Baseball’s more than a pastime for UGA’s Godwin

Terry Godwin got a tryout with the Braves at Turner Field in May. They drafted him in the 33rd round in June. (Special photo)

Georgia owes the Braves a debt of gratitude for Terry Godwin being in Athens this summer. They were the primary major league baseball team that expressed a real interest in drafting the five-star wide receiver and actually expended some time and resources toward evaluating his baseball potential.

The Braves liked what they saw, but they waited until the 33rd round to use the 990th pick overall to draft the hard-throwing, base-stealing prospect. That spot and the money that comes with it wasn’t enough to lure Godwin away from his football.

Had the Braves decided to be a little more zealous about their pursuit, Godwin very well could be competing in rookie ball with the Danville (Va.) Braves rather than going through summer workouts with the Georgia Bulldogs. Godwin was dead serious about the possibility of choosing baseball over football.

“If the money is right,” both he and his father, Terry Sr., said shortly before the draft.

Obviously it wasn’t. But at the moment, baseball remains a big part of Godwin’s plans.

While Godwin passed on the Braves’ offer, he plans to play baseball while at Georgia. In fact, having the opportunity to play both sports for the Bulldogs was significant in his recruitment, which was intense.

“It’s pretty big in my life,” Godwin said of baseball. “It was important to me that when I go to Georgia I play football and baseball. I’ve already talked to (Georgia baseball coach Scott) Stricklin. He said he’s cool with it.”

Stricklin is more than “cool” with it. The Bulldogs’ third-year baseball coach has been evaluating Godwin for the past two years and he’s excited about the speedster’s potential on the diamond.

“We were involved in the recruiting process,” Strickland said. “If everything works out — and grades are the No. 1 factor in this — then he’ll have an opportunity to play baseball. Coach (Mark) Richt and I are on the same page about all that.”

Stricklin believes Godwin, who played pitcher and third base at Callaway High, could contribute fairly quickly for the Diamond Dogs.

“The interesting thing about Terry, as good of an athlete he is, his arm is really good,” Stricklin said. “I saw him play (in the summer of 2014) as both a position player and a pitcher and his arm was pretty intriguing. He was up to 88 miles an hour, and he was pretty loose and effortless with it. That’s something that interests us, the possibility of him being on the mound.”

Strickland predicted Godwin will play outfield as a position player.

“He covers a lot of ground, obviously,” Stricklin said said. “He’s very instinctive on the baseball field. He understands the game and gets to the ball naturally. I think the outfield might be the best fit for him. The biggest issue will be if he can swing the bat and make consistent contact.”

Godwin’s bat is the only thing that kept him from being the proverbial five-tool prospect and going higher in the draft. He hit under .300 his last season at Callaway. But he was 18-of-19 in stolen bases.

“Baseball’s probably the toughest sport as far as putting the bat down and then picking it back up a while later,” Stricklin said. “Those eyes have to get adjusted to a different sized ball. That’s a big issue with hitters.”

Anything that the Bulldogs or Godwin get out of baseball at Georgia is a bonus. The earliest he could join the team is mid-January. Whether he’d be able to pitch in at that point will have to be determined.

“Football is his No. 1 priority here and that’s something we’ve stressed throughout this whole thing,” Stricklin said. “He’s coming here to be a football player.”

Said Godwin: “Either way my career goes, I’m just blessed to have the opportunity.”

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