When weighing the decision to turn pro or play college ball after being drafted by the Milwaukee Brewers last month, Spanish Springs High star Jace Avina said it was a "win-win situation."
But when push came to shove, Avina knew what he wanted to do — chase his big-league dream, so he signed with the Brewers and got a $260,000 signing bonus and his college paid for.
“The pros with going with the Brewers would be starting my career early, developing with other pro guys as well,” Avina said. “Going with college, you get that college experience. They have a great coaching staff down there at Nevada with TJ Bruce, (Abe) Alvarez, (Troy) Buckley, (Kyle) Hunt. It’s a great environment down there as well, so those are all the pros. For both, the cons of (signing with the Brewers was) being away from family because I would start in Arizona, so that would be a big thing being away from family. Also, there’s a possibility I won’t get drafted out of college and won’t have that same opportunity. But I don’t like to look at cons. I don’t like to focus on it because then it gets me down and I don’t get as motivated. I just pray. It helps me get a higher head.”
And through prayer, Avina found answers.
“Through this season, we had talked to several mentors, Jace’s coaches, several advisors who had said Jace falls through a certain projection in the draft,” Avina's father, Armando, said. “Going into it knowing there was only 20 rounds and over 600 players that would be selected, we thought what a great opportunity for Jace to show his hard work, his determination to be included in one of those 600 picks.”
Avina was included as a 14th-round pick by the Brewers. He got a heads up from his advisor that he was going to be selected.
“I was in the game room playing some video games keeping my mind off the draft and everything and my dad and mom were still watching the tracker,” Avina said. “My agent told me he was going to call me before I get picked. That was about five minutes before I got picked. Then I hear from my dad, ‘Jace, come here look!’ And I look at my phone on the tracker and my name’s on there. I was, like, ‘The Brewers? That’s awesome!’ I went into their room because that’s where we were watching it. We were just jumping for joy it was just an exciting moment for all of us.”
Like father, like son. Armando Avina was drafted by the Houston Astros in 1991 but made the decision to forgo playing professional ball to play football for the Wolf Pack as a kicker/punter, eventually signing a pro deal with Buffalo.
“Me being drafted by Houston back in the day, when we saw the 14th round come up we were really eyeballing the Houston pick to come up,” the elder Avina said. “The Brewers went right before them. So here we’re kind of anticipating Houston because that was some of the information we got from some of our advisors that Houston was very interested, so when the Brewers came up they just caught us off guard.”
Regardless of who selected Avina, his family was overjoyed to see their son’s dreams come true.
“I’m incredibly proud of him,” Jace’s mother, Jenny, said. “While I’m incredibly proud of all of his accomplishments, his hard work, I see the work ethic he has and how hard he tries with everything he does, but I think most of all we're proud of the human he is. When I watch him with his brother’s baseball team and soccer team and bowling team and how he interacts with his brother and all the individuals there, this is all awesome and I’m incredibly proud, but ultimately that’s what I’m most proud of is watching him through this process and how he’s handled himself and how he’s still stayed true to him.”
With Avina sporting a GPA near 4.0 at Spanish Springs, education is important to the family and Jace would have loved playing for his hometown college, the Nevada Wolf Pack, which offered a full-ride scholarship. But the allure of starting the big-league dream was too much to pass up.
“With his high school GPA almost having a 4.0, we stress school from the beginning,” Armando Avina said. “That’s one thing we have told him is how school and higher learning, how we both have our bachelor’s degrees, how getting an education is very important. I got it from Nevada though playing. My wife after she raised these two beautiful boys, she actually went back to school and finished her degree. So whether he does it now or whether he does it later, he understands how important education is. And that’s one thing that we’ll always pushed that he gets that completed.”
A faith-based family, the Avinas said they prayed a lot during the pre-draft process and had faith everything would work out given the amount of time and effort Jace had put into baseball.
“One thing we did talk about is in anything you do you have to give your best effort, which as a little kid made him very competitive," Armando Avina said. "There is that fine line myself as a parent and also trying to coach him, but also still being the father that I am. There was a time I coached him in T-ball, Little League. And there was a time I had to back away and just be a fan, be somebody in the stands to watch him. Him and I have spent several hours in the garage just fine tuning fundamentals, and it’s not because I drug him out there. It’s because he would ask, 'Let's go do it,' and whatever I could do to help our kids follow their dreams and to be successful, we're very proud to help them.”