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Cantwell's decision to return was a grand slam

Stony Brook's captains Evan Stecko-Haley (12), Tyler Johnson

Stony Brook's captains Evan Stecko-Haley (12), Tyler Johnson (44), Sal Intagliata (14), and Pat Cantwell (3) hold the America East Chapionship Trophy. (May 25, 2012) Credit: George A. Faella

West Islip's Pat Cantwell and his College World Series-bound Stony Brook baseball teammates were surrounded by a media storm that descended upon the university this week. The attention might not end at the collegiate level for Cantwell, a senior catcher and a third-round selection of the Texas Rangers nearly two weeks ago in Major League Baseball's first-year player draft.

If the Seawolves' run seems unexpected, so was Cantwell's lofty selection in the draft. "Honestly, at first I was shocked,'' he said. "I got the phone call, I was a little surprised I went that high. It's been amazing.''

Last year, Cantwell was picked by the Orioles in the 39th round. "I know when Pat got drafted in the round he got drafted, I was surprised it was where it was,'' coach Matt Senk said of the 2011 pick. "I felt it was in Pat's best interest to come back because I knew he could get drafted higher than he did, so we spoke. I told him, 'You're going to be better off to come back to school.' So he did, and here he is, a third-rounder.''

Cantwell, who is hitting .296 this season, has a career batting average of .316. He has struck out only 11 times in 216 at-bats and thrown out 22 of 30 would-be base-stealers in 2012.

A Rangers scout would not discuss Cantwell, noting that he has not yet signed, but Dodgers Northeast region scout Frank Bodner of Bethpage had high praise for the catcher's skills.

"Of all the college teams I've seen in the metropolitan area, he's probably one of the top receivers as far as handling pitchers, framing the ball,'' Bodner said. "He's got this tough mentality as a catcher. That's hard to find. He's a good catch-throw type of guy. He's improved a lot [over last season], he worked his craft. He went to the Cape Cod League. That was the turning point for him. You are with the top guys in the nation. I think that exposure really opened his eyes as far as knowing how hard he had to work to improve and go up in the draft . . . I think he can make it. Catchers are in demand today, especially decent catchers. And the craft of handling and receiving pitchers is a lost art.''

Earlier this week, Rangers closer Joe Nathan, a Stony Brook alumnus, joked that Cantwell should hurry up so both can form an all-Stony Brook battery for Texas. Cantwell will make that a priority -- but not just yet. "I haven't really had any time to dwell on that because of all this that is going on,'' he said. "It just seems that one good thing keeps on piling up on top of the next. Right now I'm just ecstatic about everything that's happened. I couldn't ask for anything more.''

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