June 6, 2012 at 2:29 PM
Penn State first baseman Jordan Steranka was selected by the Pittsburgh Pirates in the 21st round of the 2012 Major League Baseball First Year Player Draft on Wednesday, becoming the second Nittany Lion selected this year.
The recent graduate and Pittsburgh native was taken with the 646th pick in the draft.
Last year, the Houston Astros drafted Steranka in the 30th round, but Steranka opted to rejoin Penn State for his senior year to achieve his college degree and to elevate his draft stock for 2012.
For Steranka, it has paid off. Not only did he finish college, but he also dramatically improved his stock by nine rounds.
Steranka had a monstrous senior season with the Nittany Lions, leading them to a third seed in the Big Ten Tournament. He hit .363 with 11 home runs, 40 RBI, and a .615 slugging percentage.
Steranka leaves Penn State as the all-time leader in at-bats, total bases and doubles and sits at second in hits and RBI.
With all of his statistics and records, Steranka was named to the First Team All-Big Ten in 2012.
Now, he will join his hometown Pirates and might start his path to the majors in a familiar place.
If Steranka plays this summer, he will start with the Pirates' single-A affiliate, the State College Spikes, who play at Medlar Field at Penn State. If so, he will become the third Penn State player to play for the Spikes.
With pitcher Joe Kurrasch also having been drafted by the San Francisco Giants in the eighth round, two more Penn State players, third baseman Joey DeBernardis and outfield Sean Deegan, are waiting to see if a big league club will draft them.
Coming out of high school, the Florida Marlins -- now the Miami Marlins -- selected DeBernardis in the 38th round in 2008, but he opted to go to Penn State.
June 5, 2012 at 8:16 PM
Penn State left handed pitcher Joe Kurrasch was selected by the San Francisco Giants in the eighth round of the 2012 Major League Baseball First Year Player Draft on Tuesday, becoming the first Nittany Lion selected this year. The redshirt junior was taken with the 268th overall pick in the draft.
The transfer from California started the 2012 season out as the team’s closer before transitioning to become one of the Lions’ top starters.
In both roles, Kurrasch dazzled hitters, compiling a 2.05 ERA with 78 strikeouts in 87.2 innings while holding opposing hitters to a .223 batting average. After a successful start to the year as a closer, he had the opportunity to face hitters all game long as a starter later in the season, too.
He thrived in the latter role, most notably against the Purdue Boilermakers on March 31. Kurrasch took a no-hitter into the seventh inning before it was finally broken up. Despite the lost no-no, he finished with a satisfying stat line of 7.1 innings pitched with three hits and five strikeouts.
As his successful starts piled up, the numbers of scouts' radar guns behind home plate at Medlar Field at Lubrano Park slowly began to grow. Big league teams were interested.
Now, that interest has turned in to an opportunity to start a professional baseball career. To Kurrach's delight, he was picked by his favorite team, the San Francisco Giants.
He now faces a dilemma of whether to return to Penn State for his junior year and elevate his draft stock for 2013 or to pursue his dreams of playing professional baseball for his favorite team.
Two more Penn State players have a realistic of being drafted in 2012, outfielder Sean Deegan and first baseman Jordan Steranka, who was drafted last season in the 30th round by the Houston Astros but opted to remain at Penn State. At the moment, they can only sit back and play the waiting game.
Stay with the Collegian for the latest.
June 4, 2012 at 7:14 PM
The MLB's First Year Player Draft will begin Monday night at 7 p.m. and continue until Wednesday. In it, at least two Penn State baseball players are expected to be drafted, recent graduate first baseman Jordan Steranka and rising junior pitcher Joe Kurrasch.
As the draft dawns, we’ve decided to take a look back at the five greatest MLB players to come out of Penn State.
While Greg Vogel, Nate Bump, and Michael Campo, might have been the best to play in Happy Valley, they did not make this top 5. This list will test even the greatest baseball historians’ wits.
