Dave Kubiak may have some explaining to do when his new club, the Tampa Bay Rays, finds that he has a New York Yankees logo tattooed on the inside of his left arm. But there is an explanation.
Kubiak, who played for the Southold/Greenport Clippers when he attended Southold High School, wears the tattoo as a tribute to his late grandfather, Arthur Phillips. Phillips, who died last year, was a tremendous Yankees fan. If he was alive today, though, he would undoubtedly become a Rays fan. That’s because his grandson was drafted by the Rays in the 36th round on Wednesday. Kubiak, a senior pitcher for SUNY/Albany, was the 1,109th player selected in the 2011 Major League Baseball draft and the seventh player in the Albany baseball program’s history to be chosen in the draft.
Kubiak said he greeted the news of his selection with “a lot of excitement, but I guess a lot of relief.” Discussing his baseball future, the Jamesport resident said: “I’m looking forward to it. It’s going to be a fun ride.”
Kubiak, a 6-foot-7, 245-pound right-hander, was the Great Danes’ ace pitcher, starting 14 games on the mound this season. He recorded a 4.72 earned run average as a senior and led the Albany pitching staff with 73 strikeouts. He threw five complete games, including one shutout, and allowed 43 earned runs in 82 innings of work. Kubiak finished his four-year career as the Albany program leader with 227 strikeouts and 278 innings pitched. His 82 innings this season were good for second on the school’s single-season record board.
“We are very excited for Dave and his family as he takes on his next challenge,” Albany Coach Jon Mueller said in a statement posted by the college. “We wish him the best of luck in the future.”
Kubiak said he expected to be drafted because scouts had told him he was on their draft board.
Kubiak’s pitching arsenal includes a two-seam fastball, four-seam cutter, curveball, changeup and splitter. Kubiak said that one of the things he learned at Albany was that he cannot strike everyone out. He describes himself as a ground-ball pitcher.
“I’m not going to throw 89, 91 [miles per hour] and overpower anybody any more,” he said. “I’ll strike some people out, but that’s not what I’m looking for. I’m pitching to contact. … Make them get thrown out. It’s a hard game as it is, don’t make it harder.”
Kubiak said he expected to sign a contract Saturday and then receive an assignment, possibly in West Virginia, possibly in Hudson Valley. From here on in, though, he will be facing wood bats, not aluminum ones. “Thank God,” he said. “I’m done with aluminum bats.”
Kubiak said he has been gratified by the reaction he received from friends and family since news of him being drafted came out. “I’ve never talked on the phone more, texted more or talked to people on Facebook more than I have in the past couple of days,” he said.
Kubiak became the first Albany player chosen in the MLB draft since first baseman Mike Konstanty in 2008. Konstanty was drafted in the 39th round by the Cincinnati Reds, following Tom Hill, who was picked by the Kansas City Royals in the 34th round of 2007’s draft. Terry Kenny was the first Great Dane to be drafted in 1974, when the San Francisco Giants selected him in the ninth round. In the Division I era, Steve Checksfield (Houston Astros, 10th round) was drafted in 2001, Mike Grasso (Atlanta Braves, 11th round) was picked in 2002 and Adam Kroft (San Diego Padres, 30th round) was chosen in 2004.
What is the best thing about being drafted?
“Just knowing that I have a job now and it will probably be the best job I ever had,” he said. “It’s crazy that they’re giving me money to play this game.”
Earlier, a pair of former Atlantic Collegiate Baseball League players were drafted.
In 2009, Riverhead Tomcats right-hander Nick Tropeano (Stony Brook University) led the ACBL in wins and strikeouts on his way to earning Pitcher of the Year honors. He will now get the chance to prove himself at the professional level.
Tropeano was selected in the fifth round (160th overall) by the Astros, becoming the third Hamptons Collegiate Baseball alum to be taken in this year’s draft.
Following a solid freshman year for the Seawolves, Tropeano went 7-3 with a 1.61 ERA. He struck out 77 batters in 50 1/3 innings for the Tomcats and was named the Kaiser Division starter in the ACBL All-Star Game.
Tropeano’s battery mate that year in school and in the summer, Justin Echevarria, was a 40th-round selection by the Padres last year.
This past spring, Tropeano set the Stony Brook record for wins (12) and strikeouts (119) en route to his second straight America East Pitcher of the Year award. He finished fifth in the country in strikeouts per nine innings (11.52).
Andrew Cain of the University of North Carolina Wilmington became the first player in the history of the North Fork Ospreys to be drafted, going in the 12th round (371st overall) to the Milwaukee Brewers.
One of three Seahawks on the East End in 2009, Cain wrestled with a wrist injury during his stint on the North Fork, playing just seven games and batting .174 (4 for 23).
At Wilmington, the 6-foot-6, 215-pounder was a second team All-Colonial Athletic Association selection after batting .302 with a team-high 10 home runs. He also swiped 18 bases on 21 attempts. Despite his size, Cain’s 60-yard time has been clocked in the 6.3-second range.