Michael will play for Tar Heels next spring
September 11, 2008By Charles Alston of North Carolina
By Mike Duprez
LEXINGTON - Levi Michael is going to start his baseball career at North Carolina a year early.
The North Davidson standout will graduate early from high school, enroll at UNC on Jan. 12, 2009, and be able to play for the Tar Heels next spring.
"The coaches presented me with an opportunity that was hard to turn down," Michael said.
UNC made the offer to Michael, who had already committed to the Tar Heels, during his official campus visit a few weeks ago.
Michael, who batted over .500 as a junior and smashed 11 home runs, always wanted to go to UNC but he wasn't scheduled to graduate from high school until next June, meaning he had one more year to play for the Knights and coach Mike Meadows.
But then he had a decision to make.
"I'm excited about it," Michael said. "I had to weigh the pros and cons of it. Overall, it's what I wanted to do."
Because he is entering UNC early, Michael will not be eligible for the 2009 Major League draft.
"That's OK," Meadows said. "He'll be eligible as a junior and that means he'll be a junior a year earlier."
Michael has been a strong hitter for a long time but really put himself on the college recruiters' radar by crushing an opposite field line drive home run off South Caldwell ace Madison Bumgarner in game one of the 2007 4-A state semifinal series. Bumgarner is rapidly advancing through San Francisco's farm system and may make the Giants' rotation in 2009.
In recent years, UNC has been one of the top programs in the country. The Tar Heels finished second in 2006 and 2007 and came within one game of the College World Series final series in 2008.
A shortstop at North Davidson, Michael isn't sure where he'll play for the Tar Heels.
"I'm not guaranteed anything," Michael said. "I'll just go there, work hard and find a spot if I can."
Michael's decision creates a big hole in the North Davidson lineup.
"You can't replace him," Meadows said. "That's how it goes. He's one of the top players in the state and you can't find a replacement for that."
But Meadows isn't the least bit disappointed.
"We're very excited for him," Meadows said. "This is what he has always wanted, and we're proud of him and we're all for it. It's just happening a lot earlier than we thought. It's good for our program. It shows other kids coming up what can be done if they work hard."