McSweeney said. “We always believed he could be a prospect. He had certain attributes and tools you can’t really teach.”
Loveless starting playing for a talented Solon team as an eighth grader and broke out as a freshman. His power really just came on this season.
He finished with a .458 career average with 54 doubles, 15 triples, 19 home runs and 172 RBIs. The 54 doubles are a Solon career record, as are his 238 hits and 91 stolen bases.
McSweeney didn’t know how Loveless would develop as a pro. He could be a speedy, high batting average type or he could develop more serious power. Or both, the Blue Jays are probably hoping.
“It remains to be seen what happens when he gets a wooden bat in his hands if he’s going to be able to drive the ball and be a power hitter,” McSweeney said. “Right now he has a pro body, and I’m sure how much stronger he’s going to get. But he will get stronger.”
The path to “The Show” can be a long one, but one that a player drafted in any round can make. Loveless hopes that by focusing on baseball full time for the first time in his life, he can make that journey quicker than he would have playing college baseball for three or four years.
“I know its going to take time and practice,” Loveless said. “These coaches know what I need to work on. I can work on those, maybe get rid of those kinks and work my way up.”