Trio chases Major League dreams: Three Explorers drafted on second day of MLB draft
Standing alone, roughly 100 yards from the pin, Gerard Breslin reached for his sand wedge. By all accounts, it was a great day to golf: beautiful Friday afternoon with a slight breeze working to make the heat feel a few clicks better than bearable. Despite this, it wasn’t the weather that had brought the Havertown native out for a few holes at the Cobbs Creek Golf Course; it was the Major League Baseball draft.
The date was June 8, which, as some baseball fans may remember, was the second day of the draft. For Breslin, the Explorer’s former closer, it was a very tense time, full of high hopes and expectations. The better part of his 21 years had been dedicated to a dream, and having seen the first day of the draft come and go, anxiety was building up.
“I thought I had a strong chance to be drafted, but nothing was guaranteed,” he said. “I was doing anything possible to keep my head out of it, [so I went] golfing by myself to ease the tension.”
Steadying the club in his hand, Breslin was lining up his shot when he received a call from his Uncle Buzz. Picking up his cell phone, Breslin didn’t hear a “hello” or even a “congratulations.” Instead, all he could make out was the one word his uncle screamed over and over—Phillies. That one word was all it took. In that moment—the club dropping to the ground, tears streaming down Breslin’s face, his hands making their way toward his closely cropped hair—the amateur golfer learned he was slated to become a professional baseball player for his hometown team.
“It was one of the greatest days of my life and by far my greatest accomplishment in sports,” he said. “And being drafted by the Phils makes it all the better. Being a lifetime and diehard fan, there are no words to describe the honor.”
Impressively, Breslin was just one of three Explorers selected on the second day of the draft. Joining him were right-handed starter Craig Muschko (a 22nd round pick for the Cubs), and catcher Rich Prall (a 33rd round pick for the Phillies).
“It’s a great thing to happen to the [La Salle baseball] program,” Breslin said. “I don’t even remember hearing about one person getting drafted out of La Salle, let alone three. Hopefully, this will allow better recruits to see that playing here at La Salle will not hinder players from continuing their careers athletically.”
Newly appointed head coach Mike Lake, who served as an assistant coach the past four years, also believes the recent draftings are good for the program. A former La Salle baseball player, Lake said that seven men were drafted from his squad in the early ‘80s, but that recently the teams on the field haven’t been as strong as they were then. Pitcher Will Freck was the last player to be drafted out of La Salle, and that was back in 1999, the last year the baseball team posed a serious threat in the A-10, Lake said.
“It is fantastic for the program, and the fact that they were drafted makes us proud,” he said. “But most of all, it’s a tribute to three kids who worked very hard. All we can do is lead players and show them; they have to do the work to open up the scout’s eyes and get to the next level. Obviously, Breslin, Musch, and Prall succeeded at doing that.”
For his part, Breslin, 22, was taken by the Phillies in the 23rd round with the 713th pick. In 2007, the righty managed to save nine of La Salle’s 17 victories, while posting a 2.73 ERA, one win and 43 stirkeouts in 39.2 innings. Nearly flawless in save situations, he converted 9 of 10 opportunities in 14.2 innings with a 0.00 ERA and 11 strikeouts, en route to his second First Team All-Atlantic 10 selection.
Overall, Breslin finished his career as La Salle’s all-time leader in games (108), saves (29) and strikeouts (221), while ranked third in wins (13), and fifth in ERA (4.13) and innings (218.0). Considering the lofty statistics and his stature as one of the only two Explorers to make the First Team All-Atlantic 10 twice, it seems likely that Breslin will be looked back on as a legend in La Salle’s baseball history.
“Ha, I never really even thought of being a legacy, but it [would be] an honor to be thought of that way,” he said. “I just tried to work hard and have fun with my teammates for four years. The performance on the field reflects upon that, and hopefully one day other alumni will see that and I could really be immortalized at La Salle in the Hall of Athletes, which was a goal of mine when I stepped on campus.”
Despite such thoughts and his current cloud-nine-level euphoria over being selected by the Phillies, Breslin is quick to give credit to former head coach Lee Saverio and his coaching staff for his continued success.
“La Salle was the only division one program to even seriously look at me following high school,” he said. “I owe [Saverio] everything because he believed that I would be able to play at that level. From there it was all guts and hard work, which the La Salle baseball program put me through to help me achieve everything.”
This summer, Breslin, whose arsenal includes two fastballs (a four-seamer and a two-seamer), a slider and a changeup, moved to Florida to play for the Phillies in the Gulf Coast League. Overall, he managed to have a productive season. He logged 10.1 innings of work in eight games, posting a 5.63 ERA, one save and 13 strikeouts, while walking only four. Excluding one bad outing against the Gulf Coast Yankees, Breslin’s ERA was a solid 3.00.
“He’s thrown OK,” Mike Arbuckle, the Phillies Assistant General Manager and Head of Scouting & Player Development, said. “His strikeouts per inning were pretty good, but he did give up quite a few hits per inning. He needs work with his secondary pitches, as well as his command, but he’s got good arm strength to work with.”
However, all things considered, Arbuckle stressed that it’s very hard to gauge late round draft picks, who sometimes become the next Mike Piazza (a likely Hall of Fame catcher who was drafted in the 62nd round by the Dodgers), but often wind up out of baseball within a few years. Well aware of this fact, Breslin seems ready for the challenge.
