When the Arizona Wildcats start fall camp in August, there will be a lot more intrigue surrounding the sixth-string quarterback than normal.
That’s because it will be 26-year-old and former 3rd overall pick in the MLB Draft, Donavan Tate.
Tate was selected by the San Diego Padres that year, but never made it above the Single-A level in the minors thanks to a multitude of issues including drug suspension and injuries.
The 2009 MLB Draft was crazy. Tate was the first high schooler selected, but others that signed out of high school that year were Mike Trout, Zack Wheeler, Shelby Miller, Randal Grichuk, Tyler Skaggs, Nolan Arenado, and Wil Myers.
But Tate stood out above the rest on the showcase circuit that year.
“Oh yeah, I know exactly who that dude is,” Arizona baseball head coach Jay Johnson said when reminiscing about that 2009 class. “He’s a talented athlete. I couldn’t believe that (he’s coming to Arizona) when I saw that.”
Tate went to high school in Cartersville, Georgia, so neither Johnson (who was at San Diego) nor assistant coach Sergio Brown (who was at Cal State Fullerton) went to Georgia to specifically recruit Tate, but saw him at various summer events held by Perfect Game National, USA Baseball Tournament of Stars, and Area Code Games.
“That was a really good class of players, but yeah that dude was lightning down the line,” Johnson said of what made Tate stand out in 2009. “I’m sure he could do something good with a football in his hand.”
Before Rich Rodriguez announced the addition of Tate to a gathering of fans on May 3rd, there was a span of several weeks that Tate’s addition was being rumored around Arizona circles. But Rodriguez didn’t talk to Johnson about it directly.
But Johnson, who is a huge fan of football, thinks adding an older guy like Tate will only help that team.
“I like having old players on our team, so I’m sure in football there’s some value to that too,” explained Johnson. “The seniors kinda run this deal, and in that sport where physical maturity is such a big deal, I’m sure that will help them a lot.”
The obvious comparison for what Tate is doing is Brandon Weeden, who joined the Oklahoma State Cowboys after spending parts of five seasons in the Minor Leagues. Weeden was 24 years old when he joined the Cowboys, redshirted his first year at OSU, then only appeared in one game as a redshirt freshman.
It wasn’t until his fourth and fifth year that Weeden made a tangible impact, playing in 13 games each of those seasons.
So Tate, who will turn 27 in September, may not be one to keep an eye on right away if he is Weeden. Or maybe those extra three-ish years of age will allow him to have a bigger impact right away.
Of course, Zac Robinson was a bit more decorated than the group of guys Tate will be competing against for the job.