“If they would have handled things differently, it could have gone differently,” Fields said Thursday after his first day of fall semester classes in Athens. “It’s tough for me to say because things happened for a reason, this is where I’m supposed to be.”
The Braves used the 69th overall selection on Fields, meaning he would have been in line for a signing bonus of between $400,000 and $450,000. Georgia’s closer, drafted in the second round, is the first player to return to the school after being selected so high.
“It’s huge for several reasons, not only for the talent Josh brings back, but the leadership and the type of person he is,” Georgia coach David Perno said. “The most important thing is him being at peace with it. That’s the hurdle he had to get over, and I think he has.”
Fields had 15 saves with a 1.80 ERA as a sophomore but had an off year last season, finishing with seven saves and a 4.46 ERA.
“When the draft was right there on me and right before it, I was thinking, ‘There’s no way I’m coming back,’” Fields said. “As the (summer) season kept going, things kept happening that kept pointing me back here. Eventually I was to the point where I was like, ‘I don’t think there’s anywhere else I would rather be.’”
Perno was “a little shocked” at how the Braves negotiated with Fields, Perno said.
Fields, who was advised by agent Scott Boras, said it was tough to turn down his hometown team and a team that has had so much success developing pitchers. However, his unhappiness with the negotiations outweighed those factors. His last conversation with the Braves was Aug. 10.
“I just got a chance to see the business side of everything over the summer, just dealing with everything,” he said. “I have to make decisions and look out for myself. I can’t go into things just because it looks really cool or it would be neat to play with the Braves.”
Starting pitcher Stephen Dodson, who turned down a chance to be drafted in the fourth round by the Colorado Rockies and was eventually taken in the 18th round by the Kansas City Royals, also is returning. He’s happy to have Fields back as well.
“I figured he was going to stay,” Dodson said, “but I was glad to see him come in class this morning.”