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Heisman Trophy winner’s decision catches A’s off guard

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MESA, Ariz. — The Oakland A’s said Monday morning that they remained in negotiations with Kyler Murray, hoping that he not only would participate in their spring-training camp this weekend but also choose a career in professional baseball over the NFL.

And then Murray apparently ended those negotiations and changed everything, tweeting a statement that he plans to devote himself to football.

“Moving forward, I am firmly and fully committing my life to become an NFL quarterback,” he wrote. “Football has been my love and passion my entire life. I was raised to play QB, and I very much look forward to dedicating myself to being the best QB possible and winning NFL championships.’

While A’s were hoping to see Murray at spring-training camp this week, Murray made it clear he entirely focused on preparing for the NFL scouting combine later this month.

More columns:Read more commentary from columnist Bob Nightengale

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“I have started an extensive training program to further myself for upcoming NFL workouts and interviews. I eagerly await the opportunity to continue to prove to NFL decision-makers that I am the franchise QB in this draft.”

Minutes before Murray’s announcement, A’s manager Bob Melvin said the organization was cautiously optimistic Murray was coming to camp.

A’s president Billy Beane was realistic when talking about Murray’s future with the team earlier in the day.

“Things have certainly changed since the (2018 MLB) draft, given his amazing football season,’’ Beane said. “It’s based on a historic college football season this young man had. To not recognize that would be somewhat foolish.

“He’s a Heisman Trophy winner. He’s projected to be an early pick. We’ve had ongoing conversations as it relates to the conversation and to Kyler’s future. Period. Not just with baseball but potentially with other sports.”

Murray was selected with the ninth overall pick in last summer’s draft and signed a $4.66 million signing bonus with the A’s. He keeps $200,000 of that bonus and forfeits the rest, while the A’s lose the draft pick, a stinging loss to a small-market club.

In planning for Murray to arrive to camp with other players on Friday, the A’s had prepared a locker with his uniform, No. 73, among the position players in the back corner of the clubhouse, 

“To start speculating on what could and couldn’t happen at this point,’’ Beane said, “just isn’t productive. I don’t have any answers for you until its decided in the process. All I can tell you that it hasn’t been decided and that conversations will continue.”

Beane, hours before the announcement, did not address whether it’s possible that the A’s would have permitted Murray to play both sports. But no one is comparing him to Bo Jackson or Deion Sanders, making it unlikely he would have become the next two-sport start.

“Listen, quarterback is a very demanding position as is a major-league baseball player,’’ Beane said. “To say someone could do both, I’m not here to say that. Something like that would be part of our private discussions.’’

If the A’s had to do it over, would they have gambled on the Oklahoma quarterback in the draft?

“If I get do-overs,’’ Beane said, “can I invest in Apple stock 30 years ago. That’s my first choice, how’s that? I don’t get do-overs in this business.’’

Follow MLB columnist Bob Nightengale on Twitter at @Bnightengale.

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