Howard College's baseball program has a history of sending players off to the next level. Whether that level is a Division I school, a minor league squad or a major league organization, HC Manager Britt Smith can be counted on to root for their success.
This season, several Hawks, former Hawks and future Hawks have been eyed by the big league scouts. Topping the list of hopefuls is the 6'9'' David Palladino, a righty from Emerson, N.J. Palladino went in the fifth round and was taken as the 164th overall pick by the New York Yankees.
That doesn't mean we'll be seeing Palladino mixed in the Bombers' rotation along with C.C. Sabathia and Hiroki Kuroda next year, but according to Smith, Palladino is MLB-ready.
“The average length of time a kid will spend in the minors is six years,” Smith explained. “It really depends on the kid. How do they handle themselves off the field? It all varies by position and organization. There is some physical skill involved, but you have to be able to handle professional baseball. There's a maturity level that's required. Palladino is a pretty polished guy. He got drafted because of his big time arm strength. His downfall is that he may not be able to develop much more.”
Another hurler Smith is sending off is David Gates. The 6'5'' Lubbock native may be seen on the mound for the Texas Rangers at some point, after being picked up in the 18th round.
“Gates has a chance to be fast-tracked,” Smith said of the right-hander. “He will be a reliever someday. That's a guy who can pitch in the big leagues for 10-15 years. He has to develop some more and he won't be a starter. He's a starter at this level, but I told him, “You're going to be a reliever.” The Rangers love him because he's competitive and he's willing to work hard.”
Kyle Bartsch, a former Hawk who transferred to Southern Alabama, was taken in the seventh round by the Kansas City Royals.
“Bartsch is a great development story,” Smith said. “He continued to work and he has the all-time career saves record at Southern Alabama. He's a 91-93 mile per hour left-handed closer. He could make it.”
Smith, along with assistants Jake Carlson and Robert Martinez, lost a handful of guys to the draft, including pitcher Hunter Wood who signed with the Tampa Bay Rays and catcher Tanner Norton, who signed with the Milwaukee Brewers.
“It wasn't unexpected,” Smith said. “We go through this every year. Norton is a catcher from Northern Kentucky with a big time bat. I think his bat is little more ready for the big leagues than his catching is.”
Position players are typically in for a long haul once drafted. The years of grinding it out in minors may not translate to a major league career. Paul Hendrix and Levi Scott will each get a shot to prove themselves. Hendrix left Howard College in 2012, while Levi Scott graduated this year.
“Paul's got a good shot,” Smith said. “So does Levi. Paul is more of a grinder, He'll find a way to be successful. Levi has the physical ability. It's a lot harder to make it to the big leagues as a position player. You have to be stronger mentally. Pitchers can be fast-tracked a little quicker.”
Some Hawk fireballers have found their feet on major league rubber. Pedro Villareal earned a shot with the Cincinatti Reds this year, though he's back in the minors currently. Burch Smith has been on the Padres' depth chart twice.
But as Smith will tell you, there are no guarantees. Many players with loads of talent will falter in the minors, while others who are willing to work and can handle the pressure of playing ball professionally may succeed.
“It's not a game at that level,” Smith added. “That's what a lot of people don't understand. At that level, it's a business. We always wish the players well. We will be honest with them and give them advice when we're asked for it, but we never stand in a kids way, even if we think it may be the wrong decision for them at the time. We build relationships with these guys during the recruiting process and we wish them the best.”
2013 MLB Draft
• David Palladino, 164, 5th round, New York Yankees, Howard College player 2013.
• Kyle Bartsch, 204, 7th round, Kansas City Royal, South Alabama, Howard College player 2011.
• Tanner Norton, 392, 13th round, Milwaukee Brewers, 2013-14 Howard College signee.
• Paul Hendrix, 531, 18th round, Cleveland Indians, TCU, Howard College player 2012.
• David Gates, 550, 18th round, Texas Rangers, Howard College player 2013.
• Levi Scott, 639, 21st round, Baltimore Orioles, Howard College player 2013.
• Ethan Carnes, 644, 21st round, New York Yankees, Oklahoma University, Howard College player 2012.
• Tommy Burns, 657, 22nd round, Seattle Mariners, Howard College player 2013.
• Zach Winn, 670, 22nd round, Texas Rangers, 2013-14 Howard College signee.
• Hunter Wood, 878, 29th round, Tampa Bay Rays, 2013 Howard College player.
• Julian Service, 1100, 37th round, Minnesota Twins, 2013-14 Howard College signee.
• Clint Sharp, 1147, 37th round, Los Angeles Angels, 2013-14 Howard College signee.
• Brandon Wagner, 1171, 39th round, Philadelphia Phillies, 2013-14 Howard College signee.
• Sal Mendez, 1210, 40th round, Texas Rangers, 2013-14 Howard College signee.