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Godwin takes turn at baseball

May 1, 2005 1:10 am

By TODD JACOBSON

WASHINGTON--Tyrell Godwin always knew he would play professional baseball, even as passed up a $1.9 million signing bonus from the New York Yankees in 1997 to attend college at North Carolina.

He knew it two years later, even as he spurned the Texas Rangers after they drafted him and offered the speedy and talented outfielder $1.2 million.

And even when he hurt his knee playing football for the Tar Heels, and slipped to the third round of the 2001 draft and the Toronto Blue Jays, where millions were no longer dangled in front of his nose, he knew it.

But Godwin, 25, an intriguing prospect for the Washington Nationals off to a fast start at Triple-A New Orleans, had other things on his mind.

Like he always has.

"I feel like I had the ability to play professional ball but I felt like academically as a kid growing up that there was more for me to do aside from high school and just playing ball," Godwin said. "You are not going to be able to play ball forever."

So Godwin made the rare choice of books over baseball.

Godwin was the valedictorian of his Wilmington, N.C., high school, and wanted to be the first member of his family to graduate college. He played football and baseball at UNC, but attended on an academic scholarship.

When he finally walked across the stage in December of 2000 with a degree in tow, the history major knew it was time to really give pro baseball a try.

When the Blue Jays drafted him in the third round in 2001, there was no regret, even though the first-round money was no longer and his passion for baseball was openly questioned. He still says his decision to graduate from college was the "best move I ever made."

"I don't regret anything I have ever done," Godwin said. "I regret the way people treated me because of the decision I made to go to college and stuff. I don't dwell on it."

He's certainly not regretting it now.

When his path to the majors stalled after four seasons in the Blue Jays' system, the Nationals selected him in the Rule 5 Draft in December, meaning they would have to keep him on the major league roster or return him to Toronto.

The Nationals thought so highly of Godwin in Spring Training that they traded minor league pitcher Aaron Wideman to the Blue Jays so they could send Godwin to Triple-A.

He hasn't disappointed.

Through Friday's games, the Godwin was leading the Zephyrs with a .395 batting average--which ranks fifth in the Pacific Coast League--and continues to develop as a hitter.

He's hit leadoff and third for New Orleans, and is just a call away from making his big league debut and finally answering the doubters who questioned him when he chose college over professional baseball.

"I always felt like I a good enough investment," Godwin said. "I felt in the long run that it will all come."

Nice grab

Washington general manager Jim Bowden picked Travis Hughes up off waivers at the end of Spring Training, but never expected the type of performance the former Texas Rangers' prospect has turned in.

"He's been perfect. Not a run, not a hit," Bowden said. "He's throwing 94, 95 [mph] and hasn't given up a hit yet."

That's true. Through eight games and 8 innings, the 6-foot-5 right-hander has allowed just two walks and struck out eight.

Et cetera

Potomac Nationals pitcher Mike O'Connor struck out 15 batters in 6 innings Wednesday. He took a no-hitter into the seventh inning before giving up a solo home run.

To reach TODD JACOBSON: 540/374-5440 tjacobson@freelancestar.com





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