Commentary

Split decision

Bubba Starling has a choice to make: big leagues or Big Ten?

Updated: May 11, 2011, 12:14 PM ET
By Jeff Bradley | ESPN The Magazine
Jamie Kripke for ESPN The MagazineBubba Starling has enough talent to succeed in either baseball or football.

ABOUT THREE YEARS AGO, Jerald VanRheen, the baseball coach at Gardner Edgerton HS in Gardner, Kan., began to leave voice mails for a slew of pro scouts and college coaches. "I coach baseball in Kansas," he said, "and you're not going to believe this."

"This" was Derek "Bubba" Starling, an athlete so gifted he could throw a baseball 90 mph, throw a football 80 yards and run a 4.36 40. "It was obvious I was looking at someone special," VanRheen says. "I let the scouts know about him when I did so the attention wouldn't bother Bubba later."

Later is now. On June 6, the 6-foot-5, 200-pound senior will likely be a top-five pick in baseball's first-year draft. But it has been a long time since he has noticed the hordes of bird dogs who make the trip just to watch him practice. These days, only one thing really concerns Starling: trying to decide which sport to pursue.


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