Jewish baseball pick chooses Princeton over major leagues

Jewish baseball pick chooses Princeton over major leagues

The Major League Baseball Draft is unlike any other of the major sports. Sure, we’ve got the TV coverage for the first round and plenty of online coverage to read.
But MLB’s draft is a three-day, 50round marathon. After the excitement of the live television event, it becomes a conference call, with rapid-fire picks. Even to those who cover the Draft, as I do for, it can drone on and on, a sea of names that don’t stand out as the hours roll on.
But then, it happened. It was late on Wednesday afternoon, as the Draft was in the homestretch. I’m about as big a draft geek as there is, but even I kind of tune out a little by Round 45. But when I heard the words “…out of San Diego Jewish Academy…,” I came to full attention. It was as if my spider senses were tingling, if Spiderman’s sole mission was to find out who the Jewish athletes out there were.
The player taken by the Padres, right out of their neighborhood, was Michael Fagan. In a perfect world, he’d be speedy outfielder with base-stealing potential so I could make some kind of Oliver Twist reference, but alas, this Fagan is a left-handed pitcher. But he was a pretty good one, at least by SDJA standards.
He set a school record this season with 103 strikeouts in just over 45 innings this season. Could some of that have to do with the level of competition? Of course. But clearly the Padres saw enough in his raw ability to take him, even if it was in the closing rounds.
“We have had a few people go out and see [Fagan] pitch, and he’s definitely an interesting kid,” Padres scouting director Jaron Madison said. “He’s looking forward to starting a pro career — not sure if that’s going to happen before or after he goes to college. My money would say he’s probably going to go to Princeton, which is a good thing, because not very many people can get into Princeton.”
Madison is on the money. Fagan’s got the ol’ priorities in order. If he were a first-round pick, while I’m all for furthering one’s education, I’m also for saying a degree can be obtained later in life, or during the offseason. In the case of Fagan, college is indeed coming first. As the San Diego Jewish Academy’s website proudly proclaimed, “Choosing the path of wisdom over fame, Michael has decided to delay his professional career and attend Princeton University in the fall.”
The fame can wait. Besides, Princeton has a pretty darn good baseball program. Former big-league catcher Scott Bradley has been at the helm for more than a dozen years and the Tigers have had several pros come from their ranks. Two even have Pittsburgh ties. Pitcher Chris Young has had injury problems, but Pirates fans may remember him as the A-level pitcher they traded away who went on to have some success in Texas and San Diego. And, of course, current Pirates starter Ross Ohlendorf played his college ball there.
So who knows what the future has in store for Fagan. Perhaps he’ll follow in Young and Ohlendorf’s footsteps and come out of Princeton three years from now as a legitimate pro prosect. Maybe he’ll be a decent Ivy League competitor and nothing more. More than anything, he’s a Jewish pitcher who should walk away from a prestigious university with a degree.
And that, truthfully, should be enough for all of us.
(Jonathan Mayo, the Chronicle’s sports columnist and a staff writer for can be reached at