Kendall agrees to terms with Tampa Bay

It took a little while to come to an agreement, but Ian Kendall and the Tampa Bay Rays finally reached a deal Saturday night.

The recent Ashland High graduate was a fifth-round selection by the Rays last month and had committed to play at Oregon State before coming to terms with Tampa Bay officials following negotiations that began with breakfast Saturday morning and concluded around 6 p.m.

Final terms of the deal could not be disclosed because Kendall hasn't signed his official contract and had it approved by Major League Baseball, but the pitcher's deal includes four years of college tuition and a sizable signing bonus.

"It's a pretty good deal for myself and my family and we're just really fortunate to even get such a great offer by them," said Kendall, 18. "School will be taken care of and we got what we wanted with the signing bonus, so it's just a win-win. I'm just really excited and looking forward to the future."

The hard-throwing right-hander said he expects to join Tampa Bay's Rookie League team in Port Charlotte, Fla., in a week and a half and will remain there until the end of August.

"It should be really fun," said the 6-foot-1, 210-pounder. "I'm looking forward to it."

After a two week break from rookie ball, he'll return for a month of Instructional League baseball before a five-month offseason. Kendall said he expects to take that time to get himself squared away for baseball, lift weights and hone his skills for a run at bigger and better things next spring.

As he maintained all along, Kendall said he really would've been fortunate either way his decision went, be it joining the Rays organization or Oregon State. But when push came to shove, moving closer to his dream of playing in the major leagues was too tough to pass up.

"It just felt like a better fit for me right now," said Kendall. "Oregon State's a great school and always has been and I give them a lot of thanks for giving me a chance with them, but things just started happening to me that's never really happened to me before. All the exposure I had opened up an incredible opportunity."

"Oregon State would've done a lot of things that would've helped propel myself as a player and a student," he added of foregoing college baseball, "but right now it just felt like something I needed to do. I might regret doing it now, but those are decisions you have to make in life and I know (Tampa Bay's) going to take great care of me, they do with all their players."

Kendall said the Rays plan to work him into their system as a starting pitcher since he has solid command of a plus-fastball, a sharp curveball and promising changeup. His fastball has been clocked as high as 95 miles per hour and was a steady 91 in his final start for the Medford Mustangs last Friday when he pitched a one-hitter.

"I was a little bit surprised by that because I've never really seen myself as that kind of person, I'm more of a power pitcher," Kendall said of being viewed as a starter and not a reliever. "But these last few games I've just been trying to throw strikes and let my defense work and they've been doing a great job of that."

Joining an American League organization also theoretically marks the end of what has been a stellar batting career for Kendall, who wrapped up his two-year Mustang career with a .406 batting average, 19 home runs and 83 RBIs but only a 5-3 pitching record. Kendall was also an all-state pitcher and left fielder for Ashland.

"I was swinging a bat earlier before the game and looking back on the glory days, getting to swing the bat and hang out with my friends and stuff," Kendall said with a laugh Tuesday night. "I'm going to miss hitting a lot, it's something I've always loved to do, but you've got to move on sometime."

Kendall said he's also going to miss the tremendous support he's received during his playing days throughout the Rogue Valley.

"I'm just so fortunate to have all the people in my life that have helped me get to this point," he said. "All the coaches that I've had, all the friends that I've had "… I'm just extremely lucky and blessed to be in the position that I am. I'm just ready to go now and ready to make myself better and start a new life."

Reach Mail Tribune reporter Kris Henry at 541-776-4488, or e-mail

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