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Pepe signs with Toronto, will stay in the sunshine
Had the opportunity to talk with Alex Pepe (right, with his parents and FAU coach John McCormack on senior day) earlier this week. He signed with Toronto on Sunday and is in camp up in Dunedin.

The Blue Jays gave him a $1,000 signing bonus, which they didn't have to do. When baseball players receive those large bonuses, it's usually to help persuade a college junior to leave school and become a pro, or to get a high school senior to skip college altogether.

Pepe was a senior, so if he wanted to play affiliated baseball, he had no choice but to sign. All things considered, he was pretty pleased with the bonus.

"I thought it was going to be 500 bucks - no lie," he said.

Prior to reporting to camp, Pepe hadn't thrown in about a week so he's using his first couple of bullpen sessions to work of the rust.

Pepe said he's slated to start the season in Dunedin playing in the Gulf Coast League, which is one of the toughest leagues in all of baseball. That's not because of the talent level as much as it is the playing conditions.

GCL teams generally play on the back fields of spring training facilities. And they play during the day. In Florida. In the summer.

The Florida State League is a high-Class A league that's been around much longer than the GCL and the teams in the FSL generally use the stadium fields at the spring training sites. When major league teams first proposed the developmental GCL, it was decided the games had to be played during the day so that they wouldn't steal fans from the already attendance-challenged FSL. Now, players commonly refer to the league as the Gulf Roast League.

Pepe was already feeling the heat, so to speak, after his first bullpen session.

"Oh my gosh, I'm dying right now," Pepe said. "It's brutal out there."

He will catch a bit of a break, though. This year GCL teams will be allowed to play one night game per week. Gotta love the glamour of pro baseball.

Ozga update: Travis Ozga was scheduled to report to the Mets camp in Port St. Lucie today, with workouts beginning on Friday. The Mets apparently haven't decided where to put Ozga. It looks like he will avoid the GCL, which means he'll likely be at rookie level Kingsport (Tenn.) of short season Class A Brooklyn.

FAUOwlAccess.com will keep you posted on their progress during the summer.

chuck
June 18, 2009

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