Michigan baseball coach Geoff Zahn”s primary goal is to graduate good baseball players and good young men.
“Education is the most important thing,” Zahn said. “I tell that to every recruit. I tell them that I”ll be making sure they attend class.”
But last week two of his players senior Scott Tousa and junior Bobby Wood signed professional contracts before they finished their degrees.
The New York Yankees inked Wood after selecting him in the 24th round, while Tousa went undrafted before the Detroit Tigers signed him as a free agent.
Tousa has used up his eligibility at Michigan, but he will return to Ann Arbor for fall semester to complete his degree in Communications.
Wood, who was majoring in Organizational Studies, departed one year shy of his degree.
Zahn”s bigger concern is for sophomore lefthander Rich Hill.
After just two seasons with the Maize and Blue, the Anaheim Angels drafted Hill in the seventh round.
Although Hill did not accept the initial offer from the Angels, he remains a significant flight risk for the program. Zahn said that it was 50-50 on where Hill will pitch next spring.
“I really hope he stays at least one more year,” Zahn said. “With two years left, (graduating) is going to be difficult.”
Zahn speaks from experience. He was drafted four times before he signed with the Los Angeles Dodgers during January of his senior year.
“The offers were going down,” Zahn said. “I felt like if I didn”t sign early, I wouldn”t get anything.”
That decision prevented the 1967 Michigan co-MVP from competing in his final season. But he did stay and complete his degree in physical education that April.
Zahn went on to 13-year major league career.
The lifestyle of professional baseball does not lend itself well to college students. Many of the players that left the program early for the pro ranks have not completed their degrees.
But some of Michigan”s most famous baseball alumni have approached Zahn about completing those degrees.
“I”ve spoken with (Barry) Larkin and Jim Abbott,” Zahn said. “Both expressed interest in finishing their schooling.”
Larkin, currently an All-Star shortstop for the Cincinnati Reds, needs just 12 additional credits. Zahn said that those would be made up soon through correspondence and distance learning courses.
“He doesn”t need that degree. If he doesn”t have enough money by now, that”s sad,” Zahn quipped. “But seriously, it”s very important to him. I understand he made a promise to his mother.”
Zahn pointed out that often times it takes years for pro players to finish their schooling.
Just a few years ago, Chandler Simonds completed his degree. He earned his last Michigan letter in 1966.
As for Hill, he will be playing with Chatham in the Cape Cod league for the rest of the summer.
And the deadline for his decision is his first day of class.
Current Yankee minor-league catcher David Parrish was courted strongly out of high school. His father, current Tiger third base coach Lance Parrish, told him to skip class during the first week while he negotiated contract terms.
Parrish opted to stay and play at Michigan. Hill”s decision could also come down to the final hours.