At the dawn of his senior season at Newberry College, Albert Baur believed he would need a commendable campaign to become a baseball professional. Thanks to a remarkable year that yielded numerous accolades, the 23-year-old product of Ss. Neumann-Goretti High School, 1736 S. 10th St., rejoiced June 10, as the Pittsburgh Pirates tabbed him as their 28th-round selection in the First-Year Player Draft.
“I’m still a little stunned that I’m going to have this opportunity,” the ecstatic young man said Tuesday from his 200-block-of-Daly-Street home. “I want to work hard for the organization and continue to help it to grow.”
Baur learned of the National League Central franchise’s decision in his Whitman residence, having graduated from his South Carolina-based school as a sports management major May 9. He left for the Steel City yesterday and will soon report to Morgantown, W. Va., where he will complete a short season lasting through early September.
“The Pirates are exciting to watch,” the happy hitter said of the club, who joined the Miami Marlins and the Phillies in sending him questionnaires. “It’s been clicking for them lately, so I’m pumped.”
A beaming, blossoming Baur will likely mean terror for hurlers, as the 6-foot-4 presence pounded baseballs as a Wolf, especially elevating his output as a senior by becoming physically stronger. Amassing a .427 batting average, 59 RBI, 54 runs, 24 doubles and 16 home runs, he helped his South Atlantic Conference constituents to 34 wins, their most in 38 years, and set single-season standards for hits, doubles, on-base and slugging percentages and total bases. Those awe-inspiring statistics earned him consensus Division II All-American status and second-team All-American honors from the American Baseball Coaches Association and National Collegiate Baseball Writers’ Association.
“Guys were usually on base, so I was often put in a position to succeed,” Baur humbly said of his notable numbers. “My whole time there, I just felt everyone was so interested in helping me to grow. I’m going to be excited to represent them as a professional.”
He will also be endowing Neumann-Goretti with additional pride, as he helped to rejuvenate the Saints as diamond crushers, with their evolution most apparent through their capturing of the 2009 Catholic League championship. Having gone through the often nerve-racking process of wondering where he might land, especially obvious on draft day when his home seemed like the athletic equivalent of a waiting room, Baur anticipates offering the Pirates the championship mentality that has made him a local hero.
“I don’t have any timetable,” he said of passing through Pittsburgh’s system. “I’ll control what I can, and I’m going to have fun like always.”
Kenny Koplove made South Philly doubly delighted by becoming the Phillies’ 17th-round pick the same day. The home team welcomed him into the fold for his feats at Duke University, with the 21-year-old captivated with the chance to contribute to the Fightin’s.
“It’s undoubtedly one of the greatest moments of my life,” the resident of the 1500 block of Hulseman Street said Tuesday from Clearwater, Fla. “The Phillies are looking to grow their organization, and I’m thrilled that they selected me because I want to evolve, too.”
The Packer Park product signed his contract Monday, initiating an educational journey that he intends to relish and regard as yet another reminder of the rewards of immersion in one’s passion. He has honed that mentality throughout his baseball existence, with the South Philly-based Philadelphia Senators and the East Falls-situated William Penn Charter School Quakers combining with Duke to offer a triumvirate of beneficiaries. Much like Marlon Brando’s character, Don Vito Corleone, who promised to make a competitor an offer that he could not refuse in “The Godfather,” the Phillies proved an irresistible suitor, leading the 6-foot-2 shortstop and pitcher to forego his senior season at his North Carolina-headquartered institution.
“It’s already been an eye-opening experience,” the right-hander said, noting the value of a classroom-set analysis on the art of pitching as a particular boon. “Everyone I’ve encountered here has an amazing work ethic and wants all these guys to thrive. That’s pretty awesome.”
His statistics from this recent year are likewise impressive. Serving as the Blue Devils’ starting shortstop and chief closer, he notched a .275 batting average, good for fourth on the team, and 12 multi-hit efforts at the dish and punched out 37 batters in 25.1 innings while tallying a single-season program high 11 saves. Those figures helped him to score placement on the John Olerud Two-Way Player of the Year watch list and offered supporters opportunities to reflect on similar accomplishments from his Penn Charter days.
“Everyone has been so congratulatory, and it’s really been important to me to thank them all for their encouragement,” Koplove, whose enrollment at the Inter-Ac League school bred his distinction as the 2012 Gatorade/ESPN Pennsylvania Player of the Year, said. “I’m very fortunate to have them in my life.”
Numerous backers reached out to Koplove on his big day, with the young man dining at Texas Weiners, 1426 Snyder Ave., with his patriarch, Steve. They will surely have plenty for which to cheer, as their hero has vowed to intensify his already admirable sense of responsibility and dedication.
“The organization is getting a feel for me, and I’m getting a feel for everyone, too, and I’m really excited,” Koplove, who is eager to see how the franchise will nurture him this summer, said. “I’m not rushing anything because every step of the way, there’s going to be something that really makes me more mature.”
Contact Managing Editor Joseph Myers at firstname.lastname@example.org or ext. 124.