Bradenton Marauders

No regrets for Grossman

BRADENTON — Robbie Grossman was waffling.

The Pittsburgh Pirates had taken him during the sixth round of baseball’s amateur draft.

But he was committed to the University of Texas, which had inked the native of Cypress, Texas, to a scholarship.

It was the summer of 2008, and Grossman was staring face-to-face with the biggest decision of his young life.

“I realized what I wanted to do — I wanted to be a professional baseball player,” he said. “So why not start now? No regrets. You’re given only so much time to play this game.”

Grossman is now playing the game in Bradenton, manning the corner outfield positions for the high Single-A Marauders.

Had he picked the Longhorns, he’d be smack in the middle of his sophomore season. Instead, he’s navigating McKechnie Field’s swirling winds and hitting second for the 4-0 Marauders.

It wasn’t a decision he came to quickly — Grossman signed with Pittsburgh about two months after it drafted him, agreeing to a $1 million signing bonus as well as a financial package equivalent to a college tuition. But it wasn’t until he talked it over with his family and participated in some workouts at PNC Park that Grossman finally made his choice.

“I don’t want any regrets in my career,” he said prior to reaching base three times during Monday’s 6-2 win over the visiting Fort Myers Miracle. “I want to give it my all.”

Grossman symbolizes the Pirates’ new approach to rebuilding the franchise. Though the organization’s major-league payroll is the lowest in baseball, Pittsburgh has upped its draft budget by $8.3 million since new ownership took over in 2007, according to the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, in order to lure guys such as Grossman — high-impact high school players who slipped through the draft’s first few rounds because teams were wary of their college commitments.

“He became part of our calculated strategy going into the draft,” Pirates general manager Neal Huntington told the day Grossman signed, “and we’re very pleased to announce that we’ve added a player we would have taken in the second round.”

Baseball America agreed — Grossman was ranked as one of the nation’s top 50 prospects heading into the ’08 draft.

After playing five games with the Pirates’ Gulf Coast League team in Bradenton during the same summer he signed, Grossman spent all of last season with the organization’s low Single-A team in West Virginia, stealing 35 bases and batting .266 in 116 games.

The switch-hitting outfielder has gotten off to a fast start at the high Single-A level, going 7-for-15 with a home run, two RBIs and five runs scored during the team’s first four games.

“I’m just working on my game, soaking up as much as I can,” he said, “and trying to be the best baseball player I can.”

Consequently, he’s happy with that fateful decision he made two summers ago.

“We just want to have a good season. I feel like this is a good bunch of guys,” Grossman said. “I want to look back and say I gave it everything I could.”