Ex-Sierra Vista star Hager inks deal with Rays

Jake Hager finished out his high school baseball career on a high note, batting .547 with 11 homers, 57 RBIs and 75 runs and earning Gatorade Nevada Player of the Year Honors.

Now the Sierra Vista product is ready to start his pro career.

Hager, the 32nd overall pick in the major league draft, signed with the Tampa Bay Rays on Saturday.

"It feels awesome," Hager said. "It's been my dream ever since I've been growing up. I'm very proud of what I've accomplished and now I'm ready to go out and do what I need to do and hopefully make it to the major leagues."

Hager said he agreed to a $966,000 signing bonus. Baseball America reported that Major League Baseball's suggested bonus for the No. 32 pick was $954,000.

"It's great, but I'm not worried about the money right now and I'm just ready to go out and play ball and pursue my dream," Hager said.

Hager could have negotiated until Aug. 15, but said signing early will allow him to play this summer rather than wait until next season. Hager said he will head to Princeton, W.Va., on Thursday to report to Tampa Bay's Appalachian League franchise. Princeton's season started on Tuesday.

"I wanted to sign early," Hager said. "I didn't want to wait until the end of August. I want to be able to get out there and adapt to the whole season and get all the nerves out."

Hager had signed to play at Arizona State, but said he's happy with his decision to start his pro career with the Rays. Tampa Bay had 12 of the first 89 picks in the draft, and Hager is the sixth to sign.

"I'm very excited to be part of the Tampa Bay Rays organization," Hager said.

"Arizona State would have been a lot of fun. It'd be nice to go there. But I'd rather start my career right now."