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AMATEUR BASEBALL

Brett Rudy

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Dario Pizzano, the Ivy League Player of the Year at Columbia, was selected in the 15th round by the Mariners. couple days. But if I’m picked, they will want me to perform every day. There’s no time for horsing around. I could leave in two weeks for somewhere. I have to be prepared. It’s a whole different mind set.” The first day of the draft ended without Pizzano hearing his name called. The next night, though, it happened. Pizzano was drafted in the15th round by the Seattle Mariners with the 461st pick overall. Suddenly, Dario seemed much more at ease, and the shift in his demeanor became quite apparent. “My parents, brother, sister, both sets of grandparents, friend Joe, and girlfriend were all watching the live coverage all day on MLB.com,” he says, “and when we finally heard my name called, it was like something I have never experienced before. I can’t even describe the feeling, but the best word would be exhilarated. “I’m looking forward to everything

Photo courtesy of Little League International

four home runs, 16 doubles and 36 RBI. During his three years at Columbia, he was a first-team All-Ivy League outfielder each year and tied the program record with 25 home runs. And now he’s sitting in front of the TV on the first day of the draft, waiting for his moment. I asked him when he thought he’d be drafted. “Tomorrow or the next day,” he says. “Growing up, I always said, ‘Give me that one shot.’ This season, I started hearing from people that I could go this year if I kept it up, that I could be a middle to high draft pick. But until your name is selected, you never know for sure.” It was nerve-wracking just talking to him, hearing draft picks being read aloud by commissioner Bud Selig every few minutes. I could only imagine what was going through his mind. I asked him about his nerves. “If I have to pay them (MLB) to get drafted, I’d pay to have a shot,” Pizzano says. “The hardest thing I may have to do is potentially saying no.” What? I asked Dario to explain. “It’s a whole negotiating game of options,” he says. “Anything can happen in a year. I’m in a win/win situation. If I get drafted this year and don’t go (to play professional baseball), I get to graduate from an Ivy League school. If I do, I get to start my career and the (drafting) team would pay to finish my education when my baseball career is done. “Of course, I want to start my career now. It’s bittersweet, realizing I may not go back to school. … There are just a lot of other factors. I’d have to give up my whole life. I have a girlfriend at Columbia. I don’t even know where I might be. But this is what I’ve wanted to do my whole life. I’m lucky. This is what I want to do. I just need to stay by the phone.” Clearly, he has a lot to think about. More names are called. “Out of the top eight kids picked, I’ve played with five of them.” For the 96th pick, the Houston Astros select Arizona State junior righthander Brady Rodgers. “I beat Brady Rogers,” Pizzano says, “when I was 12.” How do you really feel, Dario? “There’s lots of stress, but it’s exciting,” he says. “I’m wondering what’s going to happen next. My family and friends are going to be here tomorrow. I’m just going to continue to hit, run and throw every day. It’s out of my control for the next

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ost Little Leaguers dream of making it to the World Series. When it’s realized at age 12, you can spend the rest of your life trying to make it back. It’s no small task. Only 11 players — including Jason Varitek, Gary Sheffield, and Dwight Gooden — have played in the Little League World Series and the Major League Baseball World Series. Dario Pizzano from Saugus, Mass., hopes to join them one day, and this year’s MLB draft put him one step closer. Following his impressive amateur career at Columbia University, Pizzano had plenty of time during the three-day selection process to reminisce about his road to the draft. It started nine years ago. In 2003, there were nearly 200,000 Little League teams in the United States and around the globe. In the months leading up to the Little League World Series, towns across the country selected All-Star teams to play in state tournaments. Saugus captured the Massachusetts title, and after winning six consecutive games in the New England Regional tournament, earned one of eight U.S. berths in the famed World Series in Williamsport, Pa. Saugus won four consecutive onerun decisions, highlighted by a 14-13 win over the Southwest Region champion from Richmond, Texas. In that game, Pizzano was on third base when teammate David Ferreira hit a slow roller down the third-base line. Pizzano scored the winning run as Ferreira barely beat the throw to first. Pizzano finished the game 3-for-5. Saugus finished as runnerup in the U.S. finals, losing, 9-2, to East Boynton Beach, Fla., in the title game. Pizzano says the Little League World Series propelled him to where he is today. “The summer of 2003 was the best experience of my life,” Pizzano says. “I played on center stage in front of millions of people on ESPN, and I’m working hard to get back. I played against some of the best Little League players in the world. That experience made me want to play professional baseball.” At Malden Catholic, Pizzano earned league MVP honors and was named the Boston Globe’s All Scholastic Division 1 Player of the Year in 2009. As a junior at Columbia this season, Pizzano was selected as the Ivy League Player of the Year. He batted .360 with

Photo/Gene Boyars/Columbia University Athletics

From Little League star to draft pick

Pizzano was a member of the 2003 Saugus team that advanced to the Little League World Series in Williamsport, Pa. about minor-league baseball. I can’t wait to experience everything I’ve heard about from so many players and friends that have already experienced it. The Mariners are a great organization with a fantastic farm system, and I’m looking forward to improving on every aspect of my game immediately. “The Mariners and my advisor both told me not to worry about what comes next. They said to enjoy the moment with my family and friends.” That’s great advice, but Pizzano knows there’s work to do to realize his dream. If anybody can make it to the World Series, you gotta like the odds for a kid from Saugus who’s already been there. Brett Rudy is the founder of the Boston Amateur Baseball Network. @bostonbaseball feedback@baseballjournal.com

July 2012  baseballjournal.com  29 

From Little League Star to Draft Pick  

Most Little Leaguers dream of making it to the World Series. Dario Pizzano of Saugus, MA realized that at age 12, and has been working since...

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