By Carolo Pascale
In the summer of 2021, the MLB Draft League was created, giving an avenue for college baseball players to see what playing professional baseball is like. It also allowed players to be looked at by MLB scouts, staff, coaches and for a chance to get drafted to the MLB.
With the league coming back this summer for its second season, four of Rider’s own will be participating. Those players are junior catcher Socrates Bardatsos, junior pitcher Kenny Quijano, junior pitcher Dylan Heine and senior pitcher Frank Doelling.
One of the Broncs got a taste of the league last year, that being Doelling, who worked as a part of the grounds crew for the league in its inaugural season.
“I didn’t get to participate in any of the games. But me and another one of my teammates Cal Stalzer, we were working on the grounds crew for the draft league,” said Doelling. “We were pretty much able to see what the draft league was all about.”
Another Bronc got a feel for what the league was like last year too, although the experience was much different than Doelling’s.
Rider Assistant Coach Mike Petrowski worked as a pitching coach for the Trenton Thunder last summer, who played a majority of their home games at Rider. It was a brand new league, so an opportunity like this was huge for him.
“We didn’t really know what to expect,” said Petrowski. “And then when we got there, we were almost, I guess shocked at how good it was. It was just a great experience all around.”
The league prides itself on giving its players exposure and learning how to compete at the professional level. That’s exactly what Doelling, as well as the rest of the players, are looking to get out of it, besides, of course, the chance to be drafted.
“Being able to be on the same team and compete against some of the other great players across the country that are also coming into this league with the same goals as we are, and developing the relationships with those great players,” said Doelling.
Petrowski added a similar sentiment.
“I’m not really sure why that never just never happened in the past,” Petrowski said. “But, you know, to kind of make it fresh in the scouts and the organization’s eyes, right before the draft is a great idea.”
The league itself is split up into two halves, the first is all college and amateur players, while the second is professional players who have exhausted their amateur eligibility. This means the four Broncs will be playing in that first half of the season.
Another wrinkle the four players will have to deal with is playing against each other. Last season, the players were randomly assigned to teams, but according to Petrowski, this year the league will be doing a draft to decide who is on what team.
“I think they’re doing a little different this year,” said Petrowski. “I think they’re doing a draft to assign the kids on a team. They’re not just randomly assigning them. I think that’s the last I heard.”
If that’s the case, all four players could be on separate teams and play against each other.
“I think it’d be pretty cool because three of us are pitchers,” said Heine. “If we’re both pitching on the same day it’ll be cool because it’s not usually something we get to do. It’s more of competing together. And instead, we’ll be competing against each other.”
Doelling, the oldest and most experienced of the four players, had a specific team in mind.
“I’m hoping I’m able to play on Trenton,” said Doelling.
The thought of all four of the players being on different teams is very different for each of them like Heine said. But with it comes the chance to improve their own game by playing with top college baseball talents from across the country.
Head Coach Barry Davis spoke about how rewarding of an experience that playing in the league will be for the four Broncs.
“The goal for these guys is to get exposure, to learn something, and to compete with some of the best players,” said Davis. “They’ll take away the day to day grind, practice preparation, you know all the things that are involved with professional baseball.”
Now that the Broncs have started the 2021-2022 season, Doelling, Heine and the rest of the players who will be participating in the draft league have the full season to look forward to and get ready for the draft league come summer. The Broncs are 6-4 to start the year, and looking to repeat as Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference (MAAC) Champions.
But despite the season at hand, Doelling said what all four of them are feeling about the summer.
“I’m just really excited for it.”