In a twist to this week's baseball draft, Baltimore Orioles owner Edward Bennett Williams plans to go to Montoursville, Pa., next week to meet with pitcher Mike Mussina Jr. and his parents.
Shortly before the draft, Mussina's father wrote each of the 26 major league teams and told them his son, a straight-A student, had decided to attend Stanford unless teams were prepared to pay $350,000, which is more than double what a first-round draft pick normally can expect to get as a bonus.
Mussina was only an eighth-round pick of the Orioles and says he has no intention of signing, but his case could be the oddest in this year's draft.
He was considered one of the top pitching prospects in the country and finished off his senior season in high school by striking out 81 hitters in 38 innings. He allowed only eight hits and 13 walks.
He has a fastball that has been clocked at consistently better than 90 mph, and a devastating second pitch -- a knuckle-curve "that drops straight off the table," one scout said.
The Orioles took a chance on Mussina because, as a club source said, "How often do you have a chance to get this kind of prospect?"
Orioles officials won't comment publicly on Mussina, since the remaining picks of the draft won't be announced until next week. In private, they like the chances of Williams, one of the country's most accomplished trial attorneys, being able to change the family's mind.
"We're talking about persuasion, aren't we?" a club official said. "And our guy has made a career of persuading people."
Williams wasn't available for comment yesterday, but during last week's draft he talked of just such a case.
"If a kid told me he wanted to attend college, I'd be so impressed I think we could make arrangements," Williams said. "I don't think it would be a detriment at all. In fact, I'd applaud him for doing it."
In their previous conversations, Williams has told the Mussinas that Mike could attend school full-time after he signed with the Orioles. However, even if such a schedule could be worked out, there'd still be the small matter of $350,000, which a source close to the family called "nonnegotiable."