Nearly a year ago, Jared Padgett faced one of the most difficult decisions of his young life.
Padgett had already signed a national letter of intent to pitch at Mississippi State but was also selected in the 26th round of the MLB Draft by the Chicago Cubs last June.
Both options were dreams come true for the Graceville, Florida southpaw. After much thought and consideration, Padgett turned down a $731,000 offer from the Cubs and chose to take the college route first.
“It was very tough,” Padgett said. “A lot of prayer and support went into it, not just from me and my family but everyone that knew the situation I was in. I think good things are going to come from it. It was a tough decision but I think I made the best one because I have bright hopes for a bright future.”
It was not the first time Padgett to make a tough choice. After dominating high school competition with 435 strikeouts in 250 innings and a 1.15 career ERA, the All-American was inundated with scholarship offers.
Padgett narrowed down his options to MSU, Florida State and South Carolina and came very close to committing to the Gamecocks.
“When I was in the ninth grade I actually wanted to go to South Carolina,” Padgett said. “I was determined. They’d won back-to-back national titles and I was going to be a Gamecock. But coach (Nick Mingione) called me one day and there was really nothing like Mississippi State baseball. As far as an atmosphere, you can’t beat it and it’s been a blessing to be a part of it.”
Padgett arrived in Starkville last summer and immediately clicked with his new teammates.
“Our freshman class is really, really close and we worked our tails off during the summer,” Padgett said. “When we met all the upperclassmen, we had such great relationships between each other and everything just clicked. That shows both on and off the field and we’re getting done what needs to be done.”
The 6-foot-4, 205-pounder has had the opportunity to work with both Butch Thompson and Wes Johnson as his pitching coach during his short stint at MSU. Both have helped him harness his arsenal which features the traditional trio of a fastball, curveball and change-up.
“It wasn’t a terrible transition,” Padgett said. “I actually enjoyed it. It was pretty neat because that’s two premier pitching coaches – one of which left to become a head coach and coach Johnson’s track record is unbelievable as well. It’s been really awesome and a good experience. You can learn from both.”
Padgett made his collegiate debut in the Diamond Dogs’ season opener against Florida Atlantic on Feb. 19. He worked a scoreless inning out of the bullpen while giving up a hit and a walk.
“I wasn’t as nervous as I thought I’d be,” Padgett said. “My first time was against FAU and we were down 10-3. It was pretty cool to go out there for the first time, be in control of things and get things done.”
Padgett has pitched in four games for the Bulldogs this spring and sports a 0-1 record with a 3.86 ERA. He has walked three and struck out two in his 2 1/3 innings of work.
“This is the SEC and it’s competitive,” Padgett said. “It’s another level of baseball and is definitely something everyone wants to be a part of, to have that feeling to step on an SEC mound or any mound in college baseball and thrive. It’s been a heck of an experience for sure.”