“It is everything I expected.”
The former Webster Yankee used those few words to describe his adjustment from an amateur to professional baseball player.
“It has been a real positive experience with good fans and good fields,” continued Urckfitz. “The community is welcoming.” “When they see you off the field, they always want to talk about the game.”
Just two months ago Pat was working out of the bullpen for Dave Brust’s Webster Yankees. The Penfield native threw his last inning in the New York Collegiate Baseball League on June 26th as the pinstripes dropped a 4-2 decision to the Elmira Pioneers.
It was on that night that Pat met with Houston Astro regional scout, Mike Maggert.
Three days later Urckfitz dropped off his uniform and headed south to Tennessee – Greeneville, Tennessee that is – home of the Greeneville Astros, the minor league affiliate of the Houston Astros.
Greeneville plays in the rookie Appalachian League – a ten-team league with a 70-game schedule from June to the end of August.
Since then the 6’ 2” southpaw has tossed 17 and a third innings in 14 appearances.
“I have been focusing on keeping hitters off balance,” added Urckfitz. “I am not relying on my fast ball as much.” “Before I would exclusively start batters with a fast ball, and my slider was my out pitch.”
“Now I am throwing more first pitch off-speed stuff and more 3-2 change ups.” I have learned to keep hitters off-balance and depend on the guys behind me to make plays.”
Urckfitz has struck out 21 and walked nine for an impressive 1.15 walks and hits to innings pitched ratio.
Those numbers have earned Urckfitz an invitation to the Astros’ instructional league this fall in Kissimmee, Florida.
“If they don’t think much of you, they don’t invite you,” commented Brust. “It’s an investment.”
And Urckfitz has proven himself worthy of the Astros’ time. The Penfield native has compiled two saves while limiting opposing batters to 11 hits and just three earned runs.
Included in those numbers are two shutout innings versus first-place Pulaski in which the rest of the Urckfitz clan – mother, Sharon, father, Jim, and younger brothers, Sean and Brendan attended. Pat struck out two of the seven batters faced that night.
While with Webster, Urckfitz fanned 25 in 14.2 innings of work. Opposing batters hit a paltry .207 against the lefty.
Urckfitz was part of the Monroe Community College team that finished third in the nation. In the NJCAA tournament Urckfitz tossed 11.3 innings of relief surrendering just one run while striking out 15.
The seven-year contract with the Astros includes the opportunity for Urckfitz to earn a college degree which he plans on studying sports medicine at SUNY Brockport.
Maggert was the same scout who signed Churchville native and current Washington Nationals star, Tim Redding.
The New York Collegiate Baseball League, founded in 1978, is a summer wood bat development league for professional baseball. Major League Baseball funds a small portion of the league’s annual budget. The league gives college players who have not yet signed a professional contract the opportunity to develop their skills at a higher level of play, gain experience with wood bats, and be evaluated by scouts. Current major leaguers, Tim Hudson, John McDonald, and Dallas Braden all spent time in the NYCBL.