WOODBRIDGE — Orange’s Patrick Winkel is putting a professional baseball career on hold for now.
The Amity High school senior, drafted by the New York Yankees
Orange’s Patrick Winkel is putting a professional baseball career on hold for now.
The Amity High school senior, drafted by the New York Yankees in the 31st-round of the Major League Baseball amateur draft last week, will attend UConn in the fall.
“I feel the opportunity at UConn is a really good one,” Winkel told Hearst Connecticut Media on Monday. “The coaching staff there is constantly putting out good teams and developing players. And we come from a family where education is really important. Being able to go to school and play baseball is a huge thing, too.”
Winkel was the Gatorade state high school player of the year this spring. He’s been heavily scouted by major league teams for several years now. But with a full scholarship to UConn, where he’ll team up with older brother, Chris, a rising junior for the Huskies, scouts knew he wouldn’t be an easy to sign.
Representatives of the Yankees attended at least a dozen of Winkel’s games this spring, according to Amity coach Sal Coppola. They also knew it would take a lot to change Winkel’s mind.
The Yankees took a low-risk shot at the highly-regarded catcher last Wednesday, using one of their late picks in the 40-round draft with the hope they could change his mind.
“It was a huge honor, being from New England with Yankee Stadium the closest ballpark to home,” Winkel said. “I knew they were interested in me. When I found out it was the Yankees I wasn’t surprised. But it was going to be a big decision regardless of the team.”
Coppola has won six state championships at Amity, more than any baseball coach in Connecticut history. He says Winkel is as good as any high school catcher he’s seen. That includes Cheshire’s Brad Ausmus, an old Housatonic League rival Coppola pitched against while starring at Amity in the late 1980s.
Ausmus was also drafted by the Yankees out of high school in 1987. He opted to sign right away and spent 18 seasons as a major league catcher.
“I think Pat’s arm is comparable to Brad,” Coppola said. “But Brad was never the hitter Pat is. Brad was phenomenal, obviously, but Pat definitely has a leg up swinging the bat.”
Winkel was a four-year starter at Amity, racking up 136 career hits, making him one of the most prolific hitters in state history. He twice batted over .500. This spring he batted .493 with 10 doubles, six home runs, 22 RBIs and 27 walks, mostly while batting second in the lineup.
His defensive attributes separate him from most high school catchers. Coppola said Winkel allowed only two or three stolen bases all season while back-picking twice that number at second base.
That defensive maturity was evident early. Winkel was behind the plate for Amity’s Class LL championships as a freshman and sophomore — teams that also featured his brother, Chris, a sweet-swinging first baseman.
But Chris Winkel, Pat noted, was out most of his senior year with a broken hand, meaning the two really only had one full season together.
UConn, under coach Jim Penders, has emerged as a program that regularly produces major-league caliber talent. The Huskies are also the rare Northeast school on par with the best in the country. This spring they were ranked in the national polls most of the season and reached the NCAA tournament, eliminating top-seed Coastal Carolina in the regionals before losing to Washington.
Winkel is looking forward to building on UConn’s success with his brother.
“Watching him play at UConn is getting me more anxious and excited to play there,” Pat Winkel said. “To play alongside him will be another great opportunity.”