Instead of joining the ranks of Division I student-athletes, Curran got a call that has sent him down a different path, one with the Baltimore Orioles.
Curran, a 6-foot-6, 240-pound slugging first baseman, was selected in the eighth round of this year’s Major League Baseball Draft.
“I was speechless, but I just wanted to take in the moment and take it all in. I didn’t have any words to say,” Curran said. “I was at my house with a couple of friends and my parents. They were yelling and going crazy.”
Though as of press time, Curran has not signed a contract, he said he expects to travel to Baltimore to do so soon. Curran participated in pre-draft workouts with the Orioles and said he felt at home right away.
“As soon as I left, I told my mom and dad that I want to be an Oriole,” he said. “I loved the city. Hopefully one day I’ll be able to play there every day.”
His four years with Agawam, as well as other travel teams, were challenging but “everyone was just having fun,” he said. His next step will be challenging in a different way, one that will push him to grow as a player whose heavy hitting made him known in the area. He said he would be working on becoming a “fundamentally sound player” on first base.
Curran said he is nervous about reaching the next level of his baseball career but excited to work with players who all have a common goal.
“Once you play professionally, you have one goal, and I think everyone works to reach that goal,” he said. “I’ll need to put in extra effort against better talent, but if you have a lot of guys going towards the same goal, besides a championship, making each other better, it will be great.”
Curran will be joining the Gulf Coast League Orioles in Sarasota, FL. For now though, Curran said he wants to spend his time before reporting to camp like any other teenager – enjoying the summer and hanging out with friends. He plans to cherish every wild second of the journey.
“It’s been crazy. I’m just going to ride the wave,” Curran said.
Frank Crinella, a former Cathedral High School standout and East Longmeadow resident, also trained at the Palmer-based facility and was leaving after a workout, bound for his grandmother’s house, when he found out he too had been drafted by the Orioles. He was taken in the 39th round.
“Within five minutes of being in the car, I got the call,” Crinella said. “I was with my brother and I just looked at him and said, ‘Hey, I think I just got drafted’ and we both just went crazy.”
Like Curran, Crinella said he was regularly in contact with the Baltimore organization, one that has deep New England and Western Massachusetts roots. In addition to General Manager Dan Duquette being a Western Massachusetts native from Dalton, the team’s New England scout Kirk Fredriksson has been involved in area baseball for many years and was a key player in the New England Collegiate Baseball League, including a stint as general manager with the local nine, the Valley Blue Sox.
“They were one of the teams I talked to quite often,” Crinella said. “Kirk was at a lot of my games when I was with the Valley Blue Sox and he followed me and saw some of my Merrimack games, so I was hoping they would pick me up. We were in contact often before the draft.”
Baltimore certainly had plenty to be interested in. A junior at Merrimack College, Crinella accumulated a career batting average of .354 with an on base plus slugging percentage of .950. As a sophomore in 2013, he led the Northeast-10 in seven categories with a .401 average, .493 on-base percentage (OBP), .651 slugging percentage, 40 runs batted in (RBI), 53 runs, six triples and 112 total bases.
While initially unsure about his future and admitting he thought he would be drafted higher, Crinella ultimately decided to forgo his senior season. His decision was one not taken lightly, he said, explaining he took input from not only his parents, but also Fatse and Nick Ahmed, another East Longmeadow native now playing in the Major Leagues with the Arizona Diamondbacks.
“I just had a great support group in my corner [including] my coaches along the way. They all guided me in the right direction and I couldn’t have done it without their help,” he said.
After starting off playing freshman baseball at East Longmeadow, Crinella made the decision to transfer to Cathedral to play under coach Pat Moriarty.
“Ultimately, that was the best decision I’ve ever made,” Crinella said.
Crinella credited Moriarty and Fatse for laying the foundation for his success, which continued at Merrimack under coaches Jim Martin and Nick Barese.
“Without those guys in my life, along with my father and my mother, I’m not where I am today,” he said.
Crinella and Barese both pointed to one thing that has helped separate him from others throughout his career – “never taking a rep off.”
“It’s coming to the field early, putting in the work, never taking a rep off,” Crinella said.
Barese said Crinella’s work ethic extended beyond the field, saying, “Frank has been a great part of the Merrimack Baseball program, both on and off the field. His devotion to working in the community, the classroom, and on the diamond is something to be admired. From the time Frank entered into the program, he exemplified what we wanted form our players.
“He is one of the hardest working kids I have ever coached, has high character, and is a tremendous teammate. He holds himself to such a high standard, and wants to help those around him achieve the same success. To see his approach every day, especially on the baseball field was fun to watch. He was the type of player to never take a rep off, and was always competing,” Barese continued.
Playing primarily third base with the Warriors, the 5-foot-11, 170-pound Crinella was drafted as a utility player.
Play another position? No problem, says Crinella.
“Anything to get my bat in the lineup.”
Western Massachusetts’ pro baseball pedigree also extends to Wilbraham, where Patrick Mazeika learned at his home with his father Joe and girlfriend that he had been taken in the eighth round.
Mazeika, 6-foot-3, 220-pound a catcher and first baseman, attended high school at the Salisbury School in Connecticut, where he was Western New England Prep Baseball League Player of the Year twice and four-time league All Star. He helped the Knights to a 33-0 season in 2012 that culminated with the WNEPBL championship.
“My time at Salisbury really helped me grow as an athlete from playing three sports when I was there. I was able to get better in the best facilities in New England and really had a great experience there,” he said. “Stetson was where I focused strictly on baseball and was able to continue to play against great competition for my three years there.”
Mazeika led the Hatters with 53 RBI in his junior season. As a sophomore, he was first among Stetson batters in hits (73), runs (42) and OBP (.479). As a freshman, by far his best year, he was the team leader in batting average (.354), hits (81), RBI (33), slugging (.495) and OBP (.488).
His on-base percentage that season was also tops in the Atlantic Sun Conference and he garnered a host of accolades including Baseball America Freshman All-America first team, Collegiate Baseball Louisville Slugger Freshman All-American, NCBWA Freshman All-America first team and Atlantic Sun Conference Freshman of the Year, All-Conference first team and All-Freshman.
He will report to the Mets’ Rookie League affiliate in Kingsport, TN.