Stony Brook's success has alum Joe Nathan excited

Joe Nathan addresses the guests and media at

Joe Nathan addresses the guests and media at the Stony Brook baseball field dedication. (Oct. 28, 2011) (Credit: Joseph D. Sullivan)

Joe Nathan and his Texas Rangers teammates were flying home from San Francisco when Stony Brook's baseball team played LSU in the deciding game of the NCAA Baton Rouge Super Regional on Sunday night.

The closer did not miss a pitch of his alma mater's 7-2 victory, which vaulted Stony Brook into the College World Series for the first time. "We watched the whole game on DirecTV," Nathan said Monday. "I felt like a little kid. I feel like a fan."

Nathan, who was drafted out of Stony Brook by the Giants in 1995, said he had his Rangers teammates tuned in, too. "It's really cool how the guys on the team here are involved," he said. "They've become Seawolves fans. They are getting into it."

Stony Brook made its first appearance in the NCAA Division III Tournament in Nathan's last year. "We knew we had some talent," he said. "We were playing a very heavy D-II [schedule]. We were advancing the program."

Nathan's former teammates also are ecstatic. "In 1995, that was the biggest thing, getting in," said Kris Doorey, now Plattsburgh's coach. He remembered Nathan, who played shortstop for SBU and saw limited action as a reliever, hitting a grand slam against Cortland to get Stony Brook into the postseason.

Said Doorey, "Now this."

Another former player, Sal Azzariti, recalled "helping coach [Matt] Senk put up the backstop" in the early years. "We also raked the field. Now we're watching them on television."

As is Nathan. "As far as getting where they are now this quickly, they really haven't skipped a beat from D-III," he said. "It's moved very quickly. They've really done a great job of continuing the success. It speaks volumes what [athletic director] Jim Fiore and coach Senk have done for this program, getting them on the map. They are showing why they had seven guys drafted this year."

One of the drafted players is senior catcher Pat Cantwell of West Islip, taken in the third round by Nathan's Rangers. Nathan, 37, is excited about the potential of an all-Stony Brook battery for Texas. "I wish him the best," he said. "That would be great someday if we do get to do that. He would have to move very quickly up the ladder for that to happen with him being [15] years younger than I am."

Said Cantwell, "I can't wait.''

Nathan -- who has 12 saves and a 1.82 ERA in his first season with the Rangers after four with the Giants and seven with the Twins, for whom he became one of the majors' elite closers -- donated $500,000 for the new Joe Nathan Field at Stony Brook.

"His support means so much,'' Senk said. "For Joe to do what he's already done, as far as his generous gift, that's just the way Joe is. He's just great to us. I think he genuinely loves Stony Brook and loved his time there. That he continues to follow us and support us is kind of typical Joe. Despite all his success and all the great things that have happened to him in pro baseball and in his life, he just stays the same humble guy. It's just fantastic.''

Nathan will be monitoring the Seawolves' progress in the College World Series, which begins Friday in Omaha, Neb. "I definitely wouldn't have my iPhone in the bullpen," he joked. "That would be frowned upon, to say the least. But obviously, whenever I'm in the clubhouse and whenever I'm in front of a TV or computer and have a chance to check up on them, I will."

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