Justin Harrer visited San Diego with parents Janice and Tom.  photo provided
Justin Harrer visited San Diego with parents Janice and Tom. photo provided

Sisters High School's baseball slugger Justin Harrer turned down an opportunity to be drafted in the fourth round by the San Diego Padres. Harrer would have garnered a signing bonus of $500,000, and had his schooling completely paid. Instead, Justin chose to play collegiate ball for Washington State University (WSU) next year.

Harrer has been involved with the Padres organization for the past several months, particularly the regional scout, Justin Bachman. Harrer had periodic workouts after a game or practice with Bachman here in Sisters, and toward the end of the season, Padres cross-checker (another scout) also started to attend Harrer's workouts. At the end of May, Harrer was informed he would be drafted, but the Padres weren't sure which round.

The Padres' general manager and the scouting director wanted to watch Justin play, and see how he would react against tougher pitching. Justin, along with four college athletes, were invited to a private workout held at the Padre's stadium, Petco Park, in San Diego, on Sunday, June 8.

Justin left his all-night graduation party early to go home and get some sleep before flying to San Diego on Saturday. On Sunday, the five athletes took part in a special workout that consisted of running a 60, outfield throws to third and home, infield practice, batting practice, and culminated in five live at-bats.

Harrer hit a few out of the park in batting practice, and told The Nugget that the biggest thing he noticed was when the ball flew off the bat, instead of seeing trees and blue sky, he saw a massive scoreboard and a huge stadium.

After batting practice, the athletes were each given five live at-bats against the Padres pitchers, who all threw the ball up to 96 mph.

Justin struck out one-two-three, in his first at-bat. But, in his next attempt, he hit a line drive up the middle against an 85-mph slider. He also blasted a shot that went all the way to the wall off a lefty who brought the ball at 95 mph. Harrer finished the live at-bats 2-for-4, with a walk.

"The workout was amazing," said Harrer. "It was a huge honor to be invited and an amazing opportunity to work out in front of the entire Padres organization. It was pretty wild. I had an amazing workout, but I was very nervous and full of adrenaline. One college guy from Santa Clara told me, "You're good, man. Just relax and don't forget to breathe.' That was very helpful and calmed me down a little bit."

Justin and his parents, who flew down with him, talked with the members of the Padres organization, including the owners, after the workout, but no official offer was made at the time. Harrer flew home on Sunday evening, and the very next day the Padres flew Bachman to Oregon to meet with Justin.

Justin was in the middle of his graduation party when Bachman showed up at their home.

"It was pretty unique to have a Padres scout at my grad party," said Harrer. "It's something I will never forget."

Bachman again told Harrer that the Padres wanted to invest in him, that he would be drafted, but they still weren't sure what round. He added that when an offer was made he would need to be ready with his decision.

Justin told The Nugget that the MLB draft wasn't something he really understood until he got involved in the process, and explained one piece of the process.

"An organization has to sign their picks in the first 10 rounds of the draft because each round has slot money attached to it. If they don't sign those rounds they lose," said Harrer.

"On Tuesday, rounds three to 10 were drafted, and the general manager, the director of scouting, and the owners called me on a conference call. They basically said that their picks were coming up in the next few minutes and told me they wanted to sign me in the fourth round with a signing bonus of $500,000, plus all my schooling."

Justin told them he'd call them back in a few minutes with his decision, and shockingly enough, he turned them down.

"I'd prayed about it over the past few weeks, and talked and counseled with lots of family and friends," said Harrer. "I knew that they were probably going to offer me something, and if my gut said I was ready I'd know for sure 100 percent. When it came down to it, that feeling wasn't there."

If Harrer would have accepted the fourth-round pick, he would have been around the 100th player chosen overall, out of approximately 2,500 players.

"Honestly, it was probably the most stressful week of my life, deciding whether to become a professional athlete or a collegiate athlete. It definitely was a tempting offer, and in the baseball world a fourth-round pick is very good.

"I did sign with the Padres in the 18th-round," added Harrer. "It shows I haven't burned any bridges with the organization. The Padre's are still interested and have the "rights' to me for the next three years. If I do change my mind and decide to go pro, I go to the Padres, but the signing bonus will be much less. After my junior year in college I will once again be eligible for the draft."

Prior to the draft, Harrer was given a sweet offer by Washington State University, a scholarship very close to a full ride. Justin accepted, and instead of attending Oregon State, as previously planned, he will be trading in his Outlaws black-and-white for the Cougars gray, black, and crimson. WSU projects Justin to be an impact infield player as an incoming freshman.

"My goal is to go to WSU and work my butt off and become a better baseball player, and start my education," said Harrer. "Hopefully, I'll be drafted after my junior year. The Padres organization was amazing and I hope they draft me again, and they've expressed interest in doing just that."