Blake Perry knew he had to go.
As much as he would love to have tested himself in the Southeastern Conference, Perry knew the time was right to turn pro. And the former Boyle County High School pitcher did just that Monday when he agreed to terms with the Arizona Diamondbacks.
Perry and the team reached an agreement only hours before Major League Baseball’s midnight signing deadline, and by week’s end he will be on his way to Montana to begin his professional baseball career.
He had committed to Kentucky and would have been on his way to pitch for the Wildcats if he hadn’t settled on a contract with the Diamondbacks.
“I always wanted to play college baseball, and the SEC is a great conference and I had a great opportunity to go there, but having the chance to start my professional career at (age) 18 is something a lot of people don’t get the chance to do, and me and my family thought it was the best thing to do,” Perry said.
Perry, a 6-5 right-hander, will receive a signing bonus of $500,000. He said he will leave Danville later this week to join the Missoula Osprey, the Diamondbacks’ affiliate in the Pioneer League.
“It’s a big load off me and my family’s shoulders,” he said.
Perry was selected by Arizona in the sixth round of the June draft — he was the highest draft pick ever from this area — but he said negotiations with the team didn’t begin until about two weeks ago after Perry traveled to Phoenix.
“The negotiations took care of themselves, but the decision was very difficult,” he said.
While in Phoenix, Perry threw a bullpen session at Chase Field, underwent a physical, watched the Diamondbacks play two games against the Washington Nationals and toured the team’s spring training complex outside nearby Scottsdale that will open next year.
Perry and his father, Glynn, handled the negotiations without an adviser, and he agreed to a bonus that was more than three times the major league recommended slot of $150,000 for players drafted after the fifth round.
Arizona was able to sign nine of its top 10 draft picks, according to MLB.com., but the Diamondbacks had additional money to work with because they did not sign first-round pick Barret Loux, who failed a team physical last month.
Grateful to coach
Perry said he got a great deal of advice from Paul Morse, the Danville coach and former Kentucky and minor league player who tutored Perry at his Morse Baseball Academy.
“He’s helped me here more than anybody has,” Perry said.
“He really put me on the map, he got me recruited for college, and when I got drafted, he helped advise me through that. He was dead on in everything that he told me.
“Now it’s just all up to me and how I perform.”
Perry hasn’t pitched competitively since this spring, when he went 2-0 with a 3.54 earned-run average and 29 strikeouts in 29 2/3 innings for the IMG Academy School at IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla. He said he is looking forward to getting back into a routine and to getting his first taste of professional baseball.
“I’m looking forward to seeing what it’s really like. I’ve talked to a lot of people and they’ve kind of told me what it’s like, but they said you don’t know what it’s like 'til you actually get there,” he said.
Perry said he doesn’t know whether his role with Missoula will be as a starter or a reliever, and he doesn’t care.
“I’m not really sure what they want me to do, and I don’t really care at this point. I’m just looking for an opportunity to pitch,” he said.
He said he expects to remain with the Osprey until their season ends Sept. 9, then come home for about a week before reporting to Tucson, Ariz., for the Arizona Fall League, where he’ll play until mid-October.
“Then I’ll be back in Danville working out (this winter), and hopefully I’ll be ready to move up when I go to spring training,” he said.