5. Mark Baldwin – (October 29, 1863 – November 10, 1929)
Born on October 29th, 1863, Pittsburgh native Marcus Elmore Baldwin, nicknamed “Fido,” starts off this list. Baldwin played seven seasons in the majors, making his debut on May 2nd, 1887 with the Chicago White Stockings.
His versatility became the attraction. Baldwin was both a pitcher and a hitter, but was more effective at the mound.
He compiled 2,802.1 innings pitched in his career, compiling 156 wins with a 3.36 ERA. While at the plate, he teased with the Mendoza line, eventually ending his career with a .163 batting average.
However, Baldwin carried a criminal record with him in his playing days. In 1986, he and his teammates played the first professional baseball game in Auburn, Ga. But back then, that game defied the religious-based blue laws, which restricted activity on Sundays.
Later in 1890, he was charged with bribing National League players to keep them from joining the American League.
Robert L. Tielman, author of Baseball’s First Stars, was quoted as saying about Baldwin, "Although never known for a good curve, or changeup, [Baldwin] had plenty of speed and the gumption to challenge the best hitters."
4. William “Birdie” Cree – (October 23, 1882 – November 8, 1942)
With one of the best nicknames in sports, Birdie, could carry him on the list alone.
The nickname was also used while he played at Penn State.
"In my first game for State, I hit everything but the umpire, getting a home run, triple, double and single,” said Cree. “A classmate jumped up and yelled, 'He's a bird --that's what he is.' The name stuck and eventually became 'Birdie,' possibly also because I was so small."
But William Cree was much more than a name.
Eighth grade school teacher and star football quarterback, Cree found time to be an outfielder on the side. Baseball didn’t become serious for him until 1907, when he was signed to the Philadelphia Athletics by Connie Mack.
Yet, Cree never played for the Athletics. After a series of deals, he landed with the New York Highlanders, later to become the Yankees.
One year after his major league debut in 1908, Cree made history. He was the first right-handed batter to hit a home run at Shibe Park in Philadelphia.
In 1911, he was featured in the top five in six hitting categories,average (.348), slugging (.513), total bases (267), triples (22), stolen bases (48), and extra base hits (56), landing sixth in the MVP voting. He became the only player out of that year’s top six (Ty Cobb, Ed Walsh, Eddie Collins, Shoeless Joe Jackson and Walter Johnson) not to land in the hall of fame.
After 1911, Cree never amounted to much, but still managed to end his career with a .292 batting average in eight seasons.
3. Clifton Earl Heathcote – (January 24, 1898 – September 24, 1939)
The second-longest tenured major league baseball player out of Penn State with 15 seasons played, Clifton Earl Heathcote falls number three on this list.
Heathcote’s 15 seasons were rather uneventful. His career began in 1918 as a bright upcoming outfielder with the St. Louis Cardinals. He was painted as a timid nineteen-year old debuting in a Cardinals uniform, by St. Louis Times’ Sid Keener.
He was said to be a phenom in the making, who was impossible for opposing pitchers to dominate. Keener predicted Heathcote had the potential of a .330 batting average. As it turned out, he could never reach that plateau.
Heathcote peaked at a .313 batting average with the Cubs in 1929, where he later went on to lose the 1929 World Series to the Philadelphia Athletics. Heathcote ended his career with the Phillies in 1933 with a .275 batting average, 1,222 hits and 55 triples.
2. Mike Scioscia (November 28, 1960)
The most recognizable name, Mike Scioscia, comes in at number two.
Before Scioscia began managing the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim in 2000, he had a solid playing career as a catcher with the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Born in the suburbs outside of Philadelphia, Scioscia made his major league debut on April 20, 1980. Over the span of his 13-year career with the Dodgers, Scioscia only had three seasons where he played fewer than 100 games.
He ended his career with a .259 batting average and 68 home runs, but was more valuable for his work behind the plate.
Noted for his intelligence, Scioscia fine tooled his pitching teammates.
In a 1985 Sports Illustrated article, Hall of Fame pitcher Orel Hershiser said, "He's a very innovative catcher. He doesn't get stuck in any one pattern. He's very flexible. He adjusts to what's working that night. He has a knack for knowing what you need. He'll kick me in the butt or calm me down."
