Young baseball players considering playing collegiately for an Ivy League school have different factors to consider than other recruits. While Ivy League players will receive world class educations, they aren’t eligible for athletic scholarships. The level of competition can be high, but players often struggle to get the recognition needed to pursue opportunities at the next level. Despite these differences and challenges, there seems to be a near universal love of the experience, and every now and then a player gets a shot at the pros, with Dartmouth’s Joe Sclafani being one of the most recent examples.
Sclafani, an athletic switch-hitting shortstop from Florida, crafted an epic four year career with the Big Green of Dartmouth College. He earned First Team All Ivy three times and was twice named his team’s MVP. In 172 career Dartmouth games he hit .326 with 11 home runs and 116 RBI. He left as the school’s all time leader in games played, walks, at bats, and assists, while ranking in their top three in a number of other categories.
Early June proved to be a whirlwind for Sclafani, as he graduated and was chosen in the 14th round of the MLB draft by the Houston Astros, all within the span of just a few days. Wanting to start his professional career as soon as possible, he signed quickly and was assigned to the Tri-Cty Valley Cats in the New York Penn League. With Houston in full-blown rebuilding mode, there should be plenty of opportunities for young players like Sclafani to impress to player development staff and move through the system.
I was able to meet Sclafani just before the start of his second professional game. He was clearly excited about his future and looking forward to seeing what the season has in store for him. To keep up with his progress, check here for updates on his stats and team’s record.
Joe Sclafani Interview:
How did you first become interested in baseball?: When I was a little kid, less than two probably, my dad put a bat in my hands and we started playing catch. Ever since then I fell in love with it and it’s always been my first passion.
Who were your favorite team and player growing up and why?: It was the Yankees and Toni Martinez.
How did you end up attending Dartmouth College?: I’m from Florida. I went to a bunch of showcases and my parents spent a ton of money. I went to Perfect Game stuff and then I went to the Head First showcases, which is where I did well, and is where kids who did well on SATs go. A lot of the best schools in the country academically go there. I happened to have a couple of good showings and I heard from pretty much all of the Ivy League schools. My last four were Dartmouth, Columbia, Yale, and Fordham. I wound up visiting Dartmouth and fell in love with it and the rest is history.
Can you run through what your draft day experience was like?: It was great. I had heard from a few teams and I knew there was a chance I would go, but the process is so uncertain. I was really anxious. I didn’t think my name would be called on the second day, so I wasn’t even watching it. Then the area scout called me from the Astros and said they were thinking about taking me in the 14th or 15th round. A couple of my friends found out and came over. We were still in school because we just had graduation this past Sunday (June 10th). After that I got a million calls and text messages and congratulations. It was a really special experience.
After you got drafted did the Astros give you any sort of plan or idea of what their development plan is for you?: I really didn’t hear too much honestly coming out of it. I know I am older under baseball standards, so I knew they would probably put me in this league or rookie ball. I think they want me to just keep progressing physically and getting stronger and quicker; really refining my skills and becoming as good as I can be.
What thoughts were going through your head after playing in your first professional game, against the Vermont Lake Monsters, on June 18th?: Surprisingly I wasn’t as nervous as I thought I was going to be. Once I got that first ground ball out of the way in the second inning, it was just baseball, a game I have played thousands of times. But it was pretty special and a dream come true. It’s everything you work towards for your entire life and to be able to do it is a lot of fun.