Haran piles up sixth Player of the Year award

Senior catcher Gerard Haran accepted his College Baseball Player of the Year award at the 71st Annual New Jersey Sports Writers Association Banquet on Jan. 28, receiving a round of applause from an audience that included the New York Mets’ Carlos Delgado, Willie Randolph and Omar Minaya, along with other collegiate and professional sports notables.

“An individual honor is great, but in all honesty it doesn’t compare to winning a national championship,” Haran said, craving the NCAA Division III Championship that eluded the College last year after losing in the regionals. “Even though it’s an individual award, a lot of it has to do with the great people around me.”

For Haran, a team concept and winning the national championship is everything.

“If I do my job and the guys on the team do their job, we’ll win a national championship,” he said. “The individual things will take care of (themselves).”

Haran is Baseball America’s best prospect for position players and third best player overall for Division III schools.

Last year, with a .415 batting average, 14 home runs, 64 RBIs, 64 runs, 71 hits and a .807 slugging percentage, Haran became the first Lions player to earn an American Baseball Coaches Association (ABCA)-Rawlings NCAA Division III National Player of the Year honor.

Haran also collected Player of the Year honors from the New Jersey Athletic Conference (NJAC), New Jersey Collegiate Baseball Association, Eastern College Athletic Conference and the ABCA Atlantic Region. He also won the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association NCAA Division III “Position Player of the Year” award.

For his career, Haran has a .385 batting average with 170 hits, 139 runs scored, 45 doubles, 35 home runs, 162 RBIs and a .735 career slugging percentage in 121 games played over three seasons. The Lions slugger holds school records for the most single-season home runs (15), RBIs (74) and career home runs (35).

During the summer of 2006, the Old Bridge native played for the New Market Rebels in the Valley Baseball League and earned all-league honors as the only Division III player among the league’s 16 all-stars.

With these credentials, Haran looks to follow the footsteps of former Lions center fielder and current Milwaukee Brewers minor leaguer Charlie Iacono and pursue a career in professional baseball. But that is not his priority for the 2007 season.

“I’m not focusing on that. If it happens it happens,” Haran said about playing professional baseball in the future. “I’m mainly focusing on this coming season and winning a national championship.”

Haran’s constant domination over Division III pitchers has led people to ask, “Why choose (the College) out of all the possible Division I and II baseball schools?”

“Coach (Rick) Dell was the only coach that made it seem like he wanted me to play,” Haran said. “It’s not fun playing on the bench. You go to a Division I school and you sit there for two years. I’m fortunate enough to come here and meet a lot of good people and play baseball.”

Haran feels that the NJAC is a tough division and said the College’s baseball team could compete with many Division I and II schools.

“You could put us in one of those conferences. We wouldn’t necessarily win the conference, but we wouldn’t embarrass ourselves,” Haran said about the current Lions team. “We could compete on any level in the Northeast. I believe that from the bottom of my heart.”

From the bottom of his heart, Haran made a speech that grabbed the attention of the entire banquet, especially Minaya, the Mets general manager.

Minaya discussed that the Mets organization focuses on character when it selects players for the team, and he guaranteed that an area scout would evaluate the senior prospect.

After the awards banquet was over, fans crowded Haran seeking photographs and autographs.

Maybe he will get used to this, maybe not. For now, he just wants a national championship.