Friday, July 20, 2012

BLUE JAYS TO BEARS: Devin Pearson chooses baseball at Cal over Blue Jays farm system

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Devin Pearson, Monterey County's Male Athlete of the Year, played baseball, basketball and football at Carmel High. Pearson, who was drafted by the Toronto Blue Jays in June, did not sign with the club, opting to attend UC Berkeley instead.

Devin Pearson didn't panic when Stanford didn't admit him in March to play football. He did not jump when the Toronto Blue Jays drafted him in June's Major League Baseball amateur draft.

Instead, the Carmel graduate held his ground, remained patient with the process and waited for the right offer to come forward.

Mid July wasn't the expectation.

"No it was not,'' Pearson said. "Yeah, I was getting somewhat concerned. Each summer league baseball game was like an audition for a college.''

Apparently Pearson made an impression on Cal manager Dave Esquer, as the multi-sport standout and two-time Herald Male Athlete of the Year signed a letter of intent to become a member of the Bears on Tuesday.

"He (Esquer) told me that he believed in me,'' Pearson said. "He said we want you here. I was somewhere where I felt I could come in and make an impact.''

The center fielder is joining a program in need of outfielders. Cal's current roster has just four outfielders listed on the depth chart.

Each week over the summer a different college entered the picture for Pearson. Texas, Florida State, Virginia Tech, USC and Oregon had contacted him.

Cal, whose baseball program went from potentially being shut down to reaching the College World Series in 2010, came into focus last week when it watched Pearson play.

"I spoke with them after one of my games for the first time last week,'' Pearson said.

Whatever was said made an impression with the 18-year-old,

who narrowed his choices to Cal and Oregon.

As late as Monday, Pearson was still hedging on his decision.

"The Oregon recruiter was calling me and asking what's going on?" Pearson said. "I just had to make sure that this was right for me and we were all on the same page. Cal just seemed right."

Pearson, who hit .486 last spring for Carmel and .600 as a junior, will be joining former Stevenson first baseman Nick Halamandaris, who opted to go to Cal instead of signing with the Seattle Mariners as an eighth-round pick.

"I talked to Nick on Tuesday,'' said Pearson, who has competed against Halamandaris in football, basketball and baseball. "He was happy for me. I also have some friends on my summer team that are playing at Cal.''

"He's a gamer,'' said Halamandaris, when Pearson was named Athlete of the Year. "I respect how had he competes and his dedication to his craft."

Arguably one of the best all-around athletes to come out of Monterey County in the last 20 years, Pearson didn't decide to pursue baseball until it became apparent in April that there were more opportunities than football.

"For a guy that has played baseball from March to May, it's pretty scary what he can become,'' said Carmel football coach Golden Anderson, who coached Pearson in football and baseball.

Pearson thought he was headed to Stanford as a walk-on recruit to be a receiver. But he didn't gain admittance in March. At that point, his focus turned to baseball.

On potential alone, the Blue Jays where going to draft Pearson in the 10th round if he would sign. But he couldn't give them a definite answer. Toronto still drafted him in the 30th round.

"I have never devoted more than three months to baseball,'' Pearson said. "Playing this summer showed how much better I can get. And I can get a lot better. I'm just scratching the surface.''

Pearson has spent most of his life juggling three sports, devoting most of his time to football, where he was 35-3 as a starting quarterback at Carmel, throwing or rushing for 127 touchdowns.

"I will miss football,'' said Pearson, who threw for more than 2,000 yards and rushed for nearly 1,600 last fall. "But I will be able to enjoy Cal's new football stadium as a fan."

While Pearson has remained optimistic throughout the delay in his future, he's breathing a sigh of relief. Finally, he knows where he'll spend the next four years.

"I'm glad it's over,'' Pearson said. "It was getting stressful, especially for my parents. I learned you can't trust what anyone says until it's a done deal. It was hard lesson. When you get a different story, it can be humbling.''

John Devine can be reached at and 646-4405. Follow me on Twitter @johnjdevine.


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