October 3, 2022
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Former UConn baseball star Reggie Crawford begins pro career

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August can be an eventful month for a minor-league baseball player.

For a recent draftee, it often means the beginning of a professional career. For a minor-league prospect, it can mean a late-season promotion.

For a minor-league veteran, it can mean the end of a career.

A host of careers began and a few potentially came to an end among minor-leaguers with Connecticut ties over the past month. First, the good news:

Reggie Crawford, the first-round (No. 30 overall) pick by San Francisco in last month’s MLB Draft, took batting practice at what he hopes to be his future home, Oracle Park, last week. He crushed a bunch of balls out of the cavernous park, one of them traveling 450 feet, and the 6-foot-4, 235-pound UConn product certainly looked like he belonged.

Crawford, who aims to be a two-way player, has also started his pro career with ACL Giants Black, the team’s Rookie League affiliate. He was 3-for-19 at the plate entering this weekend. Still less than a year removed from Tommy John surgery, Crawford isn’t pitching yet. But the Giants drafted him as a two-way player, and according to NBC Sports Bay Area, he’ll arrive at spring training next in February in Scottsdale, Arizona as a pitcher and first baseman.

Darien’s Henry Williams, a third-round pick last month by San Diego, is on the ACL Padres Rookie League roster but is also not pitching after undergoing Tommy John surgery in December. The former Duke hurler still seen as one of the top prospects (No. 9, per MLB.com) in the Padres’ organization.

A few local players have begun their respective playing careers. Casey Dana, Crawford’s UConn teammate the past few seasons, is off and running with High-A Tri-City after being selected by the Angels in the 16th round last month. His younger brother Caden is one of the top prospects in the organization after being drafted out of high school last month.

Yale product Mike Walsh is pitching for Class-A Bradenton after being selected by Pittsburgh in the ninth round of the 2022 draft. And, of course, Guilford and UConn product Matt Donlan has started his career with the Red Sox organization at Class-A Salem, after going undrafted last month.

The news wasn’t as good for some other player with local ties. UConn products Patrick Ruotolo and John Russell were each recently released by the Giants’ organization. Greenwich’s J.T. Hintzen was released by Milwaukee in late-July but picked up by Detroit, where he’s now on Double-A Erie’s developmental list.

Cheshire’s Wes Robertson was released by Baltimore’s organization on Aug. 8. On that same day, Mason Feole was also released by San Diego.

Feole was an ace at UConn who figured to be a potential first-round draft pick a few years ago. Injuries intervened, and he was taken in the 11th round by the Padres in 2019. Feole didn’t pitch until 2021, when he struggled mightily for High-A Fort Wayne. The results weren’t much better this season in eight appearances across three different levels, and he was ultimately released.

For every George Springer or Matt Barnes who busted out of UConn and into MLB stardom, there are twice as many stories like Feole’s, a promising career derailed by injuries.

david.borges@hearstmediact.com



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