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‘You’re the guy’: Rangers sign No. 2 pick Jack Leiter, giving clearer picture of Texas’ future

After throwing 110 innings at Vanderbilt, Leiter will not pitch in the minor leagues this season.

ARLINGTON — Wearing his brand-new No. 22 white Rangers jersey and fashion-forward powder-blue slacks, Jack Leiter threw out the first pitch before the Rangers’ game with Arizona on Wednesday. And that, ladies and gentlemen, will constitute the sum total of pitches that Leiter will throw in a Rangers uniform this season.

Turns out negotiations with the second pick in the draft weren’t a zero-sum game, after all. It wasn’t professional baseball OR going back to college. It will be both.

Leiter, 21, officially signed with the Rangers on Wednesday afternoon, earning a $7,922,000 bonus. It is the second-largest given to a pitcher in the draft pool era. And he is done pitching for the season. No need. He threw 110 innings for Vanderbilt.

Next up: He will go back to Nashville in a couple of weeks to continue with a full college course-load for the fall semester at Vanderbilt. He will instead work out with Vanderbilt’s staff and alongside the pros who annually come back to Nashville each fall in a program. It’s nice group: Guys such as David Price, Mike Minor and Sonny Gray. Leiter’s program will be coordinated with Rangers staff.

That was just one little interesting tidbit from an afternoon that offered the most promise for the future the Rangers have perhaps felt in 2021. There were others.

Notably, it was the guy who announced Leiter’s workout program: It was GM Chris Young. He did it definitively. He was also the presiding Rangers official at the podium and at the negotiating table. Perhaps symbolically or not, President of Baseball Operations Jon Daniels took a back seat in the room and at the table. You could look at the scene Wednesday, and it wouldn’t take much of a leap to think that it was at this moment that the baton of leadership had been passed.

“I want to thank the entire Rangers organization,” Leiter said at the outset of his press conference before naming a handful of officials, including Daniels and scouting director Kip Fagg. “And then most especially, Chris Young. He’s made this whole process extremely special from the beginning. He really expressed the level of interest and support for me before the draft even started. After the draft, he came into our house and walked us through basically all the process of how it worked. That was extremely special.

“I think the thing that stuck out most for me was from the top down was the desire to win,” Leiter added. “That’s what I hope to do as a Ranger.”

Young, of course, credited the entire organization. Scouting and signing a top pick is a team effort. But he also did more. He figuratively stared down agent Jim Murray and Leiter’s father, Al, the 19-year major league vet. He told both of them from the start that he would not be dissuaded or steered away from picking Jack Leiter. He convinced them both that it was the right fit, too.

“Leading up to the draft was where it became most obvious,” Leiter said. “He basically said, ‘We’re taking you. You can tell me what you want. You’re the guy that we want.’ That, for me and my family, was really special, because some other teams would have liked to negotiate or try to haggle numbers. None of that was involved in the process. It was just like ‘You’re the guy,’ and then it was telling me why it’s a special place to be. That was an easy sell. It sort of just became a perfect fit for both sides.”

On Wednesday, the fit became official. And it became a little more clear who was driving the future of the organization.

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In This Story

Evan Grant, Rangers beat writer/insider. Evan has covered the Rangers since 1997. He has twice been named one of the top 10 beat writers in the country by the AP Sports Editors. His passions outside of covering baseball are his wife, Gina, his two step kids, two crazy dogs & barbecue. Let's not discuss the cat. Evan graduated from Georgia State University, but oddly is a Georgia fan.

egrant@dallasnews.com @Evan_P_Grant
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