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LOW-KEY A’S CLOSING IN ON TOP PROSPECT

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Todd Van Poppel, impressed with the approach taken by the Oakland Athletics after they selected him in the first round of last month's amateur draft, is reconsidering his commitment to the University of Texas.

Hank Van Poppel, father of the pitcher, said he expected his son to decide whether to sign a pro contract in "a week to 10 days."A major league official not associated with the A's told The Dallas Morning News that he expected the former Arlington Martin star to sign with Oakland later this month.

Todd Van Poppel, rated the nation's top amateur prospect, told scouts before the June 4 draft that he would not sign a professional contract. He said he wanted to pitch at Texas and in the 1992 Olympics.

Oakland, however, had seven selections in the first two rounds and used the 14th overall pick on Van Poppel.

"Todd has been giving serious consideration to (the A's)," Hank Van Poppel said. "I thought once the draft was held, it would be over and done with. He is struggling with the decision in his mind."

Atlanta, which had the No. 1 pick, reportedly backed off Van Poppel the weekend before the draft when he indicated he would not be interested in a three-year, $1 million offer. The A's have not made any financial offers, although it is expected they would offer close to $1.2 million over three years if Van Poppel indicates he will sign.

The Athletics have taken a low-key approach in conversations with the Van Poppel family and have made a positive impression.

"Their approach to the whole situation has been quite surprising," Hank Van Poppel said. "They came in the house with no high pressure. They have tried to sell Todd on the fact he had another option. They have not tried to sell short his dream of going to college or the Olympics.

"They have tried to sell him on his lifelong goal, of playing major league baseball."

Oakland General Manager Sandy Alderson, minor league director Karl Kuehl and minor league instructor Harvey Dorfman have visited the Van Poppels.

"I'm seriously thinking about going with the Oakland A's," Todd Van Poppel told the San Francisco Examiner. "They did what I wanted. They came in and told me what their program was like. They are very classy. They handled themselves great."

As well as being able to give Van Poppel a scholarship incentive that would be the equivalent of education expenses at Texas, Hank Van Poppel said the family was impressed that the Athletics have an academic adviser who helps young players in the organization who want to get an education.

He said he also is impressed with the fact that manager Tony LaRussa signed a professional contract directly out of high school, but was able to earn a law degree.

Van Poppel, who is pitching in a tournament in Michigan for the Connie Mack League's Dallas Mustangs, was 11-4 with a 0.96 ERA and 196 strikeouts in 103 innings for Martin during the high school season.