Pregame batting practice was in full swing for the Amity-Woodbridge baseball team on Wednesday afternoon when Pat Winkel got the news.
The New York Yankees had taken him in the 31st round of the Major League Baseball Draft.
It was quite an adrenaline boost in the hours before Winkel and the Spartans were to take on Ridgefield in the CIAC Class LL semifinals later that night.
The Yankees scouted Winkel this spring and liked what they saw. Winkel is an outstanding defensive catcher and one of the most prolific high school hitters in the Northeast.
But, like most other major league teams, they weren’t sure they’d be able to sign Winkel. He’s set to attend UConn, where he’ll team up with older brother Chris, a sophomore first baseman for the Huskies.
The relatively low draft position — he was projected to go between the 10th and 15th rounds — would seem to play heavily in UConn’s favor. But the Yankees could offer a signing bonus in line with a much higher draft choice.
Winkel has the summer to decide.
Several other players with local ties were taken on Wednesday, the last day of the 40-round draft which began Monday night.
New Haven’s Dean Lockery, a Fairfield Prep graduate and three-time All-New England second baseman at Central Connecticut State, went to the Pirates in the 32nd round.
Lockery led Central with a .331 batting average and 44 runs scored this spring. He was also one of the top defensive infielders in the Northeast Conference.
Brandon White, ace of the Simsbury High staff who signed a national letter of intent to attend Southern Connecticut State, went to the A’s in the 35th round. Jack Montgomery, a second baseman also from Simsbury, was taken in the 38th round by the Mariners.
The Pirates were quite busy snatching up local talent. They’d taken Waterford’s Michael Burrows and Southington’s Zac Susi earlier in the day.
Burrows, a RHP at Waterford, was the first high school player from the state chosen when the Pirates selected him in the 11th round.
His mid-90s fastball has made him one of the state’s premier strikeout pitchers. As a junior he struck out 21 of the 22 batters he faced in a no-hitter against Killingly, including the first 19 of the game, and capped the season with 15 strikeouts in the CIAC Class M championship game.
Burrows tossed consecutive no-hitters earlier this spring and nearly spun a third. He’s committed to UConn.
Susi, a junior catcher, went to the Pirtates in the 12th round. He led the Huskies run to the NCAA tournament by leading the team in batting (.335) and on-base percentage (.429). His UConn teammate, P.J. Poulin, was an 11th-round pick of the Rockies. Poulin set a school record with 16 saves and went 6-2 with a 3.26 ERA.
Theo McDowell, a RHP at the Salisbury School, went to the Rangers in the 14th round. Seth Pinkerton, a RHP at the University of Hartford, was a 20th round selection of the Twins. He saved 11 games for the Hawks this season while posting a 2.06 ERA.
Jacob Stevens of Darien, a junior RHP at Boston College, went to the Diamondbacks in the 21st round. The Choate graduate went 3-7 with a 4.84 this spring.
Jack Patterson of Suffield, a LHP at Bryant, was the Cubs 32nd-round pick. He struck out 101 batters in 82 innings this spring, going 6-3 with a 3.84 ERA. Hudson Haskin, an outfielder at Avon Old Farms, was a 39th-round pick of the A’s. His Avon teammate, catcher Ryan Cusick, went to the Reds in the 40th round.