Everyone wants to be wanted, and when you’re a baseball player, there is nothing like being wanted by a major league team.
Corbin Burnes knows the feeling well. On Friday, Burnes, a former player for the Riverhead Tomcats of the Hamptons Collegiate Baseball League, was drafted by the Milwaukee Brewers. Burnes, a junior righthanded pitcher for St. Mary’s College (California), was selected in the fourth round with the 111th overall pick on the second day of the MLB Draft.
“I’m just happy that someone noticed me,” he said in a phone interview shortly after.
Burnes, listed at 6-foot-3, 205 pounds, is a power pitcher with a fastball in the 92-95 miles-per-hour range and a sharpened slider that can be an out pitch at times, according to mlb.com. He acknowledged that he has come a long way over the past three years. “As a freshman, I was a pretty raw talent, and over the three years, I really developed as a person and as a baseball player,” said the Bakersfield, California, product.
Burnes improved from his freshman year (when he had a 6.18 earned-run average in 44 innings) to his sophomore year, when he won a place in the starting rotation, going 7-5 with a 3.74 ERA. He had played for the Tomcats the summer before, going 3-2 with a 5.06 ERA. This past season with the Gaels, Burnes went 9-2, posting a 2.48 ERA. He allowed 76 hits over 101 2/3 innings, with 33 walks and 120 strikeouts.
Burnes was projected to be a second-round pick by some, with a possibility that he could get nabbed in the first round, but that didn’t happen.
“The draft is crazy and you never know what can happen,” he said.
Burnes said he was happy the nerve-racking waiting game was over. He said he was undecided as to whether he will sign with the Brewers or return to St. Mary’s.
What was Burnes’ take on his experience with the Tomcats?
“It was awesome,” he said. “My first experience playing summer ball in college. It wasn’t a big league, but it was good for me, a big confidence-builder.”
The following summer, Burnes drew attention from scouts in the Cape Cod League.
Another former HCBL player, pitcher Thomas Hakimer, was drafted by the Minnesota Twins 12 picks after Burnes. Hakimer, a senior righthander from St. John’s University, had a brief stint with the North Fork Ospreys, playing three games in 2013. The 5-11, 190-pound Hakimer, who is from Floral Park and played high school baseball for Archbishop Molloy, is coming off a dominant season for the Red Storm. With a funky sidearm delivery that added deception to his pitches, Hakimer went 7-3, with a miniscule 1.17 ERA. In 59 2/3 innings, he had 71 strikeouts, 19 walks and gave up 24 hits. He was named a Second Team All-American by Baseball America and the West Coast Conference Pitcher of the Year.
Both players are the highest-drafted players in Tomcats and Ospreys history, according to HCBL president Brett Mauser.
University at Albany pitcher Stephen Woods, who played for the Ospreys in 2014, was taken by the San Franciso Giants in the eighth round with the 245th overall pick. The 6-2, 200-pound righthander went 4-5 with a 5.57 ERA this year for the Great Danes.
Another fomer Ospreys player, Northwestern State University centerfielder Nick Heath, was drafted by the Kansas City Royals in the 16th round (493rd overall).
“I think it’s a good fit,” Heath told The Shreveport Times. “Talked to a couple guys in the organization just saying that they like a lot of athleticism.”
Heath, a 6-1, 187-pound junior, has athleticism. He set the Demons single-season record with 35 stolen bases and is third in school history with 75 career steals. He drove in a career-high 27 runs in his junior season.
The HCBL, which is in its ninth year, has sent 126 players into the professional ranks. Among them were five who reached the major leagues, including Arizona Diamondbacks shortstop Nick Ahmed and Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim pitcher Nick Tropeano.
“Any time a kid is able to take the next step in his career and have a dream come to fruition, it’s just wonderful to be a part of it some way,” Mauser said. “That’s why we’re here, to help a kid develop his game some way.”
Mauser said he looks forward to the MLB Draft every year.
“It never gets old, it really doesn’t,” he said. “For somebody to be able to take the next step, it’s just wonderful. We’re their biggest fans from afar.”
Photo caption: Former Riverhead Tomcats pitcher Corbin Burnes was drafted in the fourth round of the MLB Draft by the Milwaukee Brewers on Friday. (Credit: Garret Meade, file)