FORT MYERS, Fla. — Sebastian Keane was one of the best high school pitchers in Massachusetts last season, going 11-1 with a microscopic 0.50 earned-run average for North Andover.
When the Sox invited him to Fenway Park to talk about a six-figure signing bonus, Keane met Pedro Martinez. That was no coincidence.
“If you sign with us, I’m going to be one of your pitching coaches in spring training,” Martinez told him.
How many of us would have grabbed a pen at that moment or advised their son to do the same?
But Keane turned down the Sox and honored his commitment to play for Northeastern. He won’t be eligible for the draft for another three years.
“It wasn’t an easy decision,” Keane said Friday before the Sox beat Northeastern, 3-0, in an exhibition game at JetBlue Park. “They tried really hard to sign me, and I worked my butt off to get that opportunity. But it was the right decision for me.”
Keane actually grew up a Yankees fan because his father, Tom, lived in the Bronx for a time. But that didn’t play into his decision.
“It felt like college was right for me,” said Keane, who is scheduled to face South Florida Sunday. “I can get a good education and then play pro ball. I love the campus being in the city and still being close to home for me. The academics are great. This is where I want to be.”
Keane committed to the Huskies before his junior year of high school after attending their winter camp. Then the concern for coach Mike Glavine became keeping his prized recruit.
Keane finished his high school career 21-5, with a 0.66 ERA average and a school-record 272 strikeouts. Several major-conference schools tried to recruit him away from Northeastern, offering warmer weather and better facilities. Baseball players get royal treatment at most ACC and SEC schools, so it’s not unusual for mid-majors to have recruits ghost them and turn up someplace else.
“We had that happen to us with another kid,” Glavine said. “It was an issue. We knew people were contacting him behind the scenes. But his family stayed solid the whole time.”
Turning down the Red Sox was a sterner test. They were dangling a big check and the chance to join a minor league team right away. The Sox didn’t reveal how much they offered, other than to say they reached the limits of the money available in their draft bonus pool.
The six high school players who did sign out of the 11th round agreed to an average bonus of $417,000. Two high school players in the 12th round landed more than $555,000.
Keane, who drives an old Toyota Camry, could have had a new SUV parked behind the Red Sox clubhouse Friday. Instead he arrived on a bus with his college teammates.
“You wonder what you could have done with the money,” he said. “But I can wait. The Red Sox treated me and my family great. I hope I get a chance to sign with them again.”
Maybe it helped to have a wider view of the world. Because his mother, Marie, was born in Sweden, Keane is member of their national team and played in the Under-15 and Under-18 European Championships.
“I’ve had a chance to do some cool things,” he said. “College has been great so far. I don’t have any regrets.”
For Glavine, Keane’s presence is a form of validation for his program and how it has improved.
Aaron Civale, who was drafted in 2016, started 10 games for the Cleveland Indians last season and had a 2.34 ERA. He was the first major leaguer Northeastern had produced since Adam Ottavino made his debut with the Cardinals in 2010.
Six other Northeastern players are in the minors, and this season’s team has several prospects beyond Keane, who was recently listed among the top 20 freshmen in the country by Baseball America.
“It was a big deal when Sebastian came here, especially because he was drafted so high,” Glavine said. “He comes from a good family and they had a great process.”
Keane’s mid-90s fastball should earn him another chance at pro ball down the road. To move up in the draft, he needs to develop his slider, changeup, and curveball, and add more muscle.
The 6-foot-2-inch Keane arrived on campus in the fall weighing 165 pounds. He’s up to 180.
“There’s a lot we can do with him developmentally,” Glavine said. “If he stays healthy, he’ll be in a great position for the draft again in three years.”