Ex-Warren Central star Douglas signs deal with Indians

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, June 25, 2002

[06/25/02]Shea Douglas was willing to postpone his chance at a professional baseball career for the sake of his young family. Fortunately for the former Warren Central star, he didn’t have to.

Douglas, who starred at Southern Mississippi and was drafted in the 32nd round of the Major League Baseball draft earlier this month by the Cleveland Indians, signed a contract with the team Monday.

“It wouldn’t have bothered me to go back to school, but the only way I would’ve gotten the money I wanted next year was to go in the top five rounds,” Douglas said. “And that would have been some pressure next year.”

Douglas declined to say how much the contract was worth, but said it was “more than average money for a 32nd-round draft choice,” and enough to help he, wife, Shaun, and infant daughter, Lexus McKenzie Douglas, get started in life and live comfortably.

Douglas’ wife and daughter live in Vicksburg, but will join him in Burlington, N.C., when he reports to the Indians’ rookie league team there later this week.

He said having his family join him was more important than any money the Indians could have offered.

“That was a big-time decision. I was not going unless they could go with me,” Douglas said. “They could have offered me a million dollars and I would not have gone if they hadn’t been able to go with me.”

Douglas’ contract also contained another important clause, one he lobbied hard for. The Indians agreed to pay for four additional semesters of tuition at Southern Miss instead of the standard two.

“I was very happy about that,” he said.

That will help Douglas earn his degree in electronic engineering and technology, although he said he plans to wait a couple of years before returning to school.

“I’m probably going to hold out on school for a couple of years so I can get some money in my pocket,” he said.

USM coach Corky Palmer said it would be difficult to replace Douglas, but he was proud of his ace pitcher. Douglas went 10-3 with a 3.14 ERA for the Golden Eagles this season and won 22 games in three seasons.

“We’re going to miss him, but what it’s all about is signing a pro contract,” Palmer said. “His bonus was not 32nd round money … I’m proud of Shea. He held in there for what he wanted and got it.”

Douglas’ win total in 2002 was the most by a USM pitcher in a decade, and some draft projections had him going as high as the eighth round.

Questions about whether he would sign, however, caused him to slide to the 32nd round. Douglas said before the draft that he would return to USM if drafted after the 12th round.

“That was the biggest reason I was picked that late was my standpoint on the draft,” Douglas said. “I probably could have gotten selected in the first 15 rounds, and the top rounds are all about whether they can sign you or not.”

Until the last minute, he was unsure whether he would put his name on the contract. Finally, the desire to provide a good living for his family and a good offer from the Indians won out.

“We did a lot of negotiating and finally came back and worked it out,” he said.

So instead of working out in Mississippi, Douglas will spend the summer playing baseball in North Carolina. He should advance to Class-A ball by next season, and hopes to reach the majors in four or five years.

“He’s got three pitches, but his change-up is the best change-up from the left side that I’ve ever coached. It sets up his fastball,” Palmer said. “A lot of pitchers get to the minors without having learned that pitch. He’s already got that pitch mastered.”

Some scouts questioned Douglas’ velocity reports have said he throws his fastball in the upper-80s, but he admits it’s probably a little slower than that but with good movement on the pitch, a good change-up and a devastating curveball, he said he won’t have any problem proving himself as he marches toward the majors.

“It just hurts you in the draft. It won’t hurt my progression in the minors,” Douglas said of his velocity. “I’ve just got to go out and perform now. Now that you’re signed, the person right next to you is just as good as you are.”