By Frank Jolley
GateHouse Media Services
EUSTIS — The next time Brady Singer throws a baseball with a purpose, it will be his full-time job.
A professional baseball player … a childhood dream he nurtured over the past three years as a pitcher for the University of Florida.
Singer’s college career ended Friday with a 5-2 loss against Arkansas at the College World Series in Omaha, Nebraska. The former Eustis High School standout was tagged with the loss — his second in the CWS — after going five innings and giving up seven hits and four runs.
However, Singer’s days in a Gators uniform were just the scene-setting chapters in a book that likely has many left to written.
Selected by Kansas City with the 18th pick in Major League Baseball’s annual draft earlier this month, Singer is expected to sign with the Royals and make his professional debut with one of the organization’s minor-league affiliates. Even though many pundits consider him one of the most “major-league ready” pitchers in the draft, it is unlikely Singer will pitch in the major leagues this season, even after teams can expand their rosters to 40 players in September.
The 18th overall pick in the draft has an allotted bonus value of $3,349,300.
Singer’s mother, Jacquelyn, said his agent has been speaking with the Royals and a deal could be reached soon. He and his family expect to leave for Kansas City early next month.
For now, with his season — and college career — complete, Singer is taking some time away from the diamond to decompress and recharge his batteries, according to his mother.
“He’s so exhausted,” Jacquelyn Singer said.
Without a doubt, it was a grueling season for Singer and Gators. In many ways, it might’ve been the most difficult in the program’s history.
The Gators began the year as the defending national champions and were the nation’s top-ranked team for most of the season. As a result, they got an opponent’s “A” game each time they stepped on the field, meaning there was little room for error whenever they played.
Certainly, the entire team played in the spotlight all year, but it often shined brightest on Singer — long considered among the top pitching prospects in the country. In nearly every game he pitched this year, Singer was matched up against every team’s ace.
And he delivered far more often than not.
Singer outdueled Auburn’s Casey Mize — the top pick in the MLB draft — not once, but twice. He beat Mize and the Tigers 3-1 on April 26, scattering four hits and striking out seven, and backed that up with an 8-2 win on June 9 in the opener of the teams’ Super Regional series.
With Friday’s loss, Singer closed out the year with a 12-3 record and a 2.55 ERA. He allowed 84 hits and walked just 22 in 113 innings — a WHIP of 1.13 — while striking out 114 and limiting opposing hitters to a .203 batting average.
In three years at Florida, Singer posted a 23-10 won-loss record and a 3.22 ERA and left his mark on the record books. He is 11th in Gator history in career wins, seventh in strikeouts (281), and set the NCAA record for strikeouts in CWS Finals game when he fanned 12 in seven innings last year against LSU.
Statistically, Singer is, arguably, the greatest college baseball player ever to come from Lake County. Umatilla’s Jonathan Lucroy, who played at the University of Louisiana-Lafayette and was a third round draft choice by the Milwaukee Brewers in 2007, is the only local player who is often spoken of in the same breath with Singer.
Over the course of his final season with the Gators, Singer has won countless honors, including the SEC Pitcher of the Year. In addition, he has been named Baseball America’s National Player of the Year and was a consensus All-American by Baseball America, Collegiate Baseball, American Baseball Coaches Association (ABCA) and the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association (NCBWA).
Singer’s crowning achievement, short of winning back-to-back CWS titles, might be winning the prestigious Dick Howser Trophy on June 8. Bestowed annually to the nation’s top college baseball player, the Dick Howser Trophy is considered the Heisman Trophy of college baseball.
“I feel like there’s a list of things,” Singer said of the UF junior class’s legacy. “Obviously a national championship. Obviously the past four years coming back to Omaha. But I think the effort and the attitude and the confidence and everything we showed on the field was just incredible. To be a part of these past four years with these teams, it was something really special.”
While some might have questioned Singer’s decision in 2015 to pass up an opportunity to play professional baseball after the Toronto Blue Jays selected him with the 56th pick in the draft, he never looked back. And now, with the benefit of hindsight, few can argue that he made the right choice.
Instead of enduring three seasons toiling in the minor leagues, Singer pitched for one of the top programs in the nation against the best competition college baseball could muster.
And the next time he walks onto a pitcher’s mound, he will be one step closer to his ultimate dream of pitching in the major leagues.
Frank Jolley is a sports writer with the Leesburg Daily-Commerical.