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Red Sox close to signing football star/outfielder Shaq Thompson

06.11.12 at 4:34 pm ET

His name is Shaq. He profiles like Deion. And he is close to being a Red Sox.

According to a major league source, the Red Sox are close to finalizing an agreement with 18th-round draft pick Shaq Thompson, an outfielder out of Grant High School in California. Within days, he is expected to join the Red Sox to begin his pro baseball career.

However, Thompson is better known as one on the most celebrated football recruits in the country. Later this summer, he will start his football career as a defensive back at the University of Washington, a school that Thompson decided to attend after initially committing to Cal.

The reason for Thompson’€™s decision to attend Washington was of particular interest to the Red Sox: The UW Athletics Department said that it was fine having Thompson play football while also pursuing a professional baseball career. And so, the Red Sox were comfortable drafting him with the knowledge that, by signing him, they’€™ll get the chance to work with Thompson outside of the football season, with the hope that he can develop despite playing on a compressed baseball schedule.

There is precedent for the pursuit of a two-sport career by a University of Washington player. Former Huskies quarterback Jake Locker signed with the Angels after being taken in the 10th round in 2009. However, Locker never ended up playing baseball for the Angels, electing instead to focus on the sport in which he ultimately became a first-round pick of the Tennessee Titans.

Thompson, in no small part because of his multi-sport commitments, remains quite raw as a baseball player. He barely played as a high school sophomore and junior. Still, the Sox scouted him as a premier athlete, with incredible speed and strength, creating a tremendous ceiling for a player whose speed and instincts play as a center fielder.

He is handicapped by the fact that his baseball experience is, and will be, limited due to his football schedule. That said, he is viewed as someone with a tremendous work ethic whose interest in pursuing both baseball and football is sincere.

“I’m just glad I played baseball again because I realized how fun it is, how much I missed it,” Thompson told the Sacramento Bee after the draft. “I know it’s a game of failure and it is a hard game to adjust to. I’m looking forward to meeting new people in baseball, then it’ll be football.”

Thompson’€™s willingness to accept the idea of baseball as a ‘€œgame of failure’€ is significant, given that he will be challenged. Still, there is reason to believe that he is willing to persevere in order to try to advance as a baseball player even as he prepares for college football.

“So many high school kids or players at any age, they strike out and they throw their bat or their batting glove, or have a sour face, but not Shaq,” Grant coach Danny Chavez told the Bee. “He would jog off the field like a real leader, with no emotion. Not that he didn’t care. He hates to fail, but he didn’t crack. He didn’t let anyone see that he was bothered.’€

There are few guarantees with a player like Thompson, who has compelling alternatives (foremost, his football career). Even so, if he is able to scratch the surface of his considerable potential, then the payoff would be substantial, something of which the Red Sox were aware in selecting and now in signing the 18-year-old, who will report to Fort Myers to play in the Rookie Level Gulf Coast League.

“I just know the kid has a phenomenal arm and all the speed in the world, and he can track any ball down,” Chavez told the Bee. “He has that great athletic ability and great mental approach, and he’s such a quality young man, so why not take a chance on putting him in your organization? This game is all about potential and he’s got amazing potential.”

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