WEST GOSHEN >> Five players who honed their baseball skills at Chester County high schools were selected in the Major League Baseball Draft earlier this week. Only one – former Coatesville ace Brian Brown – was taken in the top-10 rounds, but all five were thrilled with the prospect of playing professionally.
“I was shocked I was drafted that early,” said Brown, who just finished an excellent college career at North Carolina State by recently being named the Atlantic Coast Conference Pitcher of the Year.
“Fulfilled a life-long dream (Wednesday),” added Malvern Prep’s Billy Corcoran in a Tweet. “Much more work to be done.”
Exton’s Austin Edgette recently finished his college career and was picked in the 33rd round (976th overall) by the San Francisco Giants. A 2013 Downingtown East graduate, Edgette led Bloomsburg in batting average (.436), hits (72), home runs seven), total bases (113), on-base percentage (.530), slugging percentage (.685) and stolen bases (24).
The others — Nick Ward and Ryne Ogren — have been dreaming about this opportunity for as long as either can remember. A former star at Unionville High and later at West Chester University, Ward was told that he developed a fascination with the game immediately after picking up a bat and glove for the first time at the age of two.
“This whole thing … I really don’t know how to put it all into words. It hasn’t really hit me,” Ward said.
And Ogren is named after Hall of Famer Ryne Sandberg, who was part of one of the most notorious trades in baseball history. He was a standout at Conestoga before moving on to play Division I ball at Elon (N.C.).
“I heard from some scouts that I would be drafted, but having it actually happen was really special and something I’d remember for the rest of my life,” Ogren added.
Ward’s story may sound a bit familiar. He is a southern Chester County kid who competed in the Ches-Mont league, went on to WCU and led the Golden Rams to an NCAA Division II national title as the star second baseman. It should be no surprise that Ward is happy with any comparisons to Avon Grove’s Joe Wendle, who is now a starter with the Tampa Bay Rays.
“Joey has been a huge influence and has helped me a lot,” Ward said. “Of course I’ve idolized him.”
For the last two years, Ward and Wendle, along with Garnet Valley’s Joe DeCarlo, have been training together during the offseason.
“I feel incredibly lucky,” Ward said. “I don’t know what kind of player I’d be without a lot of his help. I’ve learned so much from him and Joe.”
Sitting on the couch at his parent’s Kennett Square home on Wednesday, Ward saw a notification on Twitter from MLB Draft Tracker that he had been selected in the 34th round (1,013th overall) by the Oakland Athletics. According to Ward, he sat there, mouth agape. He then told his parents, Dan and Clare.
“They were freaking out more than I was,” he said. “I was hoping to be drafted, but I wasn’t 100 percent sure it was going to happen.”
The first person to send a congratulatory text to Ward was Wendle, who propelled West Chester to its first national crown in 2012. Ward and the Rams did it again in 2017.
“We talk about it all the time,” Ward said. “It’s something that is pretty cool we have in common.
“For him, that was the proudest moment of his baseball career, and he’s had a pretty incredible career. And I can definitely say the same thing. Winning that was my proudest moment. Getting drafted is a personal accomplishment, not something I shared with 30 other guys.”
This spring, Ward led the PSAC with 69 runs and equaled the single-season record for home runs (13). He is the fifth Golden Ram to be picked in the MLB amateur draft since 2010.
Like Ward, Brown just wrapped up his college career that featured four years as a starter with the Wolfpack. As a senior, the Glenmoore southpaw made 16 starts and finished with a 2.74 ERA with 98 strikeouts.
A 6-foot, 183-pounder, Brown was the ninth round selection of the Boston Red Sox (280th overall).
“I didn’t think there was any way I would be drafted on the second day (rounds three through 10),” said Brown, age 22. “A Red Sox scout called me around the seventh round and said, ‘there is a chance we could take you in the ninth or 10th round.’”
As a senior at Coatesville, Brown went 8-1 with a 0.59 ERA and 101 strikeouts in 59 innings in 2014.
Ogren was a 12th round pick (358th overall) by the Seattle Mariners. A middle infielder like his namesake, Ogren still has a year of college eligibility remaining at Elon.
“I’m planning on signing and starting my pro career,” said Ogren, who is flying out to Seattle’s training facility in Arizona on Friday. “I’ve been working towards this for my entire life. It’s been my dream to play baseball professionally and now that I have the opportunity, I’m not going to pass it up.”
Throughout the draft process, Ogren has been in regular contact with former Conestoga teammate Brendon Little, who is currently a pitcher with the Chicago Cubs Class A affiliate in South Bend., Ind.
As for his namesake, Ogren was born 15 years after the Phillies traded Sandberg (and Larry Bowa) to the Cubs for Ivan DeJesus in 1982.
“My mom (Karen) is from Chicago and my dad (Jeff) is from Philadelphia,” Orgen explained. “That trade kind of brought those two together, I guess.”
Just 17 years old, Corcoran is the only one of the bunch that may delay his professional debut in order to play collegiately. The 6-foot-7 right handed pitcher has committed to the University of Pittsburgh.
The Inter-Ac league MVP, Corcoran was selected in the 36th round (1,079th overall) by the Texas Rangers, just in case he decides to skip college and proceed directly to the professional level.