Two CSUN baseball players were selected in the 2006 professional baseball draft by the Colorado Rockies and Cleveland Indians.
Pitchers Craig Baker and Jimmy Brettl were selected in the fourth and 39th rounds. Baker was chosen by the Rockies and Brettl by the Indians.
“I’ve dreamed about this my whole life,” Baker said. “It hasn’t sunken in yet.”
Baker’s contract bonus could help with the realization.
He signed a seven-year deal with the team including a $265,000 signing bonus. He said he does not intend to spend the money on anything expensive, but plans to hire a financial adviser.
Both players signed shortly after being drafted.
Baker will forego his last year of eligibility at CSUN. He will begin his career playing with Rockies’ single-A affiliate Tri-City Dust Devils in Pasco, WA.
Brettl will start with the Burlington Indians in Burlington, NC.
“I signed a seven-year deal with the Indians,” he said. “They have the rights to me for seven years. If I don’t perform well or live up to my end of the contract, I can be released.”
Steve Rousey, CSUN head baseball coach, said Baker and Brettl are about the 13th and 14th players to be drafted out of CSUN since he has been head coach.
“I expected it,” Rousey said. “They both had good years and are very talented.”
Rousey said Baker’s selection was imminent.
The powerful right-hander, who was third in the Big West conference in strikeouts, was scouted by 10 to 20 recruiters who watched him every time he took the mound.
Brettl, who pitched in 97 games during his four years at CSUN, flew under the radar. He relies more on finesse than power.
Brettl said what he enjoys most about pitching is being in control of the game.
“When you struggle, the team struggle,” he said. “If you stay positive, the other players feed off that and play better.”
Rousey said the fact that he is left-handed helped him get recruited.
“There’s a premium on lefties in the pros,” Rousey said.
Rousey expects both pitchers to do well on the professional level.
He said since neither pitcher was drafted out of high school, as many top prospects are before they go to college, shows the CSUN baseball program is developing quality players.
“They’ve both improved so much,” he said. “It shows we’re doing something right.”
Baker said Rousey helped with his location and ability to throw strikes.
“My first year I couldn’t keep the ball down,” Baker said . “Rousey helped me a lot with that.”
Baker said his control is now his greatest asset on the mound. Although he is known as a power-pitcher, at 6 foot 3 inches and 210 pounds, he said he is more concerned with trying to induce groundouts and flyouts rather than trying to strike out a player who steps to the plate.
“There are a lot of pitchers out there who can throw 100,” Baker said. “But they aren’t moving up because they can’t throw strikes.”
Baker’s control will be imperative if he makes it to the field.
The Colorado Rockies’ stadium, Coors Field, is known as the best hitters’ park in the league. Many solid pitchers, such as Mike Hampton and Denny Neagle, have seen their respectable earned run average’s balloon in Denver.
“The stadium is really nice,” Baker said. “I think I’ll be fine. The altitude won’t be a problem.”
An injury, however, has delayed Baker’s training. Fraying in his pitching-elbow caused him to shut down for about a month.
Baker said the injury is nothing more than a speed bump on his road to the major leagues.
“This injury is normal for pitchers,” Baker said. “I’m not worried, it feels fine.”
Both pitchers grew up in Southern California. Brettl in Arcadia and Baker in Hemet.
Brettl grew up a Dodger fan while Baker rooted for the Angels.
Baker said he looks forward to pitching at both Edison Field and Dodger Stadium.
Baker said watching Nolan Ryan and Roger Clemens as a kid made him want to become a pitcher. He played every position on the field while growing up, adding that he was partial to pitching.
“Pitchers control the game,” Baker said. “It was always what I was best at.”
Both pitchers will likely take the mound for their teams this summer.
“Both guys have come a long way,” Rousey said. “I think they’ll be very successful.”