By my count, there were seven players with local ties taken yesterday in the MLB Draft, but it’s possible that I may have missed one. CLICK HERE to see the entire 2014 draft class, and if you know of anyone who wasn’t included here, please leave a comment below:
It’s been a long journey for Saunders grad Michael Nolan — one that has seen him play for three different colleges and undergo Tommy John surgery — but on Saturday, he was rewarded for his persistence.
The Oklahoma City University left-hander was selected in the 18th round of the Major League Baseball draft (552nd overall) by the Oakland Athletics to fulfill a lifelong dream.
“It was exciting,” Nolan said. “I was a little nervous at first about who was going to pick me up. Over the course of the season, I spoke to like 13 different teams. Oakland was like the last team to hit me up, so I wasn’t expecting them.”
At 6-foot-7 with a fastball that tops out at 95 mph and a devastating changeup, it’s easy to see why scouts have followed Nolan since high school.
He had Tommy John surgery in November of 2010 and is coming off of his best year, in which he struck out 84 in 76 innings with a 3.32 ERA.
“I just felt like if I didn’t push myself to get back, I would be a letdown to my little brothers,” the Yonkers native said. “I wanted to make my family proud.”
Six other players with local ties were drafted on Saturday — Arlington High School catcher Drew Lugbauer was taken by the Toronto Blue Jays in the 21st round (624th overall), Elon University left-hander and Rye Neck grad Ryan Pennell was selected by the Tampa Bay Rays in the 22nd round (667th overall), Iona College right-hander Mariano Rivera Jr. was grabbed by the Yankees in the 29th round (872nd overall), Pace University second baseman David Pepe was taken by the Blue Jays in the 31st round (924th overall), Texas A&M International catcher and John Jay-EF grad Alex McKeon was snagged by the Boston Red Sox in the 31st round (944th overall) and Winthrop University outfielder and Hen Hud grad TJ Olesczuk was selected by the Baltimore Orioles in the 40th round (1201st overall).
Pennell was attending his younger brother Chris’ Class B regional final game when he received the news.
“It was pretty surreal,” said Pennell, who posted a team-leading 3.52 ERA this past season out of the bullpen for Elon with 12 saves and 32 strikeouts in 30 2/3 innings. “My girlfriend actually told me first because she was following it and I just wanted to watch the game. She called me and was like, ‘You just got drafted.’ I didn’t really believe it at first. I just checked Twitter and all of that stuff, and then the Rays called me after that. It was really cool.”
File photo from The Journal News of Pennell