"It's like Christmas, except it's warmer." - Pete Rose on baseball's Opening Day
It's that time of year again. The day when hope springs eternal for baseball fans across the country and anything seems possible, even for a Pittsburgh Pirates fan like me.
As Opening Day gets underway Monday, four players with North Jersey ties will suit up and don uniforms for major league teams.
Another 20 will start their professional seasons in the minors, with the dream of some day making it to — or, in some cases, back to — The Show.
All four North Jerseyans breaking camp with major league teams in 2013 are pitchers.
Detroit Tigers starter Rick Porcello, a former first-round pick who made his major league debut at the ripe age of 20, is the best known of the bunch. The 24-year-old Morristown native who grew up in Chester and attended bona fide high school baseball factory Seton Hall Prep is slated to be the Tigers' No. 3 starter this year, according to the team's website.
Jason Grilli, who grew up in New York but attended Seton Hall University, will open the 2013 season as the Pittsburgh Pirates' closer. After bouncing around the league with five teams in 10 seasons, Grilli revived his career with Pittsburgh in 2011 and 2012. The 36-year-old will get a shot to close games for the first time in his career in 2013, having earned manager Clint Hurdle's confidence as a reliable late inning reliever the past two seasons.
Chicago White Sox swingman Hector Santiago, a Bloomfield Tech High School product, just missed out on the team's fifth starter spot out of spring training. The 25-year-old pride of Newark will start the season in long relief, where he's historically racked up a gaudy number of strikeouts.
Frank Herrmann, a 28-year-old Montclair Kimberley Academy grad who has spent parts of three seasons with the Cleveland Indians, will begin 2013 in the Tribe's bullpen. Herrmann, a scholar-athlete who graduated from Harvard with an economics degree, has taken an unlikely path to the pros. He went undrafted out of college, but signed with the Indians in 2006, and has remained with the organization his entire professional career. Herrmann made a gradual climb up the minor league rungs until June 2010, when the Rutherford native made his big league debut.
Other North Jersey natives who have pitched in the majors, but will begin 2013 in the minor leagues include Seton Hall Prep's Joe Martinez (Cleveland Indians), Rutherford's Vin Mazzaro (Pittsburgh Pirates), Pascack Valley's Rob Delaney (Baltimore Orioles) and Hackettstown's Cole Kimball (Washington Nationals).
Check out the map
To view more information on all 24 of the rostered professional baseball players and five professional free agents with North Jersey ties, click on the interactive map above. Each player is represented by a red pin attached to the North Jersey high school or university he attended.
Seton Hall University has the most current professional baseball players with six, followed by Seton Hall Prep with five, Don Bosco Prep with four, and St. Joseph (Montvale), Rutherford and Hackettstown each with two.
Fair Lawn Native Keeps Dream Alive
Pat Lehman, a 2005 Fair Lawn High School graduate, will begin the 2013 season with the Washington Nationals' Double-A affiliate, despite a solid year in Triple-A last year. The former Cutters ace, who went on to star at George Washigton University and was taken by the Nats in the 13th round of the 2009 amateur draft, will pitch out of the bullpen.