'Toba hurler up for pros

ADAM WAZNY -- Winnipeg Sun

, Last Updated: 8:30 AM ET

Josh Sawatzky made no bones about it.

He's ready, and if all goes well during the two-day Major League Baseball draft (which starts today), the Altona-native will load up and give pro ball his best shot.

"That's the main goal," the 21-year-old pitcher said from his hometown over the weekend. "If I do go this year, there's a good chance I will sign and start my pro career. But I'm not getting my hopes up or my expectations up too much because I still do have another year left if things didn't work out this year. I'm excited about it, but I'm trying to stay pretty level because you never know what's going to happen.

"The other option is going late in the draft and then decide to go to school next year, improve, and try to get drafted higher next year."

Sounds complicated, but it's not like the 6-4, 200-pound right-hander hasn't gone through this process before.

Baseball prospects can re-enter the draft, giving the player the option of turning pro when they think they're ready. After finishing his high school career at W.C. Miller in 2003, Sawatzky was drafted by the San Diego Padres in the 36th round.

Deciding he wasn't quite ready to sign and face the rigours of minor league ball (both on and off the field), the hurler chose college, signing with Niagara University in New York.

There, he's been effective. Last season as a junior, he posted an 8-5 record with a team-leading 3.54 ERA.

"It's been great," he said. "I was a starter all three years there, from being a freshman to this past year, I've learned so much, just about that game and about how to pitch."

Now Sawatzky believes he might be ready to forgo his senior year with the Purple Eagles and take his chances in the next step of his baseball career.

And if things don't work out this time, he's not too worried.

On Friday, he'll head down to his summer league team in Virginia (the Peninsula Pilots of the Coastal Plain League -- one of the top summer college leagues in the U.S.) and return to Niagara for his senior year.

"I really do want to go pro, but if worse comes to worst, I still have another year of school to get there," he said. "It's not like this is my last chance right now."

Some other Manitobans to keep an eye on in the MLB draft are left-handed pitcher Chris Lemay (Winnipeg), infielder Lee Darracott, (Winnipeg), and catcher Steve Kletke (Altona).

The only local taken in the 2005 draft was third baseman Reed Eastley. The Brandon product was selected by the Seattle Mariners in the 13th round with the 383rd pick overall.


Videos

Photos