Eagles in the Pros
ON THE FIELD...
In all, Mary Washington has seen 12 players sign professional contracts. “The secret,” says Coach Sheridan, “is to get quality kids into the program. The common thread among all these individuals was their work ethic. They all went above and beyond everything I ever asked of them.”
The first Eagle to sign a pro contract was Jason Pierson, who was a 25th-round draft choice by the Chicago White Sox in 1992. Pierson advanced to Class AAA with the White Sox, earning Midwest League All Star status with Class A South Bend in 1993 when he finished 13-9 with a 4.70 ERA. He then advanced to Prince William of the Carolina League, and again took league All-Star honors before being moved up to Class AA Birmingham. When the baseball strike of 1994 cancelled the World Series and disrupted the start of the 1995 season, Pierson nearly vaulted to the majors, as he was scheduled to start on opening day. The strike ended the day Pierson was to start, so he was sent back to Birmingham before he could make a major league appearance. After three years out of baseball, he played in 2001 with the Newark Bears in the Atlantic League and with Tampa (A) and Norwich (AA) in the Yankees organization in 2002.
Two pitchers from Mary Washington’s class of 1994 were chosen to play professionally in independent leagues. Brian McRoberts (‘94) played in the Northern League for five years for Duluth-Superior, Sioux Falls, Thunder Bay, and St. Paul. Classmate Mark Matthews played for several years in the Prairie and Frontier Leagues with the Minot Mallards and Aberdeen Pheasants.
The fourth Eagle to play professionally, and the second to be taken in the June amateur draft, was left-handed pitcher Jeff Hootselle (‘97), who was selected in the 36th round by the Philadelphia Phillies. The holder of a number of school pitching records, including 37 consecutive scoreless innings pitched, Hootselle pitched for two seasons in the Phillies organization before an arm injury prematurely ended his career. 1998 graduate Kevin Losty also experienced professional baseball, playing one season for the Allentown Ambassadors in the independent Northeast League.
B.J. Belcher (‘99) signed a free agent contract with the Texas Rangers following the 1998 draft and reported to the rookie league Gulf Coast Rangers. The Rangers were so impressed that they moved Belcher past rookie and short-season Class A, to their advanced-A level team in Port Charlotte, Florida, just three steps from the majors. Only 21, Belcher was one of the younger players in the Florida State League and pitched in 18 games, throwing in middle relief and spot-starting for the Rangers. He finished the season with a 2-2 record and 4.62 earned-run average.
Eric Guyton, who once held an NCAA record by collecting hits in 11 straight at-bats, signed with the New York Mets in 1999. Guyton played extensively at third base for Kingsport in the Rookie Appalachian League in 1999, batting .263 with two home runs and 28 RBI in 59 games. In 2000, Guyton impressed the Mets’ brass by hitting .279 with seven home runs and 55 RBI and was named to the South Atlantic League All-Star Game as the starting designated hitter for the South squad.
Infielders Ryan Napolitano and Nick DiJulio played in 2003 and 2005 in the Belgian Professional League. Napolitano, who started in the outfield and infield in his two seasons at UMW, also played on an international touring squad and led the Belgian League with a .500 batting average. Following the 2006 college season, right-handed pitcher Kevin Foeman signed with the San Francisco Giants and played in the rookie-level Arizona League, appearing in 13 games and striking out 15 batters. Catcher Lee Rubin (‘05) joined Foeman in the pro ranks by signing with the Brockton Rox of the Can-Am League for the 2007 and 2008 seasons, and 2007 grad Brett Diamond played overseas in Belgium after graduation in 2007 and 2008.
... And in the Front Office
In addition to having a large contingent of former players who have played minor league baseball, still more former UMW student-athletes have developed careers in professional sports administration. The first former UMW student to advance into professional sports was Pat Fillipone, who graduated from Mary Washington in the late 1980s. Fillipone began his career with the Prince William Cannons, later becoming general manager of the club. He moved to California in the late 1990s where he became GM for the Rancho Cucamonga Quakes. He is currently the president, general manager, and part owner of the Stockton Ports, the Advanced A California League affiliate of the Oakland Athletics.
Former UMW All-American Jin Wong also has made quite a splash on the national scene, rising from the ranks of the minor leagues to the Kansas City Royals, where he serves as Director of Baseball Administration. Some of the players the Royals have drafted since Wong’s aquisition include Zack Greinke, Billy Butler, Alex Gordon, and Mike Moustakas. Wong began as an intern with the Atlanta Braves and has moved swiftly through Kansas City’s major league organization.
Former Eagle catcher Tim Deyesu has taken a different path to a sports career. Deyesu has worked since the spring of 2003 with Cal and Billy Ripken at the Ripken Baseball Complex in Aberdeen, Md. He has been the Director of Baseball Operations, where he has been responsible for camps and tournaments hosted by the complex. Deyesu now heads a new Ripken project, the Ripken Experience in Myrtle Beach, S.C., where he serves as General Manager of Operations.
Two Eagles that found employment in professional sports with the Washington Nationals are UMW baseball alumni Mike Shane and Matt Lemire. After several years working with various pro sports organizations, including Major League Baseball and the All-Star Fan Fest, Shane is the Manager of Inside Sales. Lemire serves as a Manager of Corporate Partnerships/Sponsorships for the Nationals.
Joining the growing list of Eagle baseball alumni working in professional baseball is Tom Sheridan, who worked in the summer of 2008 for the New York Yankees in professional baseball operations. In addition to scouting upcoming opponents’ tendencies, Sheridan also assisted with the special ceremonies surrounding the final season at Yankee Stadium, including the Home Run Derby, Celebrity Softball Game, and All-Star Game.