Kohl Stewart to pursue baseball

HOUSTON -- Even though so many who followed the journey of Houston St. Pius X pitcher and 2013 ESPN 150 quarterback Kohl Stewart assumed the flamethrowing right-hander already had his mind and heart set on playing pro baseball, Stewart planned to be a Texas A&M Aggie.

It's what he grew up wanting. His parents and siblings are Aggies, and the fact that he had a scholarship to play football there "floored" him.

So until the first round of the 2013 MLB draft on Thursday night, one option was real and the other wasn't. His mother, Lisa, said as much Friday afternoon. Stewart, the No. 6-ranked pocket passer in the country, signed a letter of intent to play football at Texas A&M in February.

On Thursday, baseball became real when the Minnesota Twins selected Stewart fourth overall in the draft. On Friday, Stewart stated his desire to pursue professional baseball.

"I'm extremely excited to be a Twin," he said. "I'm fortunate that they took me and I'm excited to help them in any way I can."

The 6-foot-3, 190-pound Stewart, considered by many to be the top high school pitcher in the draft, said he wants to sign as quickly as possible so he can join the Twins organization and begin working wherever he's initially assigned. He insisted the decision wasn't made until last night, after he got the phone call from the Twins during the draft.

"I planned on going to A&M," Stewart said. "That was my plan all along. I didn't know when I was going to get drafted or if I was going to get drafted or how that was all going to play out. Last night, getting drafted, was when I made that call. I planned to go to A&M since they wanted me. My plan was to go to college. I didn't have this opportunity until last night. Now that it's on the table, now's the time to make that call."

One factor in his decision, Stewart said, is the chance to focus on just one sport. Though he signed with the Aggies to play football, he intended to play baseball for them as well. Juggling those two would have been a challenge.

"I think that going to A&M and playing two sports was going to be tough," Stewart said. "For me to give it my best shot in baseball, I think I would have to do that every day and not worry about football. My dream is to pitch in the big leagues and that has always been my dream."

Stewart has until July 12 to sign a contract with the Twins. He said Darek Braunecker and Will McGuffey of Frontline Athlete Management will represent him.

Texas A&M football coach Kevin Sumlin said he and Stewart have had several conversations about his future dating to last year. The possibility of Stewart opting for pro baseball was a major reason why the Aggies chose to sign two quarterbacks in the 2013 class. Southlake (Texas) Carroll dual-threat quarterback Kenny Hill, also a talented high school baseball player, was the other quarterback in the class.

"I said, 'Hey, listen, we're going to support you either way. We knew this from the beginning and that's the reason we signed two guys,' " Sumlin said Friday. "If he chose to come to Texas A&M in the fall, that'd be great. [Being the fourth overall pick], that opportunity is not one a lot of people have. If it works out for him and he plays Major League Baseball for the rest of his life, that's fine. If it doesn't work out, I told his dad and I told him, 'There's nothing wrong with being Brandon Weeden, either. And we're still there for you.' "

Stewart features a fastball consistently in the 91-94 mph range and can touch 96 mph. Along with a fastball, he throws a hard slider, a straight change and curveball. He had a dominant senior season at St. Pius X, posting a 5-1 record with a 0.18 ERA in 40 innings, 59 strikeouts and 16 walks. As a quarterback, he threw for 2,535 yards and 28 touchdowns with 12 interceptions for the 9-3 Panthers last fall.

St. Pius X baseball coach Adam Massiatte said it was Stewart's mental approach this year that led to such a strong season.

"His mentality is really what developed the most," Stewart said. "His ability to understand his pitches and recognize swings ... and playing in all these showcases, learning from other good players, I think all of that changed his mentality about where he wanted to be and how he started growing as a player."

Stewart's dad, Mark Stewart, said Kohl likely had to be a first-rounder for him to bypass college. Once that came true, Kohl took a moment alone to think before making his decision.

"When that happened, it completely changed everything," Mark Stewart said. "He walked outside and I saw him by himself for a minute and he turned back in and he said, 'All right, let's go.' "