ARLINGTON -- The Rangers are still expecting outfielder Riley Cooper to join them for Spring Training in Arizona. "Yes we do," Rangers general manager Jon Daniels said firmly on Tuesday. Cooper, after being drafted in the 25th round, was signed last summer out of the University of Florida, where he also plays wide receiver. The $250,000 signing bonus is contingent upon him reporting to Spring Training and foregoing a possible career in the NFL.
Daniels has been staying in regular contact with agents Greg Clifton and Terry Bross and has been assuming all along that Cooper would ultimately play baseball. But Cooper intimated to the Gainesville Sun before last week's Sugar Bowl that he may not play baseball. The story also suggested that the Rangers hadn't been in contact with Cooper, leaving him uncertain of his status. "I must not mean that much to them," Cooper told the Sun. "Hopefully they contact me. I'm not going to contact them. I'm waiting, Texas." The Rangers still want Cooper and are expecting him in Arizona even though he said he will participate in the Senior Bowl and the NFL Combine in February. "We've been in touch with his agents," Daniels said. "We intentionally gave him space and time while he was preparing for the SEC Championship Game and the Sugar Bowl. He had a great year. I'm sure he's giving attention to the NFL but these are all things we discussed before we signed him. "Everything is still on track for him to report to Arizona. He has a decision to make but the lack of contact was out of respect, not from a lack of respect." Cooper, who is 6-foot-3, caught 51 passes for 961 yards and nine touchdowns for the Gators, including seven catches for 181 yards and a touchdown in the Sugar Bowl victory over Cincinnati. As a baseball player, he hit .247 with two home runs and eight RBIs in 30 games. He hit .207 in 22 games in 2008. This summer he played for McKinney in the Texas Collegiate League and hit .182 with three home runs and eight RBIs in 44 games. "What I'm going to do? I have no idea, yet, man," Cooper told the Sun. "My life's kind of a roller coaster right now. I don't know what sport I'm going to pick, what I'm going to do."
T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.