It’s billed as the fans’ chance to see them before they hit the big leagues, and one of Rochester’s own will take part.
Patrick Urckfitz, the former Monroe Community College and Webster Yankee standout, will suit up for the West Division when the Arizona Fall League holds its fifth annual Rising Stars game. Saturday’s game will be televised on the MLB Network and MLB.com. First pitch is scheduled for 9 p.m. EST.
In six appearances this fall with the Peoria Javelinas, Urckfitz is 1-0 with an ERA of 2.25. Opposing batters are hitting .148 against the lefty. Urckfitz has five strike outs to two walks and has tossed five consecutive shutout innings allowing no hits and just one walk. The Javelinas hold a one-game lead in the AFL West with a record of 12-7.
The game has an added incentive to it. The winning team takes home an extra paycheck.
“That’s a bonus,” said the southpaw. “I didn’t know about that until the other day. That’s a good deal.”
Urckfitz has pitched over 186 innings in three seasons with the Houston Astros farm system. He has struck out 179 while walking 60 to go with an ERA of 3.42.
The lefty nearly doubled his innings pitched this season throwing over 104 frames for the Lancaster Jethawks of the Class A Advanced California League. He finished the campaign with the Corpus Christi Hooks of the Double-A Texas League.
Those who have followed Urckfitz’s career might have scratched their heads with the numbers from his time with the Jethawks.
“It’s known as a hitter’s league,” said Urckfitz when commenting on his ERA of 4.15 this summer. “The wind was constantly blowing out of our park. Our field played like it was 300 feet down the line. The key was to stay out of the big inning. If you got to the fifth or sixth, you were doing well.”
Last season, Urckfitz led the Lexington Legends of the Class A South Atlantic League in appearances (42) and saves (13). In 49 innings of work, he compiled a 4-1 record with a 2.57 ERA while striking out 42 and walking 13. He earned Legends’ Pitcher-of-the-Month honors for May going 1-0 with four saves with 0.71 ERA for the month. He finished the year hurling 57.2 innings.
The native of Penfield, New York made 15 appearances for the 2008 Monroe Community College that finished third in the NJCAA World Series. He tossed 11.3 innings of relief surrendering just one run while striking out 15 to earn All-Tournament team.
Urckfitz fanned 25 in 14.2 innings of work for the 2008 Webster Yankees of the New York Collegiate Baseball League. Opposing batters hit a paltry .207 against the lefty. He is one of six former Webster players in minor league baseball. Marcus Nidiffer is also in the Astros system and finished the season with the Tri-City ValleyCats, the champions of the New York-Penn League. Cory Brownsten and Dan Jurik both play in the Atlanta Braves system while Gary Helmick and Jason Stifler are members of the Delmarva Shorebirds – the Class A affiliate of the Baltimore Orioles.
Last year’s AFL Rising Stars game featured current major leaguers Mike Leake, Stephen Strasburg, Starlin Castro and World Series hero, Buster Posey. Phil Hughes, Ryan Braun and Troy Tulowitski played in the 2008 game.
Six teams comprise the Arizona Fall League: the Scottsdale Scorpions, Mesa Solar Sox, the Phoenix Desert Dogs along with the Javelinas, Rafters and Saguaros. Each major league team sends six players to the league. These top prospects come from the Triple-A and Double-A levels with no player having more than one year of experience at the Major League level. Games take place in the Spring Training homes of the A’s, Cubs, Giants, Mariners, Padres, Rangers and Royals.
Current all-stars, David Wright, Chase Utley and Ryan Howard all played in the AFL as have Chris Carpenter, Jimmy Rollins, Derek Lee and Torii Hunter, to name a few. Click here for a complete hall of fame list.