Tulane’s Rick Jones rests easy on first day of classes

The date keeps changing when Tulane baseball coach Rick Jones can finally exhale and consider his signing class complete.

It used to be the final day of the major league baseball draft, then it was a July 12 signing deadline and now it’s the first day of classes. Regardless of when it took place, Jones can finally breathe easy.

All 19 of the Green Wave’s newest signees attended class on Monday, locking them into the 2014 roster.

“I really think this is our most talented class in at least a decade,” Jones said. “It speaks volumes about the job (assistant coach and recruiting coordinator) Jake Gautreau has done in building relationships with these guys that they were turning down some very good financial opportunities to stay with us.”

While several of Tulane’s signees earned draft-worthy ratings from various publications, none were selected, largely because of their salary and signing bonus demands. While it appeared to be a blessing for Jones at the time, all it really meant is he had to fend off MLB teams until the first day of class.

Most concerning was the Boston Red Sox’s ongoing pursuit of pitcher J.P. France and the Tampa Bay Rays’ recent negotiations with catcher Jake Rogers. Jones said each turned down last-minute lucrative offers and signing bonuses worth several hundred-thousand dollars to stick with the Green Wave.

But once a prospect reports to his first college class of the semester, he’s no longer eligible to sign with an MLB franchise.

“I think it would have been hard to blame any of these guys for leaving considering what they were being offered, but it was critical to us that we keep this class intact,” Jones said. “The fact is when these guys don’t get drafted and pro teams have leftover draft money, there are really no rules about who they can go after, so there’s no slotting or anything. So, I’d be lying to say I wasn’t pacing around my house at 4 a.m. worrying about what was coming, before these guys got into a classroom.”

But Monday turned out to be a day of celebration for Tulane’s staff. Not only did the Green Wave retain everyone it signed, it even added a significant piece to its incoming class in former Miami signee Lex Kaplan.

The outfielder was named the best amateur prospect in Missouri, according to Perfect Game and follows in the footsteps of his brother, Jon Kaplan, who starred in the Green Wave’s 2001 run to the College World Series.

“It’s tough to find a more famous player to our fan base ,and even our rivals’ fan base than Jonny Kaplan, and I think initially Lex kind of wanted to chart his own path and I understood that,” Jones said. “But when Miami got into a situation where they were a little bit over (the 11.7 scholarship limit), it worked out for us.

“What should have happened, did happen and he’s going to be here with us.”