Tanner Allen at-bat on June 11
Eight former and current Big Train players are one step closer to achieving their professional goals after being selected in the 2017 MLB Draft, which took place this Monday through Wednesday.
Sal Colangelo, who has managed the Big Train for the past 19 seasons, has worked with all them. But he is not quick to take credit for their success.
“It’s awesome [to see BT players get drafted],” Colangelo remarked. “They come here with aspirations to play at the next level, which is a piece of the puzzle. The big puzzle is what they do in school, and what their coaches do. We work with them, we make adjustments, especially with the wood [bats], but at the end of the day, we’re just a little piece of the puzzle.”
Three players heard their names called on Day Two of the draft, which covers rounds 3 to 10. Right-handed pitcher Drew Strotman (St. Mary’s College, CA) was picked up by the Tampa Bay Rays in the fourth round with the 109th overall pick. Strotman had an excellent 2015 season with the Big Train, starting eight games and pitching to a 2.38 ERA, earning an All-Star nod.
The 2016 summer was much of the same for Strotman, who logged a 2.48 ERA through six starts and one relief appearance to earn more All-Star honors. He also recorded the final out of the 2016 League Championship Series, which brought the Bethesda Big Train their first CRCBL title since 2011. He struck out the final two batters he faced to finish his – and the Big Train’s – season on an exclamation point.
Third baseman Andrew Bechtold (Chipola College, FL), who played for the Big Train in 2015, was selected by the Minnesota Twins in the fifth round with the 136th overall pick. Bechtold played only 16 games for the Big Train, but logged ten hits and drew eight walks. He hit an outstanding .300 during the League Championship Series.
With the 154th overall pick in the fifth round, the St. Louis Cardinals selected second baseman Zach Kirtley, another St. Mary’s product. Kirtley hit a strong .285 for the Big Train in the summer of 2015. He averaged more than a hit per game, notching 41 hits in 40 games, good for third in the league. He also drove in the second-most runs, with 23. Kirtley earned All-Star honors and had himself a big game, going 2 for 3 and driving in one of the South Division’s three runs.
Even if Colangelo insists that his influence played only a small part in his players’ achievements, they certainly haven’t forgotten what their former coach has done for them.
“I got a text from Zach [Kirtley] yesterday, and it was pretty funny, because I’m not into these hearts or whatever you put into text messages, and I opened [Kirtley’s text] up and here’s this big heart and then it explodes,” Colangelo laughs.
Day Three of the draft, which covers rounds 11 to 40, would prove memorable to five additional players.
First baseman Nick Feight (UNC-Wilmington), who played for the Big Train in 2014 and 2015, was picked up by the San Diego Padres in the 19th round (558th overall). Although he only appeared in three games during the 2014 season, Feight made a much stronger impact the following summer, notching ten hits and seven walks in 25 games.
Right-handed pitcher Sean Barry (U of San Diego) was selected by the Chicago Cubs in the 21st round (645th overall). The ’16 alum pitched to an outstanding 2.17 ERA in eight games (six started), racking up more than a strikeout per inning (42 in 37.1 IP). He also earned the save in Game 1 of the League Championship Series.
After spending four seasons (’13-’16) with the Big Train, outfielder Logan Farrar (Virginia Commonwealth) is the longest-tenured alum to be drafted this year. He was picked up by the Oakland Athletics in the 36th round (1071st overall). His most successful seasons came in 2014 and 2016, during which he batted .304 and .325, respectively. In 2016, Farrar earned an All-Star nod and hit a robust .429 during the playoffs.
Third baseman Allen Smoot (U of San Francisco) heard his name called by the Tampa Bay Rays in the 40th round (1189th overall). Smoot played for the Big Train in the summer of 2016, hitting an excellent .293 in 39 regular season games and .350 during the playoffs.
Along with these accomplished former Big Train players, one current member of the squad also had cause to celebrate. Outfielder/second baseman Tanner Allen (Mississippi State) was picked up by the Cubs in the 36th round (1095th overall). Allen is hitting .158 in six games so far this season. He intends to follow through on his commitment to Mississippi State to hone his skills at the collegiate level.
“It’s a true honor, it really is,” Allen said about being drafted. “It really means a lot to me. It’s truly humbling to be drafted by the defending world champs. Again, it’s such an honor to be selected in the MLB draft out of high school and I look forward to going to school, putting some work in and hopefully be able to get drafted again.”
Colangelo, for one, has no doubts about Allen’s future. “Tanner is going to be a great player,” he said. “Any time you come from high school, you’re going to struggle at first. But he’s exceeded my expectations already in such a short period of time. He’s going to be a big addition to this team and he’s going to be a stud, there’s no question.”
As these players scatter across the country to begin their professional or collegiate careers, they all take a common Big Train experience with them. And the Big Train will always be in their corner.
“They’re great kids. I talk to them all, [and] I can pick up the phone any day and they know they can do the same. So when they leave here, it’s about family, and they did a nice job,” Colangelo said.
Congratulations to these members of the Big Train family!