Heads will be
scratched behind batting cages everywhere about the decision to walk away from
being a No. 1 pick and from the immediate riches that come with it. But
remember this about Todd: He was one of only five students to make an A in his
senior economics class. "Todd is gifted in athletics, and he's very good in
academics," says his economics teacher, John Danielson. "His real
dilemma, no matter how talented he is, is that he's still an 18-year-old high
The second of two
sons, Todd grew up competing with his brother, Scott, three years older. Early
on, both were put on the track for college by their parents. "We really
feel that education is power," says Hank, a general manager for a foods
company, who worked his way through college, finally earning his degree from
Northwestern at the age of 28. "Of course, money is power too, but there is
so much you can do with an education."
"When we were
growing up, our parents taught us the value of a college degree," says
Todd. "We planned from day one to have college degrees."
But no one
planned on his becoming the top pitching prospect in the nation. At 6'5",
205 pounds, Todd is blessed with one of those arms that is spoken of in
mythical terms. In his sophomore and junior seasons he had a combined 14-4
record with a 1.99 ERA, relying largely on his fastball to strike out 128
hitters in 102 innings. Scouts took notice, but it wasn't until last summer,
when his gentle curveball turned into one with a sharp break and he added a
changeup to his repertoire, that his talents started setting hearts aflutter.
Murff's was one of them. It was Murff who was responsible for the New York
Mets' drafting Ryan in the 10th round in 1965, the first year of the major
league draft. However, not even Ryan impressed Murff as much as Todd has.
"He looks like he's throwing batting practice, doesn't he?" said Murff
as Todd, in his no-strain style, threw a two-hit shutout against Haltom High in
May. "He's probably as good as anybody who's ever come along, including
Nolan Ryan. He doesn't throw as hard as Nolan did in high school, but he's
bigger and stronger. He's progressed further than Nolan at this age."
Roger Clemens both in high school and at the University of Texas. "Clemens
never once made me think he could throw the way I think Van Poppel will throw
in the future," Murff says.
Others have been
equally impressed. During the spring-training lockout Rangers manager Bobby
Valentine passed some time at Martin High's tiny baseball field.
"Awesome," he said after watching Todd. "He could pitch in the big
leagues right now." Says Tom Chandler, a Cleveland Indians scout, "When
you're looking for a major league pitcher, you're looking for one just like
And when you're
looking for a pitcher to give a college scholarship to, you're looking for one
just like him. "I don't want to be known as a dumb jock, like a lot of guys
are," Todd says. "Athletics won't carry you forever."
Todd knew that
baseball would put a strain on his time in his last semester of high school,
but he still chose analytical trigonometry and physics as his two electives. He
will graduate with honors on June 2, two days before the draft, with a rank in
the top fifth of his 680-member class.
had read newspaper stories about Todd's baseball exploits, but she did not know
what to expect from him as a student in her senior English class. She remembers
that while teaching a unit on poetry, something in Wordsworth's The World Is
Too Much with Us prompted Todd to give an impromptu discourse to the class.
"He picked up on the idea that there is more to life than making
money," Lambert says. "That nature is very important. With his love of
sports, being out in nature, he appreciates its role in life. He understands
that money is important, but that it should not be the end-all to
For the schoolboy
baseball player who shows exceptional talent both on the diamond and in the
classroom, what to do after high school graduation has become a difficult
decision. Colleges like Texas, with inviting campuses and big-time baseball
programs, are becoming an increasingly desirable alternative to life in the
minors. Three first-round choices in last year's draft rejected pro offers in
order to attend college. And all three turned their backs on big money: For the
first time, the 23 first-round selections who did sign all received bonuses of
more than $100,000.