In a few years, Tarran Senay could be a millionaire. Sometimes the South Park (Pa.) senior even jokes with his mom, Linda, about all the money he might make as a major league player one day.
He'll throw out insane numbers like $5 million or $8 million just to see her reaction. That's when his mom brings her baby boy back down to earth with a stern reminder.
"I tell him, 'Don't get big-headed, because you're only one injury away from being nothing,'" she says. "Sports are crazy. One minute you're the best and the next minute you're done."
Senay is riding high these days. Rated the No. 86 prospect in the Class of 2009 by Baseball America, he is one of the fastest-rising MLB prospects in the nation. He has accepted a full scholarship to play at North Carolina State but is also projected as a first-day MLB Draft pick. The
question is, what will Senay choose -- college or pro ball?
"I'm not leaning one way," says Senay, who projects as a power-hitting outfielder at the next level, no matter what that may be. "I'm leaning both ways. I would love to get drafted and play pro baseball. But at the same time I would like to go to N.C. State."
It's a great choice to have. And it's a choice Senay didn't think he'd get to make -- at least so soon.
The 6-foot-1, 205-pounder batted .436 with four home runs and 23 RBIs as a junior while rotating among outfield, third base and pitcher for a South Park team that won only seven games. His ability drew interest from colleges, but pro ball wasn't even in the picture. Then everything changed with one swing of the bat late last summer.
While playing in the East Coast Pro Showcase in Florida, Senay clobbered a 90-plus-mph
fastball an estimated 400 feet using a wood bat. That raw display of power -- combined with his size, speed and lefty swing -- impressed scouts so much that Senay was surrounded by hordes of MLB reps when he made his way back to the dorms at the end of camp.
Overwhelmed and somewhat mystified by the sudden attention, Senay called his father, Scott, to come help him navigate the large group of scouts.
Life in the Senay household has been hectic ever since.
"Right at the end of the tournament he couldn't get off the phone," Scott says. "For three days his phone didn't stop ringing. It got to the point where he couldn't talk to anyone anymore. He's a pretty humble kid and he wanted to talk to everyone, but one night he just asked me if he could turn his phone off."
When Senay hit his phone's power button, the scouts didn't passively wait for his inevitable return call. They'd send Senay's parents medical forms to fill out and ask for a biography. They'd also call South Park coach Todd Welsh and ask for a rundown of Senay's strengths and weaknesses.
Tarran Senay Favorites
TV Show: "SportsCenter"
- Movie: "Transformers"
Actor: Ed Norton
- Musical Artist: T-Pain
In November, Senay started getting phone calls from scouts asking if they could swing by the house for informal info sessions. When the first one was about to arrive, Senay and his
parents felt nervous and didn't know what to expect. Once they saw the scout walking up wearing jeans, everyone felt more at ease.
"They're all really cool," Senay says about the estimated 15 pro scouts who have visited his house. "We usually just talk baseball. They tell me about player development, where their teams are at and how they treat their players. Just to be talking to major league scouts, it's been very overwhelming and humbling."
Also a standout wide receiver on the gridiron, Senay's major league dreams experienced an even more humbling snag this winter. After
football season ended, Senay discovered he had a broken bone in his right wrist. The injury required surgery to insert a screw, and the
doctor told Senay his baseball career could be over if he didn't follow the rehab plan perfectly.
"[It was] hard having a cast on for three months," Senay says. "I like being able to pick up a bat and take batting practice. I've tried to pick up a bat a couple of times during batting practice, but my coach yells at me to put it down. It's definitely tempting watching other people in the cage."
With his career on the line, Senay followed his rehab regimen word for word. And when the cast came off in early March, his doctor gave him a clean bill of health. Senay, feeling no pain in the wrist but a little stiffness, quickly headed to the place he feels most comfortable: the batting cage.
"When the ball hits his bat it makes a
different sound," Welsh says. "He possesses a
raw natural power that makes the ball explode off his bat."
With his wrist fully healed, Senay has turned his attention toward leading South Park to the playoffs for the first time in his career and
soaking up his final baseball season alongside the teammates he grew up playing ball with.
Then he hopes to hear his name called on June 9, the first day of the MLB Draft. If -- or when -- that happens, he'll be faced with the question that has no wrong answer.
"It would be such an honor to get drafted and hear my name on draft day," Senay says. "[Whether I go pro] depends on if I'm drafted high enough and the slot money. But I don't even want to talk money right now."
His mom would be proud.
Brian A. Giuffra covers high school sports for ESPN RISE Magazine.