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Major League Baseball Draft: Local prospects play waiting game

Jason Radwan was swinging the bat very well this season during a record-breaking senior year with St. Bonaventure. He’s become a potential Major League Baseball prospect. (Photo courtesy of St. Bonaventure)

Radwan, Cortright to see if MLB team calls

With the type of numbers Jason Radwan put up in his senior season at St. Bonaventure, you would think Major League Baseball teams doing their homework are taking a long look at possibly drafting the Angola native.

Still, Radwan is unsure what Thursday through Saturday’s draft will hold for him. He’s one of a few locals, including Canisius star right-hander Garrett Cortright of Hamburg, who potentially could be drafted in one of the 40 rounds which start June 6 in Seacaucus, N.J.

Off to such a scorching start while playing spring training games in Florida, Radwan caught the attention of some pro team teams down there to scout. However, upon returning to Olean and playing out the regular season and conference schedule, Radwan has not heard much since.

“I’m optimistic because I had a great season, but it seems unlikely because I haven’t heard anything in a while,” said Radwan, who’s helping coach a collegiate summer team in Butler, PA that he played for the two seasons prior. “I’m not banking on being drafted.”

But make no mistake, the possibility intrigues the second baseman who would be living out a lifelong dream by becoming a pro baseball player.

His numbers support the dream continuing, after an All-Atlantic-10 First team season in which the second baseman orchestrated one of the best offensive years by any player in school history.

Radwan’s .405 batting average ranks sixth-best in program history, and he is only the third player all-time with 70 or more hits in a single season. He was also ranked 24th in the country in on-base percentage.

“A lot of my success has been about staying confident and not trying to do too much,” said Radwan, who graduated finishing second in program history with 254 hits, 151 runs and 109 walks and seventh in all-time average at .344. “Your best swing is when you’re relaxed. My freshman year, I tried to do too much and was not as good. As I got older, I learned.”

His former coach at Lake Shore, Bob Kowal, who got to see Radwan throughout the past four seasons, was most impressed with his patience at the plate as a No. 2 hitter and the glove he displayed at second.

“He still has an excellent pitch selection,” said Kowal of the former All-Western New York First Team selection from Lake Shore, where Radwan holds the career hits record. “It’s tough hitting in the two-hole in college because you have to take pitches, let kids steal bases and get on-base yourself. His defense and arm were also outstanding. Physically, he got stronger.”

Kowal is hopeful Radwan follows in the footsteps of the coach’s former players at Maryvale, Dave Smith, now the head coach at Clarence, and David Pyc, who both were drafted and got a chance to play at the next level. Pyc, WNY’s Player of the Year in 1989, reached the Triple-A level with the Dodgers, while Smith gave it up early on after being taken by the Red Sox.

If not drafted, Radwan doesn’t plan to chase around pro team tryouts to live out his dream, although he would attend if specifically asked by a team. He’s not living and dying by what happens later this week.

In fact, Thursday night when the draft starts he’ll be coaching in a game and has no plans to sit idly by his phone, hoping and waiting for a call. If Radwan does get drafted, people will know where to find him, he said.

“If I get asked to tryout, I would do that, but I think there are enough scouts out there that they would have seen me and decided if they want me or not by now,” Radwan noted.

If his playing career ends here, he’ll pursue coaching, with plans to get a graduate assistant job next year at St. Bonaventure. And he knows he will have ended his playing days on a high note. “If I don’t continue to play, I know I went out having my best year,” he said proudly.
Garrett Cortright delivers a pitch during Canisius’ 6-3 win over North Carolina in the NCAA Tournament last week. (Photo courtesy of Mark Dolejs)

Cortright also enjoyed a tremendous season as a junior hurler for Canisius, and he may have further turned some heads on a national stage with his NCAA Tournament opening-game performance against the nation’s top-ranked team in North Carolina.

The Frontier High School graduate settled down after a rough start in the early going as he pitched into the eighth inning. He allowed four earned runs on 13 hits, walked one and struck out four as he battled against one the nation’s best lineups in Canisius’ 6-3 loss in a first-round game at the Chapel Hill Regional on Friday. Cortright pitched into the eighth inning for the sixth time in his last seven starts.

“North Carolina’s absolutely stacked and there was a lot of pressure to perform well, but I thrive on that,” said Cortright, whose team was eliminated from the tournament a day later in losing to Florida Atlantic. “I knew my team was counting on me and I was counting on them behind me. I just tried to make quality pitches, throw smart and give our offense a chance.

“It was an unforgettable experience — it was a sold-out crowd,” he added. “It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity to play in that setting against a team like that. To know that we competed with them is a great feeling.”

The 6-foot-4, 215-pound hard-throwing right-hander did not crack Baseball America’s Top 500 draft prospects list but is described by the well-respected publication in a NCAA Tournament preview as the workhorse ace of a staff which helped lead Canisius to a program-first MAAC title and a conference-record 42 wins.

“There is that opportunity (to be drafted), but there are still a lot of questions to be answered later this week,” said Cortright, who finished the season with an 11-4 record, 2.41 ERA, 76 strikeouts and five shutouts. “I’m not expecting too much. I’ll just go along with whatever happens. If it happens, it happens. If they call me and offer me a deal, then I can decide.”

Cortright credits the tutelage of Canisius head coach Mike McRae with helping him get better at competing for an entire game, improving mechanics and hitting spots. He realized that throwing hard will get you only so far — it’s all about location.

“If you don’t locate, you’re going to get rocked,” said Cortright, the two-time All-Western New York Second Team selection while playing for Frontier. “Coach McRea is a great teacher of the game, but I still have a lot to learn. I’m not quite there yet.”

If Cortright is not drafted or decides not to sign at this time, he has some excellent options ahead as Canisius is slated to return all three starting pitchers and every one of the offensive players that hit .300 and better He’d also have the opportunity to further improve himself at the collegiate level. It seems a win-win either way.

“The whole process is getting to be a little overwhelming,” admitted Cortright, who has a flight planned for Tuesday to go play summer ball in a league in Alaska, unless something else comes up. “I’m hoping for the best and I know a lot of people out there are too.”


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