Bubba Chandler was the first player the Pittsburgh Pirates drafted to commit to the organization after they selected him with the 72nd overall pick in the third round of the MLB Draft.
Chandler enrolled at Clemson two weeks ago and was already working out with the Clemson football team when the Pirates selected him on Monday. The Bogart, Ga., product was also expected to be part of the Clemson baseball program next spring.
However, those plans changed.
Chandler explained to Pittsburgh’s 93.7 the Fan on Tuesday that baseball was his first love and he always dreamed of playing in the Major Leagues, and he did not want to pass up on the opportunity.
“You never know if I went to Clemson in three or four years would the same opportunity present itself? You never know. I took the safer route,” he said.
Choosing the safer route meant Chandler had to go and explain it to Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney. He knew he was passing on an opportunity to play for a national championship program, one that has consistently been involved in the championship race the last six seasons.
But to no surprise, Swinney was very supportive and understanding when Chandler walked into his office to tell him of his decision on Monday. The two spoke for about 20 minutes.
“He said to listen to God, follow your heart,” Chandler said. “He wasn’t mad about anything. He said ‘Bubba Chandler, I freakin’ love you kid. You are going to do great.’ He said if you ever want a spot here again, your jersey is going to be open. That made me feel a lot better.”
Chandler said he is going to miss playing football. It is a sport he grew up playing and how he met all of his friends. But he also knows the physical demand that comes with playing football can put a strain on his body, and his dreams of playing Major League Baseball just outweighed his love for football.
“I took the safe route. This is pretty much what I wanted to do. I always wanted to be a high draft pick,” he said. “Football is a sport I grew up with, my family played it. I played with all of my best friends. That’s where I met all of my buddies. I’m going to miss it, but at the same time you have to let stuff go in life. That is something I’m probably going to have to let go.”