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Which would you pick? PSU commit Lonnie White Jr. faces choice between college FB, pro baseball

Graphic from Lonnie White Jr. Twitter

UPDATE: July 12, 2 p.m.

Lonnie White Jr. was selected by the Pittsburgh Pirates with the No. 64 overall pick in Monday’s MLB draft. He was the first pick of the competitive balance portion after the second round.

The signing bonus slot value for the No. 64 pick is $1,050,300. The Pirates obviously could choose to pay over that slot value, but how much more is unclear at this point.

White is an outfielder and also a 4-star commit to Penn State as an athlete.

ORIGINAL STORY (And consider how will the $1 million signing bonus amount differ from the $2 million pre-draft discussion for White?)

Lonnie White Jr. has a chance to make about $2 million or more in the next day or two. That’s the slot money he would be guaranteed if he’s picked late in the first or early in the second round of the Major League Baseball draft. The first round is Sunday night, then the second round begins Monday.

White, an outfielder, is projected to go to the Pittsburgh Pirates with the first pick of the second round (No. 37 overall) in the latest mock draft by ESPN’s Kiley McDaniel. That pick, by the way, comes with a slot value signing bonus of $1,999,3000.

White also is a 4-star college football recruit and has committed to Penn State. He’s a 6-foot-2, 210-pound athlete from Malvern Prep and is the No. 7 prospect in Pennsylvania, according to 247Sports.

Here’s White’s choice: Take the money and pursue a pro baseball career, where he would play in the not-so-glamorous minor leagues for 3-4 years and deal with the uncertainty of having to prove himself in what really is a game of failure. Or, he can come to Penn State and play in front of 100,000 fans every game game but deal with having to live up to his football hype while playing a vicious game where injuries are always a concern.

Which would you pick?

PODCAST: Check out our discussion with Mike Vukovcan from Pittsburgh Sports Now on White’s decision between baseball and college football from “Sports Central with Cory Giger” on WRTA in Altoona


For starters, let’s answer one obvious question first: White is not going to be able to play both sports, not for very long anyway. Sure, he could try. He could see if James Franklin would allow him to play football, then leave each summer to play baseball. But c’mon, that’s just not going to work. He would not be able to fully reach his football potential that way, which would hurt Penn State. And any MLB team spending $2 million on him would certainly prefer him to commit full time to baseball.

We can’t know what’s in White’s heart and which sport he truly loves the most. If he prefers football, then the money he could get up front in baseball may not matter all that much. But if he prefers baseball or is split, then you gotta think that $2 million signing bonus would go a long way to helping him make up his mind.

JAMES FRANKLIN posted this message to White as the start of the draft approached Sunday night:

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I’ve covered the minor leagues for 25 years. It’s a grind for players. Every day. And no matter how good a prospect might seem before he gets to pro ball, the minor leagues can humble anyone in a hurry. There is no such thing as a can’t-miss prospect, because hitting a baseball is the toughest thing to do in all of sports, and like I said earlier, it is a game of failure.

College football has a different set of challenges. We’ve all seen highly touted recruits who have lived off their sheer athleticism and superiority in high school, yet struggle with college when they have to work harder than they ever have in their lives — because EVERYONE is good. Penn State would offer a tremendous opportunity for any college football player, but there simply are no guarantees that White will ever make a big splash in college football.

Look, I won’t beat around the bush any longer. If a young man coming out of high school has a chance to make close to $2 million to go play baseball, then he should go play baseball. That is life-changing money, and it’s guaranteed.

And hey, if baseball doesn’t work out, the player could always come back to college football in a few years.

This would be an easy choice for me. Maybe it would be easy for someone else, as well, to say that football would be their choice, regardless of the baseball money.

Whatever the case, Lonnie White Jr. is in a great situation that he’s able to choose between two terrific options.

UPDATE FROM GIGER: Given that White is now looking at a $1 million signing bonus, I would think this makes his decision a little more difficult. After taxes and everything else, White probably would get about $600,000 from his signing bonus. That’s a lot of money, but now that he and other college athletes can profit from their name, image and likeness, White will have to determine how much he might be able to make during a college football career and compare that to the baseball money.

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Cory Giger is a 15-year veteran of the Penn State beat and a journalist with 28 years of experience. He has won more than 100 state and national journalism awards during his career, plus he's a voter for the Heisman Trophy in football and Wooden Award in basketball.

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