Kamide’s Korner: Savino’s Gamble is UVA’s Gain

November 5 - I’ve heard he’d be a lock to be a first-round pick, maybe even within the first 10 picks in June’s MLB Draft. 

Nave Savino and his family, however, are sticking to their principles. 

His parents have stressed the importance of education to their children, and feel there’s something to be said for honoring one’s commitment. That parenting has yielded a grounded young man who is the same kid that walked into Joe Terango’s elementary school classroom a decade ago. 

Ok, maybe he’s a little bigger - 6-foot-3 and 195 pounds, to be exact - and that 7-year-old wouldn’t have dominated area hitters like the teenage version has done for Terango’s Potomac Falls club. But you get my point.

We’ve learned that the left-hander with the blazing 95 MPH fastball and pro-ready slider will sign his National Letter of Intent next week to pitch at the University of Virginia beginning this spring. Once he’s enrolled, he can’t be drafted in 2020. But by entering school early, he’ll be eligible in 2022, a year earlier than if he had suited up for the Panthers this spring and graduated with his classmates in June. 

Some are wondering why? Why would he leave millions on the table? The last first-round pick in the 2019 draft signed for $2.2 million, and Savino - who won’t turn 18 until January, as Virginia is opening its season - was likely to be taken somewhere between there and the first pick, which last year signed for $8.4 million. 

Sure, this move is a risk. 

Austin Bergner was projected as a first round selection out of high school in 2016 but chose instead to pitch at North Carolina. His stock fell and he was taken in the ninth round in June, his decision ultimately costing him millions. Locally, Jamie Sara was taken by San Diego in the 12th round in the 2016 draft out of West Potomac and offered a six-figure bonus to sign. He declined and honored his scholarship at William & Mary, and was taken in the 25th round this past June and signed for a fraction of that. 

On the flip end of this conundrum, there’s J.B. Bukauskas. He was projected as a high-round pick out of Stone Bridge in 2014 but chose instead to pitch at UNC. Three years later, the Houston Astros made him a millionaire by taking him No. 13 overall. 

Baseball is a game of risk. Players take them every time they attempt to stretch a hit into a double, then a minute later, their coach could be taking one by waving them home. You think Nationals GM Mike Rizzo didn’t take a risk by sticking by his manager, Davey Martinez, after their well-documented 19-31 start? I’d say that worked out just fine. 

I think there’s something to be said about Savino’s willingness to take this risk. He’s going to be in great hands with a coach in UVA’s Brian O’Connor who is one of the best in the business. He’s going to be at a Power 5 conference program that comes with all the bells and whistles - top-tier facilities and support staff, etc. - and let’s not forget the outstanding academic reputation the Charlottesville school has. 

Savino and his family have their priorities in order, and they stuck to their principles when the outside noise was pushing them to go chase the dollars now. It’s refreshing. And if he’s as good as we’re all certain he is, those dollars will still be there in 2022.

Go be a college kid. Go get the Wahoos back to Omaha.

I tip my cap to the Savinos. Thank you for setting a great example for others to follow. 

Photo of Nate Savino by Fred Ingham