“I know it’s hard to make it all the way, but that is the fun part, testing yourself to see what you’re made of,” he said. “As a lower draft pick, I have to perform well to continue playing for the Phillies or any other team for that matter. I personally just want to improve with the higher competition so I can continually move up the ranks and hopefully one day make it to the big leagues.”
Taken with the 1,011th pick, Prall will be joining Breslin in the Phillies organization, both as a teammate and a roommate. Originally a student at the Univeristy of Virginia, Prall, 22, transferred into La Salle during his freshman year and instantly became the team’s starting catcher. After a breakout freshman season (a team-leading 62 hits and 29 RBIs), Prall continued to produce over the next two years, posting back-to-back seasons in which he was named to the Atlantic 10 All-Conference First Team (the Explorer’s first-ever repeat selection). In 2007, he continued to perform well, placing second on the team in batting average (.332), hits (64), doubles (11) and RBI (27).
In the end, Prall finished his career at La Salle as the team’s all-time leader in at-bats (760), while placing second in hits (258), third in doubles (50), fourth in total bases (359) and sixth in RBI (127). Although Prall could not be reached for comment, Lake offered his take on Prall’s achievements.
“He consistently performed well at the plate, and I think being left-handed gave him an advantage at the catcher position,” he said.
Prall was a valuable asset to the team, not only because of his offense, but his defense as well, Lake said. Last year, the Doylestown native played a big part in steering La Salle’s pitching staff to its best ever ERA in the last 25 years (4.83). According to Arbuckle, it was this aspect of Prall’s game that the Phillies found most attractive.
“He looks like he’s got some ability as a guy who can both catch and throw, which we like,” Arbuckle said. “He also looks to be a solid team guy and he can handle pitchers well.”
Splitting time between the Williamsport Cross-cutters and the Gulf Coast League Phillies, Prall had a rough summer at the plate. With 35 at-bats in 15 games, Prall batted .114 with four hits (two doubles), four runs scored, two RBI and two walks, while striking out 10 times. Nevertheless, Prall will be taking his cuts in Clearwater next year, working hard to improve.
“He got his wish, he got drafted,” Lake said. “He knows he has to make the most of it, and he has a very good work ethic. Now he’s playing the best in the country—in the world, really. It’ll be tough, but he’s got the chance and put the time in and produce.”
The first Explorer to be drafted, Muschko, 22, has come a long way since joining the Explorers in 2005. After originally coming to school as a football recruit, Muschko walked onto the team his freshman year when that didn’t work out. He had a promising freshman season (3-2 with a 4.59 ERA and 40 strikeouts), but sat out his entire sophomore year due to an injury. Nonetheless, he rebounded nicely last season, going 1-1 with 40 strikeouts and a team-leading 2.95 ERA in 10 starts.
“He kept us in all the games last year, and really emerged,” Lake said. “It’s not always the wins and losses. He had a good era and at the next level, they look at arm speed and upside potential. They saw a guy who’s 6-2 that can throw low 92-93 mph, consistently, so they gave him a decent amount of money and offered to pay for his education.
“We were hoping ‘Musch’ would be our number one pitcher, so we’ll miss him. You don’t replace players like him, with his talent and character, so we’re hoping some other people will step up.”
Although he only played at La Salle for three seasons, the Cubs liked what they saw in Muschko and selected him with the 667th pick. After weighing his options, Muschko made the decision to leave La Salle one year shy of graduation so he could pursue his baseball career (he vows to return to La Salle and get his degree in the near future). As a result, the Northampton native won’t be playing for his home team like his Lasallian draft-mates, but will instead be moving out west. Despite this, Muschko seems unfazed.
“Not everyone can say their childhood dream came true, so moving across the country is nothing to chase my dream. I would travel around the world to do so if I had to,” he said. “The Cubs organization is a great organization, especially for a pitcher, and I am very excited for the years to come.”
Muschko got his first taste of professional action this summer with the Mesa Cubs, Chi-cago’s rookie team in the Arizona Leauge. With 21 innings of work in 14 games, Muschko tallied two losses, 17 strikeouts, one save and a 6.86 ERA. Although his ERA (as well as a bloated .325 AVG. against) were dismal, Muschko says he learned a great deal during the season, while keeping the ball in the yard (letting up just one home run) and converting a team-leading two holds.
Primarily a fastball pitcher, the 6-2 right-hander topped out at 94 mph on radar gun with the Cubs in rookie-ball this summer. However, he believes he will throw even harder in the future.
“I know I’ve got some more in me,” he said. “I’ll bump that [number] up next year.”
In addition to gas, Muschko’s repartee includes a slider that he describes as having a “late break” and a change-up he began cultivating during his time at La Salle. Although he can throw both pitches effectively, Muschko acknowledges that they still need some fine-tuning.
“I am working on my command with the slider and change-up,” he said. “I threw both really well this year [in Rookie ball], and am just trying to get them to the point where I can throw them to any batter in any count for a strike. [To do that and move forward in my career], dedication and hardwork has to be the first thing on my mind every morning before I go to the ballpark.”
Coming from a player who idolizes Roger Clemens because of his work ethic, and who fought his way from walking onto a team to being drafted three years later, it’s hard not to take Muschko’s dedication to improve seriously. While it’s evident that he has confidence in himself, Muschko envisions a bright future for his former teammates, and with that in mind, the makings of a potential rivalry.
“Prall and Bres both deserved [to be drafted] and I’m happy for them,” he said. “I hope to play against them in the future.”
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