Three years ago, Brian Adams picked the college football gridiron over the professional baseball diamond.
Given the same choice again today, the former South Forsyth standout is swinging for the opposite field.
The San Diego Padres selected Adams in the eighth round of the 2012 MLB Draft (No. 255 overall) on Tuesday, and the junior center fielder planned to sign with the team by the end of the week, forgoing his senior year at the University of Kentucky.
After spending the past three years playing both football and baseball for the Wildcats, Adams said it’s time to focus on one sport.
"I just decided that baseball was what I enjoyed more and wanted to do," Adams said.
"I knew that in order for me to be successful, I needed to give up football and focus more on baseball.
"I am definitely at peace with my decision. From praying a lot about it and talking with my family, we just felt like ... the best situation for me was to go the baseball route."
Adams, a 6-foot-4, 220-pound right-hander, was drafted in the 45th round by the Cincinnati Reds in 2009 after graduating from South, but maintained his scholarship commitment to play wide receiver for Kentucky. He also continued his baseball career with the Wildcats and emerged as a late-season standout his freshman year, hitting .472 (17-for-36) with five extra base hits and eight RBI.
Adams was rated the top athlete in the SEC by Baseball America during the 2012 preseason. But after serving as the Wildcats’ primary starting center fielder as a sophomore in 2011, he received only 44 at-bats this season on a talented Wildcats team that was ranked No. 1 at one point during the spring. He leaves Kentucky with a .312 (64-for-205) batting average, 19 extra base hits, 28 RBI, 36 runs and 11 stolen bases.
"In the past, I would always kind of work my way in the non-conference games and be good to go, but because we had more depth, [other guys] just started out and stayed [starters] for most of the year," Adams said.
"This is the most talented team I’ve ever played on."
Kentucky set a school record for wins this year and had a record nine players taken in the draft. Despite his limited playing time this season, Adams was the first Wildcat off the board.
"It’s been an exciting [couple days] not only for me and my teammates, but also for the program," Adams said.
"It reminds me a lot of my senior year at South. We were just really close, and that led to a lot of success."
Adams was told he could be drafted as high as the fifth round, with rounds 7-12 his most likely landing spot.
In addition to the Padres, Adams said he received interest from the Toronto Blue Jays, Boston Red Sox and Arizona Diamondbacks. He said he told teams that long-term viability within an organization — not signing bonus — was his biggest concern.
Adams did not want to be a player that some team simply took a gamble on.
"[What] I told teams was, ‘Hey, I’m not really looking at money, I’m really looking more for you to show legitimate interest in making me a part of your organization and developing me, and showing me the steps you’re going to do for that,’" he said. "The biggest thing for me is just getting at-bats.
"I’m kind of behind [a lot of guys] because they play summer ball and in the fall and focus year-round on baseball. I haven’t played summer baseball since middle school."
Adams, a two-time member of the SEC Academic Honor Roll, needs only 14 more credit hours to finish his bachelor’s degree and plans to continue his education once his baseball career ends.
For now, though, Adams doesn’t have to worry about school. He’s scheduled to be on a plane on Monday, headed west to join one of San Diego’s minor league affiliates.
"[Kentucky assistant] coach [Brian] Green did a great job with me; my swing feels the best it ever has," Adams said.
"I’m just ready to start the next chapter of my life and become a Padre. This will be an opportunity for me to focus on baseball fully for a year and, from there, it’s on me."