That intelligence and innovation helped lead Scioscia and the Dodgers to win two World Series and paved the way to a managerial career after his playing days.
After the Angels fired current Mets manager Terry Collins, they hired Scioscia, who wasted no time as manager.
In 2002, he led the Angels to their first playoff appearance in 15 years, which resulted in a World Series title for the Halos, and Scioscia became just the seventeenth person to win a World Series as a player and then manager.
Scioscia earned Manager of the Year honors for his contributions to the Angels' run to the championship. He later won the award a second time in 2009.
Now in his twelfth season at the helm in Los Angeles, he leads the Angels in managerial wins and games managed. Even though Scioscia is building a potentially Hall of Fame career, he still does not earn top honors on this list.
1. John “Monte” Ward (March 3, 1860 – March 4, 1925)
Scioscia was no match for Bellefonte native John Montgomery Ward, also known as Monte.
Ward holds many distinctions that separate him from the others on this list.
Ward holds the distinction of being the first Penn State student to play in the majors. He entered the bigs in 1878 and played 17 seasons, the longest career of any Penn State alumnus. He is also the only Penn State alumnus to be inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame — he entered the ranks in 1964.
But most notably, Ward was also a pioneer. In 1885, he led the creation of the sport’s first ever labor union, the Brotherhood of Professional Baseball Players.
However, seven years earlier, he was an innovator in State College. Before notoriously getting kicked out of Penn State for stealing chickens, Ward enrolled at what was then knowb as Penn State College as a bright 13-year old.
He founded Penn State’s first baseball team in 1875 and developed the first curveball witnessed by a crowd of students and professor William A. Buckhout in front of Old Main.
After his time at Penn State ended, he went on to make his major league debut on July 15, 1878 with the Providence Grays at age 18.
With the Grays, Ward showed his versatility, pitching and playing the field. For the first seven seasons out of his 17-year career, he did both until he gave up pitching in 1884.
In those seven seasons, he compiled 2,461.2 innings pitched, worth 164 wins and a 2.10 ERA. Ward went onto to play every position except first base and catcher, mainly playing time at shortstop and second base while also managing.
“Mr. Ward was one of the few men in baseball who started at the bottom and later became captain, manager and president of Major League Baseball clubs,” said an article in The New York Harold Tribune.
He composed himself at the plate with a .275 career batting average on 2,104 hits, allowing him to use his explosive speed with 96 triples and 504 career stolen bases.
With all of his statistics and distinctions, the National Baseball Hall of Fame inducted Ward in 1964.
Now he bears another honor: Number one on a list of Penn State baseball’s finest.
June 1, 2012 at 4:31 PM
Penn State's basketball team hasn't played Pittsburgh since 2005 or West Virginia since 1991, but that might change in the next few years.
At the 16th annual Coaches vs. Cancer Golf Tournament on Friday, coach Patrick Chambers talked about the Nittany Lions' schedule. He said he is in talks with Pittsburgh coach Jamie Dixon and West Virginia's Bob Huggins about playing the Panthers and Mountaineers sometime in the future.
"That's something Jamie and I are in the middle of talking about," Chambers said about playing Pittsburgh. "It's definitely not going to happen this year, but maybe sometime in the future. Another one, I talked to coach Huggins from West Virginia, maybe get that going again. Because I know back in the day, I've talked with some former players, they used to play West Virginia all the time. So maybe get that back into the fold."
The Lions are 76-68 against Pittsburgh all-time, but haven't had recent success, as they are 7-19 in their last 26 meetings dating back to 1972. Penn State is 53-66 all-time against West Virginia.
Chambers also gave reporters some insight on the 2012-13 schedule.
Penn State will be participating in the Puerto Rico Tip-Off tournament, and Chambers mentioned the team will also face St. Francis (Pa.), Bucknell, Duquesne, Boston College and LaSalle in its nonconference slate.