Curtis Pride, who excelled in three sports at Kennedy High School and will attend William and Mary on a basketball scholarship this fall, said yesterday he has signed to play baseball this summer for the New York Mets' rookie league team.
John Pride said his son has signed a two-month contract so he can still retain his NCAA basketball scholarship. Young Pride, who was picked in the 10th round, received a $7,500 signing bonus. He will report Sunday to Kingsport (Tenn.) of the Appalachian League.
"The Mets plan to give Curtis his release at the end of the summer so his basketball scholarship won't be affected," John Pride said.
"They will give him an unconditional release in August that relieves him of all obligations and makes him technically a free agent. But we are giving them our word that he will not sign with anyone else. They have verbally agreed that they will not put any demands on him other than the summer months."
Roland Johnson, the Mets' director of scouting, yesterday was unavailable to confirm the conditions.
According to NCAA rules, a student-athlete can receive financial aid "provided the student-athlete is not under contract to or currently receiving compensation from a professional sports organization."
Barry Parkhill, William and Mary's basketball coach, said: "Every base has been touched from our end, to Pride's end, to the NCAA commissioner's end, to the Mets' end."
Steve Mallonee, a legislative assistant with the NCAA, said he had received calls concerning the issue but couldn't remember from whom. "I do know that I have addressed the issue with one of the parties involved," he said. "He can receive his basketball scholarship as long as his contract has run out before school begins."
Parkhill, who plans to play Pride in the "starting guard rotation," said John Pride told him a year ago that his son could be drafted by a professional baseball team.
When he learned that Pride would sign, Parkhill said: "It made me sum up the whole situation. I'm excited for him. Every coach worries about injuries. The only concern I have is him not playing basketball in the summer, that he might not reach his potential. But his biggest fans are down here.
"It certainly puts him behind from his own standpoint. If he were to play basketball all year around, the sky's the limit. But he's never played one sport all year around."
Pride, who was born with a severe hearing disability, has divided his time among several sports, earning All-Met honors in baseball and soccer this season. This spring, he batted .509 and hit five home runs.
Parkhill said he has a "gut feeling" that Pride would not give up basketball or college to pursue a baseball career. "I don't see it happening, realistically," he said. "That's down the road. Getting a degree from William and Mary is the No. 1 thing on his mind."