Fall 2008 Issue

Batter up


Record number of Buccaneers drafted to Majors

By Solange Reyner

John Servidio couldn’t swing a bat during the month of August because of a broken hand. But even as he watched games from the dugout, the minor league baseball player was still on cloud nine.

“Being in front of a crowd of nearly 7,000 every single night will do that to you,” said Servidio, who was drafted in the 26th round by the New York Mets this year.

Servidio, 23, has been with the Cyclones, their Class-A affiliate in Brooklyn, since early June.

Servido broke his hand in early August while swinging a bat but played most of the season for the club in right field. He hit .239 with three home runs and 17 RBIs from June 1 through August 12 and was one of the first-year players who filled out the Cyclones’ Opening Day roster. He made an early impression by hitting the first home run of the season and was a leader both on and off the field.

The atmosphere in Coney Island wasn’t something Servidio was used to. At Barry, the crowd for home games would usually number in the low hundreds – not quite the thousands that routinely attend Cyclones’ games.

“Your blood starts pumping once you get on the field to stretch here,” Servidio said from the clubhouse in New York. “You hear 1,000 people go crazy when you hit a double. Everything is extreme. It’s fun to perform here.”

Servidio got to experience that rush after major league scouts took notice of his performance at Barry during his senior year. He and three other players, the most Barry has had drafted since the baseball team’s inception in 1985, had their names called on June 7.

Servidio and Andrew Frezza signed contracts, while pitcher Bobby Hernandez decided to come back to finish his senior year in an attempt to raise his stock before the 2009 draft.

Hernandez was drafted by the Red Sox in the 38th round and had a 7-0 record with 51 strikeouts for Barry in 2008 when the team went 32-19, earning Sunshine State Conference Pitcher of the Year and All-America status.

Another Barry player, left-handed pitcher Mike Tomoleoni, a senior in 2008, signed a free-agent contract with the Boston Red Sox and recently finished playing with the Single-A Lowell Spinners in the New York Penn League – the same league in which Servidio played.

“That was a tough group to lose,” said Barry head coach Marc Pavao. “These guys were exceptional.”

Frezza, an outfielder, was drafted in the 31st round by the Boston Red Sox and played for the Gulf Coast League in Fort Myers this summer.

He hit .263 with seven doubles, two triples and one homerun.

Unlike Servidio, Frezza felt the pressure of being in the league. Most of the games were midday in the South Florida heat and Frezza had to be at the field by 7:30 for morning workouts.

“It was a difficult transition, but I was happy with the first season,” said Frezza, who finished on August 27.

Tomoleoni, Frezza and Servidio stay in touch via text messages and phone calls. They exchanged minor league stories about the differences between college ball and the pros.

For Frezza, the transition to a wooden bat has been tough. “The ball doesn’t come off as fast,” he said.

For Tomoleoni, 10 hours at the stadium was a grind. “I wasn’t used to spending my entire day at the ballpark,” he said. “The work was intense and we really didn’t get to do much else but come to the field and play games. It was a long three months.”

The summer wasn’t long enough to forget about specific moments, though – like Frezza robbing a grand slam homerun from a friend he used to play against in high school.

“That was cool,” Frezza said. “The crowd went crazy on that play.”

Then there was the time Tomoleoni was in the dugout when Lowell beat the Red Sox Triple-A team August 9 in the 12th inning in front of 37,000 fans at Fenway Park.

“The hair on the back of my neck was standing straight up,” Tomoleoni said.

For Servidio, it was the mere experience.

“I was frustrated when I broke my hand, but just being able to play minor league ball for the time I did was great. It won’t hold me down too long.”