Joe Purritano '16 chosen in MLB draft
For any kid whose favorite scent is fresh-cut grass mixed with a newly opened package of Big League Chew gum, whose idol is Benny “the Jet” Rodriquez from “The Sandlot” (1993) and whose first love was his very first mitt, making it to the big leagues is the ultimate dream.
For Joe Purritano ’16, Big Green Baseball’s 2014-2015 season’s deadly designated hitter and RBI leader, the Cincinnati Reds just made this coveted dream a reality.
The Reds selected Purritano in the 30th round of the 2015 MLB draft on Wednesday, June 10. That afternoon, with the end of the draft and the online announcement of the final names of the chosen players, Purritano sat on his couch in his hometown of Woodcliff Lake, New Jersey. Suddenly, he heard his dad scream from upstairs. Soon, his phone “started blowing up” with messages and calls.
“I really wasn’t paying much attention to it,” Purritano said with a laugh. “I had some interest from teams, but you never know what’s going to happen.”
The moment came as a surprise to Purritano, who said he did not want to get his hopes up due to the unpredictable nature of the draft. It did not, however, come as a shock to his coaches or teammates.
Purritano’s three-year career for the Big Green does a lot of the talking for him — he has posted a career batting average of .291 and a career on-base percentage of .374, with 114 compiled hits and 71 total runs scored. Not only did he lead his team in slugging percentage at .500, he also topped several other individual categories with 30 RBIs, five triples, three home runs, and 19 base on balls.
“He has a presence in our lineup,” head coach Bob Whalen said.
Whalen said that other teams in the league played differently against Purritano, aware of Purritano’s bat speed and ability to generate runs.
“They have a tendency to pitch him more carefully and they know that he has a good strike zone discipline,” Whalen said. “This combination of skills is unlikely and impressive to have all in one guy.”
Purritano is known as a leader on the team not just because of his skills, but also due to his energy and drive, Whalen said.
“Joe has a big personality, in all the right ways,” Whalen said. “He is a high energy guy. He is a worker. He is the guy that other players look to and follow because he has good, natural leadership skills. He is a really good player, certainly, but he is just as good of a teammate.”
Duncan Robinson ’16, the Big Green’s standout right-handed hurler and Ivy League Pitcher of the Year this season, said Purritano’s character is one of his greatest qualities. Robinson said that Purritano is a hardworking person and leader who does well in the classroom and serves as an example for his teammates on the field.
Purritano follows several other Dartmouth baseball players drafted by the MLB in the past few years. Mitch Horacek ’14, Cole Sulser ’12 and Michael Johnson ’13 were all drafted in 2013. Kyle Hendricks ’12, drafted in 2012, moved up to the Chicago Cubs’ major league roster last year.
Whalen said that the baseball program aims to improve its players over the full course of their careers with the Big Green.
“Our program has a team-oriented approach to everything we do,” he said. “We create competition by getting as many good guys as we can here and we challenge our kids to get better every single day.”
Purritano said that the coaching and guidance he has received since joining Dartmouth baseball have helped him improve his game. He said that the number of drafted players in the past few years speaks to the high-quality work Whalen does in developing his players.
Purritano is spending the summer playing for the Plymouth Pilgrims in the New England Collegiate Baseball League in Plymouth, Massachusetts. During his time there, he will be grappling with the big decision — to leave Dartmouth a year prior to graduating or to stay for his senior season and re-enter the draft pool next year.
“Right now, I honestly don’t know what I’m going to decide,” Purritano said. “I’ve been going back and forth, weighing the costs and the benefits.”
To help make the decision, Purritano said he is talking to friends and family, adding that Whalen in particular has been “a great voice of reason.”
The decision making process begins between Purritano and the Reds organization begins in mid-July.