A Lehigh-record 24 MLB scouts made their way to Goodman Campus on Wednesday to check out the Mountain Hawk ball players in the team’s annual pro-day. Six Hawks drew interest from the professional team as the big guys were all watching — the Boston Red Sox, New York Yankees, Philadelphia Phillies — all looking for their respective team’s next rising star.
Coach Sean Leary, who is entering his 20th season at the helm of the program, commended his student-athletes on the way that they performed in front of their professional audience.
“It’s certainly terrific for our kids who work very hard,” Leary said. “The number one thing here is we want to graduate kids and win championships but certainly part of the real world for them could be professional baseball, but when pro ball is over, this Lehigh degree kicks in. I’ve been doing this 20 years, and this is the deepest group of pro talent we’ve ever had.”
Junior pitchers Kevin Boswick, Brandon Kulp and Kevin Long drew interest from a few scouts but all had their eyes on the team’s two local stars. Senior centerfielder Justin Pacchioli and junior second-baseman Mike Garzillo, both of Nazareth High School, were on everybody’s radar…literally. The two prospects faced-off in a 60-yard dash, a common MLB gage of speed, with Pacchioli edging Garzillo with a time 6.25 to 6.38.
The friendly competition between Pacchioli and Garzillo began in high school where their journey to the pros began.
“We’ve been together since senior year of high school so we go hand in hand to try to push each other to get better,” Pacchioli said. “That was the first time we’ve ever ran a 60 against each other.”
Going undrafted in the MLB Entry Draft last summer, the dream of MLB ball for Pacchioli is still very much alive. Dating back to his time at Nazareth, Pacchioli has been scouted by professional teams since he was 18 years old. Now a college senior, Pacchioli remains grounded and is letting the daunting process of making it to the big leagues take its course.
“I’ve learned that you have no control over the process,” Pacchioli said. “You can only control what you do — you can go out there everyday and play as hard as you can but at the end of the day you might not get drafted.”
Lehigh has not had tremendous representation in the pros, as only one Hawk has made the transition in the past 40 years. That player, Matt McBride,’06, is also a local product, graduating from Bethlehem’s Liberty High School. The utility player was drafted 75th overall by the Cleveland Indians in the 2006 Entry Draft and was traded to the Colorado Rockies in the summer of 2011. McBride, the pride and joy of baseball in the Lehigh Valley, has stayed in contact with Pacchioli and Leary since he’s left.
“(McBride) just told me to keep an open mind about everything — go into every game, every interview, every questionnaire with an open mind of wanting to play the next level,” Pacchioli said. McBride, who has played 15 games with Colorado this season amassing a .250 BA with two home runs, works out in the valley during the off-season.
“He’s been fun to watch in the big leagues,” Leary said. “Our guys see him all the time when he comes back during the winter and pick his brain about what it’s like in the pros.”
What remains for Pacchioli, Garzillo and the rest of the scouted Hawks is an abundance of paperwork and waiting until draft day in June. Taking home an overflowing amount of letters requesting medical information and official declaration for the draft, stamped with the club’s official logo, is on the plate of the two local prospects. Once that is over, it is back to the diamond and honing their skill set that drew the 24 scouts to Bethlehem in the first place.