Brock Till ’03, lookouts.com
Brandon Magee ’06, www.dunedinbluejays.com
Joe Napoli '60, hagerstownsuns.com
Majoring in the Minors
No matter the level of play, no matter the major league affiliate, and no matter the position played, the goal for every former Bradley baseball player—and everyone in the minors for that matter—is to make the Major Leagues.
Brock Till ’03, Brandon Magee ’06, and Joe Napoli Jr. ’06 are former Braves trying to follow the path of Brian Shouse ‘90, a Major League veteran who began the 2007 season, his sixth consecutive and eighth overall, with the Milwaukee Brewers.
Till is in his first full season with the Class AA Chattanooga Lookouts (Cincinnati Reds) of the Southern League after earning a call-up last season. He spent three years in Class A and said he can notice a big difference between Class A and Class AA. “It’s more about the consistency of the players,” said Till, who noted that some players from Class AA are called up straight to the Majors, a rarity for Class A players. Till was expected to be the closer this season for the Lookouts, but elbow problems put him on the disabled list early in the season.
Till said his college experience at Bradley was vital, since he was able to pitch every series against top competition in the Missouri Valley Conference. He had his share of setbacks in college, which prepared him for the life of a minor league player.
Magee, a pitcher for the high Class A Dunedin Blue Jays (Toronto Blue Jays), of the Florida State League, began this season as the seventh-best prospect in the Toronto farm system, according to Baseball America. After a stellar pro debut in 2006 for Auburn in the New York-Penn League, Magee started 2007 with a 3-1 record and a 3.10 ERA in 11 starts for Auburn. “I try not to look at it as more pressure. It is nice to be considered in that way. But it comes down to what I can do on the field,” he said.
Magee was a closer early on at Bradley. He later became a starter and ended up with 260 career strikeouts, one shy of the school mark. He was drafted in the fourth round by Toronto in 2006. “It is nice to get up every morning and go to the park and not go to a regular job,” said Magee, who is about one semester shy of a communications degree.
While Magee was a high draft pick, which means he will be given every chance to rise up the ladder, Napoli was taken in the 50th round by the Texas Rangers in 2005. Napoli is an infielder/outfielder for low Class A Hagerstown (Washington Nationals) in the South Atlantic League, home to some of the longest bus trips in minor league baseball.
“College is good preparation for the minors,” said Napoli, whose team plays 140 games in the regular season. “But I don’t think anyone realizes how long it is; it is a long season. The bus rides are long. You play every single day. You are done with a night game at 11 and you are in another state the next day.”
The son of former BU star Joe Napoli '60, Bradley’s all-time batting average leader, the younger Napoli began this season living with seven other players at a house in Hagerstown. Home is about seven minutes from the Suns’ home at Municipal Stadium, where Hall of Famer Willie Mays played his first minor league game after starting his career in the Negro Leagues.
Editor’s note: David Driver, a freelance writer from Maryland, has written about minor league baseball and its players for 15 years. He has contributed to Baseball America and other publications.