The New York Collegiate Baseball League has sent players to professional baseball for more than three decades, and the number of former Webster Yankees in pro ball continues to grow. In Webster’s six-year existence seven draft picks have groomed their talents in pinstripes. Five former players currently earn a paycheck from professional baseball.
Patrick Urckfitz represents the longest-tenured former Webster Yankee in the minors. Urckfitz signed a free-agent deal with the Houston Astros in 2008 and is in his fourth season with the organization. After experiencing continued progress through his first three years, the Penfield, New York native has had to show some resiliency during this campaign.
“I hit a little bump in the road,” Urckfitz said. “At first it was frustrating, but I’m looking to finish the season strong.”
Urckfitz started his professional career making 15 appearances for the Greeneville Astros of the rookie Appalachian League. The lefty went 1-0 striking out 23 while walking just nine finishing with an ERA of 1.40.
His efforts earned a promotion to the Lexington Legends of the Class A South Atlantic League. Urckfitz led the Legends in appearances (42) and saves (13). In 49 innings of work, he compiled a 4-1 record with a 2.57 ERA while striking out 42 and walking 13. He earned Legends’ Pitcher-of-the-Month honors for May going 1-0 with four saves with 0.71 ERA for the month.
Those numbers contributed to a late-season call-up to the Lancaster JetHawks of the Class A Advanced California League. The southpaw started the next season with the JetHawks and nearly doubled his innings pitched throwing over 104 frames out the bullpen.
Similar to the year earlier, Urckfitz received a late-season promotion and made one start with the Corpus Christi Hooks of the Class AA Texas League. He allowed two runs in five innings of work striking out four and walking one.
The climb continued from there.
Urckfitz moved on to the prestigious Arizona Fall League. In his first six appearances with the Peoria Javelinas, he went 1-0 with an ERA of 2.25 while holding opposing batters to .148. He appeared in the the league’s Rising Stars game where he pitched a shutout inning in relief.
This season started similar to the past two with Urckfitz placed at a level higher than he was twelve months previous. The pattern changed soon after that. After breaking Spring Training with the Hooks, he moved to the Triple-A Oklahoma City RedHawks of the Pacific Coast League. He struggled allowing 11 runs in five innings of work. For the first time in his career, Urckfitz was demoted. He returned to Corpus Christi. At the same time, the Astros made two trades, one including Hunter Pence, and received five pitchers in return. Urckfitz found himself back in Lancaster.
He has re-discovered his groove in California. In his last five appearances out of the bullpen, Urckfitz has tossed eight shutout innings allowing two hits while striking out 11 and issuing one free pass.
“It’s been nice to have this success of late,” Urckfitz mentioned.
Urckfitz fanned 25 in 14.2 innings of work for the 2008 pinstripes. Opposing batters hit .207 against the lefty.
From the longest-tenured Webster Yankee alum to the newest professional, success of late has been a common theme.
The Oakland Athletics chose Chris Bostick in the 44th round of the recent Major League Baseball draft. The Aquinas Institute grad took some time to decide before signing with the A’s in late July. After a brief orientation period, Bostick proved the wait was worth it. The Gates, New York native started his professional career with a 13-game hitting streak.
Bostick is hitting .442 with the Arizona-League A’s including six doubles, a triple and home run.
“The A’s got a deal when they signed Chris,” said Webster Yankee head coach Dave Brust.
Bostick played six weeks for Webster. He joined a club that was playing .500 baseball with a record of four wins and four losses. Webster finished their regular season riding a 13-game win streak to claim the NYCBL West Division championship. Bostick hit .413 for the summer with 17 extra-base hits including five home runs and 32 RBI. St. John’s University offered the infielder a full scholarship to attend school in the fall.
Marcus Nidiffer continues to make good on his chances. He signed a free agent deal with the Astros last year and earned Appalachian League All-Star honors leading Greeneville with 11 home runs. Nidiffer earned a late-season call-up and played first base for the New York-Penn League champion Tri-City Valley Cats.
Those accomplishments meant little when Nidiffer returned to Spring Training. The Astros decided to move ahead without the Bristol, Tennessee native. Nidiffer quickly landed with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim organization and returned to his natural position behind the plate. Nidiffer has made 64 appearances at catcher for the Cedar Rapids Kernels of the Class A Midwest League. He has 16 extra-base hits including six round-trippers and 22 RBI for the Kernels.
Nidiffer made 28 starts with the 2007 Yankees. After a slow start, he finished with eight extra-base hits including three home runs and 12 RBI.
Cory Brownsten (’08) and Dan Jurik (’09) continue to play in the Atlanta Braves’ system.
Brownsten has struggled through an injury-plagued 2011.
Atlanta chose Brownsten in the 15th round with the 464th pick of the 2010 draft. He made 34 appearances with the Gulf Coast Braves in 2010 hitting .287 in 94 at bats. Brownsten finished the summer going 3-for-4 in one game with the Danville Braves of the Appalachian League.
Brownsten started 2011 with the Class A Advanced Lynchburg Hillcats and played six games getting to the plate 21 times before a recurring knee injury slowed him. After a rehab assignment in extended Spring Training, Brownsten returned to play seven games with the Rome Braves of the South Atlantic League. His season ended in mid-July.
Brownsten earned all-league honors with the 2008 Webster Yankees. In 27 games, he hit .272, seven extra-base hits and 19 RBI.
Jurik is 2-3 for the summer. He has struck out 58 and walked 25 in more than 73 stanzas of work in the Braves’ system. The right-hander made 11 appearances for Webster in 2009. He fanned 38 and walked 13 in 35 innings of work. The Braves later chose Jurik in the 25 th round with 764th pick of the 2010 draft. Jurik earned the Braves Gulf Coast Pitcher-of-the Year honors going 3-0 in five starts.
MLB’s 2010 amateur draft included the names of 36 players with ties to the New York Collegiate Baseball League. From 2008-10 112 former NYCBLers heard their names called. Current Major Leaguers Hunter Pence, Tim Hudson and Brad Lidge all spent at least one summer in the NYCBL.
The Chicago Cubs took former Webster Yankee Jordon Herr (’06 when the team was known as the Rochester Royals) in the 2007 draft and Jordan Petraitis (’06) in the 2008 and 2009 drafts. The Cincinnati Reds chose Bryan Gardner (’06, ’07) in 2008. Gary Helmick (’06-’07) and Jason Stifler (‘o6-’07) both signed as free agents with the Baltimore Orioles. All are currently not playing professional baseball.
The Webster Yankees and the NYCBL – sending players to the pros since 1978.