Two CSUN baseball players have been given the opportunity to test their skills at the next level, being selected in the 2006 professional baseball draft.
Pitchers Craig Baker and Jimmy Brettl were selected in the fourth and 39th rounds, respectively. Baker was chosen by the Colorado Rockies, Brettl by the Cleveland Indians.
“I’ve dreamed about this my whole life,” said Baker. “It hasn’t sunken in yet.”
Baker’s contract bonus should help with the realization. He signed a seven-year deal with the team, including a $265,000 signing bonus. He said he doesn’t intend to spend the money on anything major, but plans to hire a financial adviser.
Both players signed shortly after being drafted, Baker foregoing his last year of eligibility at CSUN. He will begin his career playing with Rockies’ single-A affiliate Tri-City Dust Devils in Pasco, Wash. Brettl will start with the Burlington Indians in Burlington, N.C.
CSUN head baseball coach Steve Rousey 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,” said Rousey. “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, had 10 to 20 scouts looking at him every time he took the mound. Brettl, who pitched in 97 games during his four years, flew a little more under the radar. He relies more on finesse than power. Rousey said the fact that he’s left-handed helped him a lot.
“There’s a premium on lefties in the pros,” Rousey said.
Rousey expects both pitchers to do well at the professional level. He said the fact that neither pitcher was selected directly 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 a lot 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 contends his control is now his greatest asset on the mound. Although he’s 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 everybody 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 show. The Colorado Rockies’ stadium, Coors Field, is known as the best hitters’ park in the league. Many solid pitchers like Mike Hampton and Denny Neagle have seen their respectable earned run averages balloon in the thin air of Denver.
“The stadium is really nice,” said Baker. “I think I’ll be fine. The altitude won’t be a problem.”
A problem has arisen that has delayed Baker’s training. Fraying in his pitching-elbow has caused him to shut down for about a month. Baker considers this 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 Angels Stadium of Anaheim 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, but he said he was always partial to pitching.
“Pitchers control the game,” said Baker. “It was always what I was best at.”
Both pitchers will most likely take the mound for their teams some time this summer. They will be used in both starting and relief capacities.
“Both guys have come a long way,” said Rousey. “I think they’ll be very successful.”