In the next couple of weeks, Norman senior Cade Horton faces the enviable task of having to choose between two great options: sign a professional contract with a Major League Baseball franchise or go to the University of Oklahoma and play football and baseball.
Horton is recognized by many Major League draft experts as one of the top 50 high school players in the country, meaning he could be drafted in the top two or three rounds of the June 10-11 draft. To put that into perspective, the top 66 players in the 2019 MLB draft received more than a million dollar signing bonus.
Due to COVID-19, this year’s MLB Draft is only scheduled to be five rounds (instead of the normal 40-plus) and the signing bonuses for later round picks are believed to be much lower this year. Add in the large number of college players eligible to be drafted and it’s not a sure thing that Horton will receive one of those coveted high draft picks. A lot of high school kids that might have normally signed pro contracts will be playing college ball instead.
“I do think it will be a college-heavy draft,” said Horton, who is being drafted as a shortstop and a pitcher. “College baseball is definitely going to be loaded the next couple of years.”
If Horton isn’t content with his draft results, staying in Norman and playing football and baseball for the Sooners is a great second option. Kyler Murray and Cody Thomas are two former Sooner quarterbacks that had recent success playing football and baseball at OU. It made for an easy decision to commit to his hometown school.
“Just seeing how Coach (Lincoln) Riley and Skip (Johnson) can work together and handle two-sport athletes and work schedules out is really amazing,” claimed Horton, who threw for more than 3,000 yards and rushed for over 1,100 more this past season for the Tigers. “Having two former players go through it and be successful really opened my eyes and affected my decision.”
Despite having his senior season cut short due to COVID-19, Horton was recently named the Oklahoma Gatorade Baseball Player of the Year. It helped soften the blow of not getting the chance to compete with his Tiger teammates for a state championship.
“It’s a really prestigious award,” said Horton, who finished his high school career with a .420 batting average and has been clocked in the low-to-mid 90s on the mound. “Just being able to get that award means a lot, especially with the year it’s been. It feels really good to win it.”
“He does everything very, very well,” claimed Norman coach Cody Merrell, who just completed his first season as the Tigers head coach after spending the previous four years as an assistant. “He looks the part. He’s a heck of a ball player and a great kid too, which makes it even more enjoyable to see him get these awards.”
While he’s outstanding in the field, on the mound and at the plate, there’s another phase to Horton’s game where Merrell believes he excels even more.
“He’s the best high school base runner that I’ve ever been around,” stated Merrell. “He can turn a single into a double just because he’s so aggressive running the bases. Opposing coaches make that comment all the time. He’s a different type of player.”
“I’m a very aggressive base runner,” admitted Horton, who was named the top two-way prospect at last year’s prestigious Perfect Game All-American game. “I like to take chances. It just causes chaos for the other team. It puts the pressure on them to make a good throw or just be fundamental.”
Horton credits a lot of his success to playing multiple sports growing up and is glad he wasn’t forced to choose one sport when he was younger like many youths are these days.
“I feel like kids should play as many sports as they can,” said Horton, who scored 41 touchdowns for this Tigers this past fall. “Being shoved into one corner, I feel like they’ll burn out faster and they don’t know what other sports they’ll love. I think there’s a lot of things I take away from baseball and use in football and vice versa.”
For now, Horton continues to practice both sports knowing that his future will begin to reveal itself in just a few short weeks.
“It’s just a matter of what’s out there and what comes to me,” remarked Horton. “That’s really the main thing. My parents have been probably the biggest influence in that. They’re always giving me advice on how to handle certain situations. Coach Merrell has been helping me a lot too. The people I have around me have been a big influence on me during this process.”
“No matter what he does it’s going to be the right choice,” stated Merrell. “Either he’s going to play professional baseball or he’s going to go to a big-time school and hopefully be a star in two different sports. I think it’s a win-win whatever he decides to do.”