Three former Tribunes open season in the minors

Cory Brownsten opens his third year in the pro ranks with the Rome Braves of the Class A South Atlantic League. (Courtesy: MCC athletics)

By Paul Casey Gotham

Cory Brownsten, Tim Redding and Patrick Urckfitz take a combined 21 years of professional service with them as they begin the 2012 baseball season. The three former Monroe Community College Tribunes start the campaign at a variety of minor league levels.

Brownsten opens his third year in the pro ranks with the Rome Braves of the Class A South Atlantic League. Brownsten will look to put behind an injury-plagued campaign that limited him to 43 at bats in 13 games.

Brownsten  started 2011 with the Class A Advanced Lynchburg Hillcats and played six games getting to the plate 21 times before a recurring knee injury slowed him.  After a rehab assignment in extended Spring Training, Brownsten returned to play seven games with the Rome before a thumb injury ended his summer in mid-July.

Atlanta took Brownsten in the 15th round of the 2010 draft. As a rookie, he hit .287 with two home runs and 14 RBI in 34 Gulf Coast League games and earned a late season call-up playing one game with the Danville Braves of the Appalachian League.

In his sophomore season with the Tribunes, Brownsten earned Junior College D2 Defensive-Player-of-the-Year honors to go with a Gold Glove. He garnered first-team All-American, All-District and All-Region hitting .390 with seven home runs, 50 RBI and a slugging percentage of .615.

Brownsten went on to the University of Pittsburgh where he earned All-Big East honors hitting .395 with 17 extra-base hits, including three home runs and 48 RBI.

Urckfitz begins his fifth season in the Houston Astros system.  The left-hander from Penfield, New York signed as a free agent in 2008 and struck out 23 while walking just nine in 15 appearances for the Greeneville Astros of the rookie Appalachian League.

His efforts earned a promotion to the Lexington Legends of the South Atlantic League. Urckfitz led the 2009 Legends 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.

Those numbers contributed to a late-season call-up to the Lancaster JetHawks of the Class A Advanced California League. The southpaw started last season with the JetHawks and nearly doubled his innings pitched throwing over 104 frames out of the bullpen. Before the season was out he tossed five innings with the Corpus Christi Hooks of the Double-A Texas League.

Urckfitz moved on to the prestigious Arizona Fall League.  In his first six appearances with the Peoria Javelinas, he went 1-0 with an ERA of 2.25 while holding opposing batters to .148. He appeared in the league’s Rising Stars game where he pitched a shutout inning in relief.

Urckfitz eventually made his way to Triple-A pitching with the Oklahoma City RedHawks of the Pacific Coast League. The lefty found himself caught in roster moves late last season. The Astros received five minor league pitchers in return for MLB All-Star Hunter Pence. Urckfitz opens 2012 back with Lancaster.

Urckfitz  and Brownsten led MCC to a third place finish in the 2008 NJCAA tournament. “Urck” tossed 11.3 innings of relief surrendering just one run while striking out 15 for Mike Kelly’s Tribs.

Houston took Redding in the 20th round of the 1997 draft, and the Churchville, New York native has been in professional baseball since then. Redding opens 2012 with the Las Vegas 51s – the Toronto Blue Jays Triple-A affiliate in the PCL.

He has pitched all or parts of eight seasons in Major League Baseball. On two occasions, Redding has won 10 games, once with the Astros in 2003 and for the Washington Nationals in 2008.

Redding has struck out 552 in 822 innings of major league work. He earned the 2001 Texas League Pitcher of the Year hurling for the Round Rock Express. Redding threw 99 innings for the Black and Gold. He struck out 129 while walking 62 for a of 14-2 record with an E.R.A. of 1.27.

In all, the Tribs have earned 29 draft selections in the program’s 48-year history. This number does not include players like Greg Keagle and Brownsten who went on to four-year schools before being drafted.

Keagle finished his college career at Florida International before the San Diego Padres made him a sixth-round pick.  He made 23 starts and 46 appearances over three seasons for the Detroit Tigers.

During a seven-year span in the 70s, 12 Tribunes earned 14 draft picks. Peter Castle led off for Monroe when the Pirates chose the right-hander in the sixth round of the June 1970 draft. Two years later, the reigning World Series champion Bucs took Al Dreschler in the seventh round. Charles Steffen heard his name called twice the following year — first in January by the Bucos and then in June by the New York Mets.  The denizens of Three Rivers also took Bill Muoio in the 11th round of the January selection.

The Tribs made a splash in 1974 when four MCC diamond men were taken. The Pittsburgh nine chose John Pilato (4th round), Robert Harold (5th), James Del Re (6th) and Randy Law (10th) in the January draft.

In 1976, the Cincinnati Reds chose Tom Dimino (17th), and the Cleveland Indians took James Johnson (11th).

Ken Lelek accounted for three of those draft picks. The Montreal Expos tabbed the right-hander in the 1975 January draft. The Chicago Cubs took Lelek in June of that same year. Pittsburgh chose Lelek the following June.

Current MCC assistant coach Dave Brust signed with the Atlanta Braves in 1989 and played three years in the organization including two for the Durham Bulls under the direction of head coach Grady Little. He earned a third-team All-American nomination in 1987 leading MCC at the plate hitting .423 with 11 home runs and 49 RBIs. The Cardinal Mooney high school graduate went on to Ball State University where he was a two-time team captain and MVP.

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