Some 100 radar-gun-toting scouts descended on Old Dominion University in March to watch Monarchs righthander Justin Verlander face off against touted Princeton righty Ross Ohlendorf. By day's end, however, the buzz had turned to the Tigers' outfielder B.J. Szymanski, who launched a 96-mph Verlander fastball 450 feet over the centerfield fence. Before that day Szymanski had been virtually unknown to major league scouts. "Since then, the interest toward B.J. has been nonstop," says Tigers coach Scott Bradley. "We've had scouts watching B.J. hitting at all our batting practices."
Szymanski, who went on to hit 378 with a .646 slugging percentage for the Ivy League champs, is projected as a first-round pick in next week's draft. Nowhere to be found among Baseball America's Top 100 college prospects in February, the junior centerfielder is now ranked by the publication as the sixth-best position player in the draft. It's a stunning rise for a premed student who didn't play baseball during his freshman year so that he could focus on football.
Szymanski still thinks he might have a future in pro football; he caught 44 passes for 823 yards last fall. Baseball, however, is his focus now. "I love both sports," says Szymanski, who plans to get his bachelor's degree within two years even if he signs a pro contract this summer. "But I'm committed to baseball. Everything has fallen into place, kind of unexpectedly, for me to pursue that."