Thursday, June 17, 2010

Two Monroe grads selected in MLB draft

By Howard Goldin

Monroe College held its annual graduation ceremony at Madison Square Garden last Friday. Each of the members of the college’s large graduating class holds high hopes of success in his/her future. While the focus of the college’s efforts is, of course, on academics, its athletic program is also highly respected.

The men’s baseball program is a recent addition to the growing numbers of sports in which student-athletes of the college participate. The baseball team had its first year of existence in 2005. The current head coach, Luis Melendez, was selected as an assistant coach that inaugural year. Melendez had served as an assistant at Lehman College’s baseball program previously. Melendez, who graduated from Lehman, had practical and successful playing experience in college and in the minor leagues before beginning his tenure as a coach.

It did not take very long for the program to be successful. The Mustangs won the regional baseball championship in 2008 and 2009. The program has been upgraded to Division I status on the National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA). Scholarships are granted to the embers of the team.

Despite the short number of years of the program’s existence, two graduates of the program and college were selected in the 2010 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft, which was held this month. As pitching talent is always in short supply, two pitchers were chosen.

Jose Macias was selected by the Oakland A’s in the 18th round of the draft. He was the first Monroe grad to be chosen by one of the major league organizations. Macias, a native of Caracas, Venezuela, moved to the Bronx at an early age. At DeWitt Clinton High School in the Bronx, Macias batted a highly impressive .373. The shortstop scored 36 runs in only 34 games while at the school.

Macias excelled on the field and in the classroom at Monroe. The lead-off hitting batter was an important contributor to Monroe’s first regional championship in 2008. He was selected to the First-Team All-Region Team while earning a 3.9 GPA at the college. Macias was converted to a pitcher in his junior year at Franklin Pierce University. In his senior season, he compiled a 9-1 mark with a miserly ERA of 0.78. He fanned 118 batters in 92 innings.

Coach Melendez had high words of praise for his former player, “Jose is an amazing young man with integrity and character. He worked so hard when he was here at Monroe and it’s gratifying to see this part of his dream come true.”

On the following day of this year’s draft, hurler Victor Lara was selected in the 34th round by the Arizona Diamond Backs. Lara was the closer on the 2009 Monroe regional champions.

Lara came to the Bronx from Coral Gables High School in Miami, Florida. The fastball throwing closer had three saves this season at Keystone College in Pennsylvania, and struck out 19 batters in only 17.2 innings.

Melendez spoke words of praise for the young fireballer. “When you can throw as hard as Victor does, the sky is the limit on how well he can do. I am bursting with pride over his achievement and also for what it says about the Monroe College baseball program.”

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