COLUMBIA — Brison Celek flew to the Toronto Blue Jays’ facility in Dunedin, Fla., on Sunday and prepared to begin the next stage of his life.
Celek had just finished his fourth year at South Carolina, and third season as a member of the Gamecocks’ baseball team. Toronto drafted him in the 31st round, and he decided to skip his final year of eligibility and turn pro, partly because he wasn’t sure if he would ever have the chance to be drafted again, he said.
But now, Celek said he will return to school and college baseball after all, because “an unforeseen health condition,” as he put it, came up Wednesday. The condition resulted in Toronto not signing Celek to a contract. Celek declined to specify the condition.
“It’s not life-threatening,” he said Thursday. “It’s not career-threatening, either. The Blue Jays thought one thing and I thought the other, and we couldn’t come to terms on the deal.”
As for his medical issue, Celek said, “It’s not embarrassing, (but) I don’t feel it necessary to have that out in the public.”
Celek, a Bishop England High graduate who is a semester away from obtaining his USC degree, flew home to Charleston on Wednesday after things fell apart with the Blue Jays.
He has already talked with coach Chad Holbrook and will be on the team next season.
“He has informed me he is coming back,” Holbrook wrote in a text message. “I met with him (Thursday) morning.”
Said Celek, who turns 23 in January: “(Holbrook) was pretty shocked to hear that we couldn’t come to terms, but also excited about having me back and just ready to be moving forward to next year. When life throws you curveballs, you’ve got to hit them. There’s much worse things than going from one baseball team to another baseball team.
“It was kind of hard to take at first, but I’m looking forward to getting back to Columbia and moving on and working to get back to Omaha.”
Now that first baseman LB Dantzler is gone — Toronto drafted him in the 14th round — and rising junior Kyle Martin is set to take over at first, Celek will be a leading contender for USC’s designated hitter job in 2014.
Celek hit .307 in 88 at-bats in 2013 after hitting .224 in 58 at-bats in 2012. He led the team with 24 starts at DH in 2013 but was replaced by Dantzler for the NCAA tournament because Holbrook played the sure-handed Martin at first.