By PAUL GOTHAM
This is what you need to know about Pat Urckfitz
As a pitcher in the Houston Astros system, Urckfitz made steady progress for three seasons starting in 2008 with Rookie-Ball at Greeneville of the Appalachian League to Lexington of the Class A South Atlantic League then on to Lancaster of the Advanced-A California League before reaching Double-A with Corpus Christi of the Texas League to conclude 2010.
That off-season the Penfield, New York native pitched with the Peoria Javelinas of the prestigious Arizona Fall League and earned a spot in the league’s Rising Stars Game. He hurled a 0ne-two-three inning. The Astros made him a non-roster invitee to big league Spring Training the following year.
His career looked to be taking shape. As he had the past two seasons, Urckfitz opened 2011 at the level where he closed the previous year, Corpus Christi.
On June 16th, the Astros promoted Urckfitz to Triple-A. He left San Antonio, Texas, arrived in Oklahoma City later that day and took the mound as a member of the Oklahoma City RedHawks that night. It was the worst outing of his career: one inning pitched, four runs allowed on four hits and two walks. He returned to action the next day only to give up another run in an inning and two-thirds. Four days later, he was touched for four more runs over another 1.2 innings.
Urckfitz had one more appearance in the Pacific Coast League. The Astros returned him to Double-A on June 26th. He appeared in seven games with the Hooks. On July 18th, he allowed three runs without getting an out.
Eleven days later, the organization traded Hunter Pence, then a member of the Astros, to Philadelphia. Two days later, they sent Michael Bourn to Atlanta. In return, the Astros received five veteran minor league pitchers. When the shuffling of players finished, Urckfitz found himself back in Advanced-A with the Lancaster JetHawks.
Three-plus years of work undone in a month.
“It definitely wasn’t an easy time,” Urckfitz said recently. “That first experience in Triple-A, I definitely was overmatched. I don’t know if I was as mentally prepared as I needed to be.
“You can’t take a day off mentally. Every day you got to show up, compete. It’s not just going to happen. You got to make it happen.”
He spent the entire 2012 campaign with Lancaster at the Advanced-A level.
Then he firmly grabbed his bootstraps with both hands.
“At that point, I kinda had two options,” Urckfitz explained. “It was either keep going or just give up and hang ‘em up. My mindset was to keep playing until they take it from me.”
He worked his way back to Triple-A to close the 2013 season. In 2014, the 6-foot-4 left-hander made 25 appearances with Oklahoma City.
“I challenged myself to get back to a level where I felt like I could compete. It taught me a lot about just being dedicated to something and working toward an ultimate goal and keeping that goal in mind every day.”
Urckfitz signed a free agent deal with the Miami Marlins and pitched as a member of the Triple-A New Orleans Zephyrs in 2015 making 37 appearances before ending his professional career after eight seasons.
The trio combine to give Monroe a staff consisting of three former minor league players.
“It’s definitely a good feeling especially being with “Brownie” and Coach Brust. We understand each other a little more than someone who has not played minor league ball. With similar experiences, we can refer to them and share those with the current players.”
Brownsten and Urckfitz combined to lead MCC to third-place in the 2008 NJCAA World Series – the best finish in program history. Urckfitz tossed 11.3 innings of relief surrendering just one run while striking out 15 during the 2008 World Series.
“We are so blessed to have Pat,” Brust said. “His demeanor is all about teaching the game. He’s a baseball teacher. Simple baseball wins games, and that’s what Pat brings to our pitchers. What college pitcher wouldn’t want to learn from Pat Urckfitz.”
Brust earned third-team All American honors for the Tribunes as a player in the late 80s. He went on to star at Ball State University where he earned All-MAC honors and was named Most Valuable Player of the Cardinals. He signed with the Atlanta Braves in 1989 and played three seasons in the minor leagues. He was coached by former major league skipper Grady Little.
Brownsten earned 2008 NJCAA D2 Defensive-Player-of-the-Year honors to go with a Gold Glove. He went on to the University of Pittsburgh where he earned All-Big East honors. A 15th round pick of the Atlanta Braves in the 2010 MLB Draft, he played four years in the Braves system. Brownsten was recently named head coach of the Florence RedWolves of the Coastal Plains collegiate summer league.
More than 30 former MCC Tribunes have either been drafted or signed as free agents by MLB clubs including current minor leaguers Matt Brooks and Danny Mendick.