Last June, after watching the 50-round Major League Baseball draft pick-by-pick on the computer with his father, junior pitcher Joe D’Alessandro was ecstatic to find himself drafted in the 23rd round by the New York Mets.
“It was really great; my dad was so proud of me,” D’Alessandro said. “I knew the scouts were looking at me since I had been throwing good, but I didn’t know which round I would go. I was excited to be No. 689 in the 23rd because that is better than the other half of drafted players.”
After celebrating with his friends, D’Alessandro began to focus on his new career with the class A affiliate of the Mets, the Brooklyn Cyclones. His obvious goal is to make it to Major League Baseball, but D’Alessandro also set some personal goals for himself while he owns the mound in Brooklyn.
D’Alessandro stressed first pitch strikes as an important concentration of his.
“When you get the first pitch to be a strike, you are ahead of the batter and the control is all yours; it is a pretty big deal,” D’Alessandro said.
The young pitcher also plans to take each game pitch by pitch and to make one full season with a single A team.
According to D’Alessandro, he is now ranked in the top 10 of the 150 power pitchers (pitchers who throw 92 miles per hour or above) in the league. D’Alessandro agreed that with all of these pitchers it is easy to be intimidated, but he noted that the one way to overcome the intimidation is to be prepared and have confidence in that preparation.
“Joe has good velocity and he has developed a good slider over the years,” Lions head baseball coach Rick Dell said. “It is a long hard road like any job, a competitive job, and I would like to see him stay healthy and I think if he does that, then he can be successful.”
While attending Glassboro High School, D’Alessandro played mostly third base and only pitched a few innings here and there. After spending his first semester at North Carolina State University, D’Alessandro realized the best chance he had to play for them would be to pitch. Fortunately for the Lions, NC State had too many scholarship players to worry about, so D’Alessandro pursued pitching at the College.
“Coach Dell had a lot to offer me with a lot of experience – he really kick-started my career,” D’Alessandro said.
“Joe has just begun to tap his potential as a pitcher and is still learning,” junior catcher Gerard Haran said. “He got control of his slider and went from having just a fastball to being a pitcher who could throw three pitches for strikes. He has a great work ethic – after practices when other guys would go home, Joe would go to the weight room and continue to work.”
Haran, an All-American last year, has what he describes as a love-hate relationship with D’Alessandro on the field. While having a small part in D’Alessandro’s success from a mental standpoint, since he called which pitches to throw as D’Alessandro’s teammate last year, Haran remarked that maturity is key in working with a catcher and that D’Alessandro is all maturity.
Last season with the Lions, D’Alessandro finished with 88 strikeouts in 70.1 innings while only allowing 23 walks. He also had a 7-1 record with a 2.69 era and batters averaged a mere .204 against him.
With the Cyclones, D’Alessandro pitched sparingly in about 25 innings last season, since he was coming off of his 78-inning season with the Lions. However, he expects to pitch a lot more this upcoming year.
“This time last year Joe was not our go-to guy, but during the year he made the slow process of developing with decent velocity and good sound mechanics, and now his slider may even be his best pitch,” Dell said.
D’Alessandro, a key to the Lions’ success last year, hopes to develop even more as a pitcher to further his career with the Cyclones and perhaps eventually with the Mets.
The Cyclones’ season does not begin until June 20, but D’Alessandro has already begun his spring training and now awaits what may be the beginning of a successful career in baseball.