Steven Sensley didn’t need to wait around for next week’s deadline to determine the immediate path of his baseball future.
Sensley, a former University High standout and first team All-American at LSU-Eunice this past season, said he would attend Louisiana-Lafayette instead of sign with the Tampa Bay Rays.
“After the year I had, either way it went, I thought I was in a position to win if I was to sign professionally or go to UL,” Sensley said. “I didn’t prefer one over the other. If the opportunity was there to play professional ball, then I would have gone. Since I didn’t get what I was asking for, going to UL is just as good. I actually wanted to go to UL. I wanted that college experience and to go to Omaha.”
Sensley, a left-handed-hitting first baseman/right fielder, was selected by Tampa Bay in the 38th round with the 1,138th overall choice. Sensley said Tampa Bay was going to evaluate him this summer in the Northwoods League, but a nagging hamstring injury halted those plans.
Sensley said the Rays contacted him twice within recent weeks, including Tuesday, but their latest offer of $150,000 didn’t meet his asking price.
“I told them I wasn’t going to lower my (signing) number just so I could start playing professional baseball,” he said. “They told me they wouldn’t be able to get fifth-round money for me, so I told him I was going to school.”
Sensley said he registered for the fall semester at UL-Lafayette on Thursday.
“It’s good for us, and it’s good for him,” baseball coach Tony Robichaux said. “He’s a player that’s just going to be a sophomore and can really come in and play at a high level. He’ll be able to show the scouts he can hit Division I pitching on a daily basis. He gives us some power in our lineup, and (he’ll) continue to develop and get better.”
Sensley said he’s not discounting an 11th-hour pitch from Tampa Bay. The MLB deadline to sign draft choices is July 17.
“They’ll probably call again, but they won’t have the money to get me,” he said. “It’s a 100 percent chance I’m going to school.”
After a redshirt year, Sensley was a first-team junior-college All-American after helping LSU-Eunice to the NJCAA Division II national championship. He ranked third nationally in home runs (21) and RBIs (80) while batting .374 with a .466 on-base percentage and .778 slugging percentage with 13 stolen bases.
Since 2016 will be his third year of college, Sensley, who turns 20 in September, will be draft-eligible again after next season.
He was selected in the 33rd round out of U-High by Minnesota in 2013.
Two consecutive years appearing in the NCAA tournament’s super regionals has Sensley believing UL-Lafayette is primed for the program’s first College World Series berth in 16 years.
“They’re one or two games from making it to Omaha,” Sensley said of the Cajuns. “I feel with the team we’re going to have, we’ll be able to get there next year and get to Omaha and compete.
“We’re just going to play our hardest and, if everything falls into place, we’ll have a championship.”
Advocate sportswriter Luke Johnson contributed to this report.