Santa Fe College center fielder Keon Broxton is opting to take his chances with professional baseball and is ditching his education for a shot at the big leagues.
The freshman was selected in the third round of the 2009 MLB Draft on June 9 as the 95th pick by the Arizona Diamondbacks.Broxton, who helped propel the Saints into postseason play by hitting a three-run, walk-off home run in the first round of the state championship against St. Pete College in early May, was given a $400,000 signing bonus and is currently being represented by former Cincinnati Reds player Reggie Jefferson, according to Saints head coach Johnny Wiggs.
"It was a tough choice because Santa Fe was a great school for me," Broxton said in a phone interview before boarding a plane to Phoenix. "It made it even harder that we had a great season this past year."
Broxton said he hopes to be playing in the big leagues within three years but understands he will be playing in the minors for the near future.
The center fielder, who attended Lakeland High with UF athletes such as Chris Rainey and Maurkice and Mike Pouncey, was drafted last season during the 29th round but chose to attend college instead of heading straight into the major leagues from high school.
"Coming to SFC for a year was definitely a profitable decision on his part," Wiggs said. "If he had gone to a four-year school, he couldn't have been drafted (this year). By coming to Santa Fe, he was allowed to be drafted this season."
Broxton, the third junior college player drafted this year, is now the highest draft pick in SFC history. Previously, the highest pick was Ben Kozlowski, who was selected in the 12th round in 1999 by the Atlanta Braves.
The other two junior college players drafted before Broxton hailed from Chipola College and Hillsborough Community College. Pitcher Patrick Corbin of Chipola was the 80th pick, and Hillsborough outfielder Evan Chambers, Broxton's former high school teammate, was also selected in the third round.
Broxton said he is heading to Arizona this weekend to go through a routine physical and to have an EKG performed on him.
During the Saints' run at the JUCO World Series in late May, Broxton had five doubles, five home runs, 12 RBIs and hit over .500 in the six games SFC played before finishing second in the nation.
"Guys like Keon who are drafted high get a lot of opportunity," Wiggs said. "He is a great athlete, and it would not surprise me at all if he is in the big leagues one day."
Throughout his freshman season, the 6-foot-3, 19-year-old hit .340 with 10 home runs, nine doubles, four triples and went 12 for 12 in stolen base attempts.
"I think hitting five home runs in four days said something to the scouts and showed them my potential," Broxton said. "Before the postseason, I may have been drafted in the 10th or 11th round, but after the JUCO World Series, I'd say my stock bumped up a couple of rounds."
Broxton is not the only player from the Gainesville area who was drafted.
LeVon Washington, a 17-year-old senior from Gainesville Buchholz High, was picked in the first round by the Tampa Bay Rays.
Washington, also a center fielder, had committed to UF prior to the MLB Draft but has since changed his mind. The 6-foot, 170-pounder informed UF head coach Kevin O'Sullivan that he would not be attending the university in hopes of one day playing at Tropicana Field.
Santa Fe commit Jeffrey Glenn was also drafted. Glenn, a senior from Winter Haven High, was selected in the ninth round as the 284th pick by the New York Mets. The Saints athletic department did not say whether Glenn would opt out of attending Santa Fe in the fall.
"I'm a pro-college kind of guy, but when you are drafted in the top three to five rounds it is very difficult to turn down life-changing money," Wiggs said. "But when you get that life-changing money like Keon got, you can invest it."
MLB teams have until Aug. 17 to sign picks. If the players do not sign, they are able to return to the draft next year.