Pascagoula's Joe Garry Jr. just turned 18, but he will soon have a difficult decision to make — attend college or make the leap to pro baseball.
The speedy center fielder with a sweet swing was taken in the ninth round of the MLB draft by the Minnesota Twins on Tuesday, making him the 274th overall selection.
Garry said he entered the draft believing that he could go anywhere from the third to the 10th round.
About 25 minutes before he was selected, he got a call informing him of what the Twins had in mind.
Just moments after he was picked, Garry was still trying to wrap his mind around the fact that he was a Major League Baseball draft choice.
“I don't even know,” he said. “It's been my dream since I started playing baseball. I don't even know how to react right now.”
Garry, who has signed with Pearl River Community College, received scholarship offers from Southeastern Louisiana, Murray State and Little Rock. Schools like Mississippi State, Southern Miss and Auburn also have shown interest.
At the moment, it looks like he may choose to forgo college and turn pro.
“I'm leaning that way,” he said.
The Twins have a July 6 deadline to sign the left-handed Garry.
Garry, who is a relative of former Southern Miss football star Ben Garry, began to draw interest from MLB scouts during a tournament in Jupiter, Florida, last summer. On his way back from Florida, he began to get calls from more and more scouts.
When Garry's batting average made the leap from .254 in his junior year to .432 this season, he showed that he was on the rise as a prospect.
“I talked to every team except for maybe five,” he said.
The Braves, Mets, Orioles and the Brewers were among a small group of teams that didn't show much interest in Garry.
He hit three homers, knocked in 21 RBIs and stole 23 bases for the Panthers (17-10) this season.
Over the last few weeks, Garry has been a popular prospect as he has made the rounds taking part in workouts for MLB squads.
“I've been to Atlanta maybe four times,” he said. “I just got home two days ago. We went to Tampa. I've been to Philadelphia. I had one in Hammond with the Dodgers. I had a couple more in Florida.”
The Twins didn't show significant interest until late in the process.
“(The Twins scout) showed a lot of love in my in-house visit,” Garry said. “They kept in touch. We kind of figured that they wanted me the way they showed interest. It's a good thing it worked out.”
He was surrounded by family at home when he got final word that he was being drafted.
“It was supposed to happen, but it was still a shock to everybody,” he said. “Everybody just kind of broke out in cheers.”
Garry's selection by the Twins shouldn't be all that surprising, considering he played for former Twins All-Star Matt Lawton, a Harrison Central product, in youth ball.
"He showed me a lot of things that other players at that age don’t have,” Garry said earlier this year. “That opened my eyes that I could be pretty good at the game if I started working hard. At age 8, I realized that this is what I want to do. I want to go to college and play pro baseball. I’ve worked every day. Even when I’m not at the field, I’m thinking about something with my swing or me and my dad are in bed replaying somebody’s swing, just seeing things I can work on.”