Devon Gradford ended his senior year at Downey High with an uncertain future.
A late bloomer on the diamond, his impressive finale didn't attract a scholarship. Pro scouts were quiet, too.
His fortune began to shift when the Oakland A's selected him in the 34th round of the major-league draft. That has led to another option.
Gradford has taken advantage of that option, signing a letter of intent with UC Santa Barbara.
It's been quite a month for the shortstop.
Schools looking for a final player or two scan the draft for prospects they have overlooked if a major-league club feels Gradford is worth hiring, it provides some validation for a college coach.
Gradford evolved from a light-hitting middle infielder into The Bee's Player of the Year finalist in the months leading up to his final season. Many college scouts had already made their decisions on the Class of 2012 prospects, so few were around to watch a fine senior season.
The Oakland A's followed Gradford, however. He was the sixth Stanislaus District player selected in the draft, but the first high school player.
"I had talked to scouts, but nothing specific because they didn't have too much on me," Gradford said. "I thought this season I gave them an idea."
Gradford, after being injured his sophomore year, moved from second base to short as a junior. He spent last winter working out, increasing his strength and becoming a power hitter this spring.
He batted .430 with 15 extra-base hits and 27 RBIs. He had five triples, after hitting .294 without a triple in 2011. He had eight strikeouts and 13 walks this spring, after striking out 22 times and drawing 17 walks as a junior.
Those were the numbers that swayed Oakland, and convinced Santa Barbara to bring him on.
The Gauchos were 28-28 this spring, sixth in the Big West Conference. They were No. 2 in the Big West in hitting, but seventh out of nine in ERA.
Gradford could have a familiar face around, too: Beyer catcher Dempsey Grover, who will be a senior, has a verbal commitment with the Gauchos.