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What you need to know for 01/17/2017

Baseball draft: Colonie's O'Keefe awaits phone call

Baseball draft: Colonie's O'Keefe awaits phone call

Brian O’Keefe has had a very good spring. A phone call today would make it better.

Brian O’Keefe has had a very good spring.

A phone call today would make it better.

The 2011 Colonie High School grad is hoping his junior season at Saint Joseph’s University will end with his being selected on the second day of the Major League Baseball amateur draft.

“From everything I’m hearing and everyone I’ve talked to, it looks like Day 2 and anywhere from [rounds] 3-10,” O’Keefe said by phone from his parent’s home. “I’ve heard four through six, four through seven. But, it’s the draft, anything can happen. I’ve been around enough to know nothing is set in stone.”

The former all-state catcher did nothing to turn scouts off this year, ranking among the team leaders in nearly every offensive category, and playing well enough behind the plate to be one of the 15 semifinalists for the Johnny Bench Award, which is presented annually to the nation’s top collegiate catcher, for the second consecutive year,

“It’s a prestigious award, and I felt honored just to be considered,” O’Keefe said.

O’Keefe kept himself among the nation’s top collegiate catchers by batting .350 with team bests in runs (56), hits (75) and home runs (seven).

He was an integral part of the Hawks’ school record 35 wins, for which he earned All-Atlantic 10 first team all-conference team, and Philadelphia All-Big 5 first-team all-star status.

“My defense was 100 times better than my offense,” said O’Keefe of his career. “My offense always semed to get overlooked.

“Being able to show people I can hit is another huge aspect of moving up the ladder.”

Keeping his defense sharp was still important to O’Keefe, who tried to compartmentalize any draft thoughts during the season.

“We added a new coach this season, David Valesente, who had played two years in the Pirates’ system as a catcher,” said O’Keefe, whose manager at Saint Joseph’s, Fritz Hamburg was also a catcher. “He came in and brought a lot of the drills he used day in and day out.

“It helped me become a much better reciever behind the plate. I got better at consistently blocking pitches.”

Valesente also gave O’Keefe insights into the pro game.

“He told me that there is as much value for defense as offense as a catcher,” O’Keefe said. “He told me that if I went 0-for-4 or 1-for-5, that I could still help my team by handling the pitchers, getting a starter through a tough spot.”

O’Keefe said he heard from nearly all the 30 major league teams, and attended workouts for many. After some initial nervousneess, he felt he did well in showcasing his abilities.

“The first one, I couldn’t get out of my way,” he said. “Then, I relaxed and had better showings.”

Showings good enough to be reassured by scouts that they were well aware of his talent.

“During the season, it was the easiest for me when I was playing,” O’Keefe said. “There would be scouts there to tape my games, or come in early to watch BP and tape it. It was nerve wracking.”

O’Keefe played for the Saratoga Brigade of the New England Collegiate Baseball League last summer.

He hopes this offseason he won’t have to return to summer ball. At least not without getting paid.

“I’m just hoping the draft works out,” he said. “Hopefully, I’ll be playing professionally somewhere.

“But if something happens, and I should fall through the draft, I can always join a summer team.”

Getting selected today would also be the end of a solid collegiate career. But not his college education.

“I always had dreams of playing in the major leagues, and I remember once my father [John] telling me that he hoped it would happen, but if it did, there was one stipulation,” O’Keefe said. “He made me promises that no matter what, if I had a major league career or it didn’t work out, that I would finish my education.

“So, I’m hoping my college baseball career is over. But my college education is not.”

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