It is the dream of every young baseball player to one day get the chance to play professionally, but it becomes reality for so few.
That’s why Mike Augliera felt like he was watching his dream come true when he saw his name pop up on the computer screen on June 5. Surrounded by his family and friends, the right-handed starting pitcher, who graduated from Binghamton University less than a month before, had just been selected by the Boston Red Sox in the fifth round of Major League Baseball’s First-Year Player Draft. Exceeding some expectations, including his own, Augliera became the highest-ever draft pick out of his alma mater.
“Going into the draft I thought maybe I … had a good chance of going on Tuesday [the draft’s second day], I just didn’t know when, what round exactly,” Augliera said. “But to get drafted in the fifth round, I was pretty surprised, to be honest, and I couldn’t be happier.”
Augliera’s collegiate career, and specifically his stellar senior season, should have left little room for surprise at how early he was selected. Binghamton’s all-time leader in wins, Augliera sat atop the America East Conference in strikeouts in 2012 and finished second all-time in the category in Binghamton’s program history. He ranked among the nation’s top-10 in complete games, walks allowed per game and WHIP. Most impressive of all, however, Augliera led the nation with a strikeout-to-walk ratio of 83 strikeouts to just seven walks.
But there was a time not long ago when it seemed Augliera would not be a part of the handful that gets to see their dream come true. According to Binghamton head coach Tim Sinicki, Augliera was not highly recruited out of high school, with just a few Division I schools having pursued him. When Augliera joined Binghamton, there was still a lot of work to be done.
“When Mike came into Binghamton, he had a body type that could go one way or the other,” Sinicki said. “And what I mean by that is if Mike didn’t really take care of himself, he had the body type that he could’ve kind of gotten a little bit out of shape and consequently not given himself a chance to develop the way he did. But Mike went the reverse.”
According to Sinicki, Augliera put in a lot of hard work in the weight room and carefully watched his diet.
“[He] worked hard to make sure to turn his body into something that was [going to] give him an opportunity to develop his skills,” Sinicki said. “His body really … morphed into something that it really wasn’t when he came into Binghamton.”
As a consequence, Augliera’s velocity rose. Powered by a fastball in the low to mid 90’s, his senior year performance garnered the attention of more than 20 Major League teams — no small feat for a player from a school with a relatively small blip on the Major League Baseball radar. Barely more than a decade old, Binghamton University Division I baseball program has produced only one Major Leaguer thus far: Minnesota Twins pitcher Scott Diamond. But thanks to players like Diamond and Augliera, Binghamton’s blip is growing.
“It helps out our program, obviously, because now we can tell a kid that, you know, you come here and you work hard, you don’t have to go to school in Florida or Arizona to get a chance at professional baseball,” Sinicki said. “We’re getting guys drafted, and of course recruits like to hear that as well.”
According to Augliera, coming from a more low-profile kind of baseball program only made his selection in the fifth round all the more sweet.
“That’s something I’ve always taken pride in, playing for Binghamton,” Augliera said. “A guy like Scott Diamond has already set a high benchmark of what a Binghamton baseball player can become and that’s something I’d love to strive for.”
Binghamton University reliever Lee Sosa, who finished his junior year this past May, was also selected in this year’s draft, going in the 26th round to the Oakland Athletics. Sosa’s selection marked the first time in over 20 years that BU has had two draft picks in the same year.
Sosa said that he felt Binghamton’s relatively low profile made getting drafted more difficult, but that “it was just like another obstacle you had to … overcome, I guess.”
“I felt like my dream actually came true because I felt that all my hard work finally paid off,” he said.
Sosa recorded a conference-best 10 saves in 2012 and finished the regular season with a 1.06 ERA and 18 strikeouts in 18 innings of work. He is currently playing rookie ball for the organization in Arizona and said he plans to remain with the team, not returning for what would be his senior year at BU in 2013.
Augliera, meanwhile, is currently stationed in Lowell, Massachusetts, playing for the Red Sox short-season Class-A farm team, the Lowell Spinners. In two outings and four innings pitched, he has given up four earned runs, but has continued to impress with his strikeout to walk ratio, recording five strikeouts while walking none.
Despite growing up in New Jersey as a New York Yankees fan, Augliera expressed excitement in the opportunity to play for Boston.
“It’s definitely an honor to play for an organization like the Red Sox,” he said. “They’re a great franchise and they have been for a long time. There’s a lot of tradition here and I couldn’t be prouder or more wanting of myself to continue that tradition. Playing for such a great franchise like this has been a dream come true.”
But Augliera acknowledged that getting drafted is only part of the dream. Out of the 16 players drafted from Binghamton University over the last seven years, only Diamond has gone on to play in the Major Leagues.
But Augliera understands being on the wrong side of the odds. He’s been there before, and his plan for reaching the next step hasn’t changed.
“I hope to just keep working hard like I always have and hopefully one day make it to the big leagues,” Augliera said. “I hope to advance at a pretty good pace throughout the minor league system and obviously keep working hard and see where this gets me and see if I can reach the ultimate dream of every baseball player, which is to make it to the Majors.”