Hofstra's Bryan Verbitsky, Hills East's Stephen Woods taken in MLB draft
Bryan Verbitsky sat in his Levittown home and prepared for the inevitable. The highly regarded prospect from Hofstra waited to hear his name called at the major-league amateur draft.
Verbitsky was rewarded early Friday when the San Diego Padres chose him in the third round with the 86th overall pick. The righthanded power pitcher, whose velocity has reached 98 mph, was overwhelmed when he heard his name called.
"I'll remember the moment for the rest of my life," he said. "What an honor to have a major-league team think enough of you to pick you for their organization. I'm excited to get started."
Verbitsky, a two-time Diamond Award winner as Nassau's top high school player at Island Trees in 2009-10, will forgo his senior year at Hofstra, where he developed into the program's closer.
"When I graduated high school, I was looking at some big-name schools but I wanted to play in my backyard for Hofstra in front of my family and friends," he said. "It was the perfect place to blossom as a player. Hofstra was the perfect fit."
The 6-foot, 205-pound Verbitsky said he will leave for a minicamp in Arizona on Sunday. Then he'll be assigned to the Class A affiliate in Eugene, Ore.
"I am very excited for Bryan," Hofstra coach John Russo said. "This is a great opportunity for him. I would love to have him back at Hofstra for his senior year but so many teams were interested in him. He's developed into a big-time pitcher. The Padres are getting a great player and an even better person."
This past season, Verbitsky was 3-4 with a 2.66 ERA in 19 appearances, including three starts, for the Pride. The righthander pitched a career-best 44 innings and posted a team-high 51 strikeouts.
Tampa Bay picks Woods. There will be a change of plans for Half Hollow Hills East senior pitcher Stephen Woods. The Tampa Bay Rays selected the 6-2, 195-pound power pitcher in the sixth round with the 188th overall pick.
"We were watching on my iPad and Tampa Bay called me before the start of the sixth round to tell me they were going to select me," Woods said. "When I heard my name, my heart started pounding like crazy."
Woods, who turns 18 on Monday, struck out 90 in 44 innings this season, allowing 12 hits and walking 23. He went 5-1, threw back-to-back no-hitters and posted an ERA of 0.63, leading the Thunderbirds to the Class AA playoffs for the first time in seven years.
Woods accepted a full baseball scholarship to attend the University at Albany, but college will have to wait.
"It's been my dream to play professionally," Woods said. "I told my coach that if the draft passed the sixth round, I would go to Albany."
Albany coach Greg Mueller phoned shortly after the Rays called Woods' name.
"He congratulated me and told me to take in this special moment," Woods said. "He wished me and my family good luck."
Woods said he is relishing this moment with his dad, Steve Sr., who has been by his side and an inspiration the entire way.
"He's a great role model,'' Woods said, "and my mom [Maggie] has been a wonderful source of support."