July 13, 2023 10:03 am | by Amanda Foster
The MLB Draft is a time of excitement, stress, suspense and — at the end of the day — waiting around for a phone call. It’s a chance for baseball players to achieve their dream of getting the chance to play on the biggest stage, and when that dream comes true it becomes clear how much time and effort was put into the journey.
The four 2023 Wareham Gatemen pitchers that were chosen in this year’s draft are perfect examples of the hard work and perseverance necessary to reach the next level. Coleman Picard (Bryant), Mark Manfredi (Dayton), Brett Wichrowski (Bryant) and Tommy Kane (Maryland) were all well into their college careers before their names were called, each working past various injuries and obstacles to get where they are today.
The Cape Cod Baseball League was the perfect place to show scouts exactly what they were capable of one last time.
“100% I think this definitely played a role in me getting drafted,” Kane said. “Because I didn’t get to lay it all out on the line the last couple of weeks (of college), especially during playoffs. So I think I owe a lot to this league to be able to come up here and get drafted.”
Kane, who pitched for Maryland in the 2023 season, pitched for 28.1 innings with a 7.31 ERA and 29 strikeouts to his name before sustaining an injury and sitting out the final five weeks of the season. During his short time with the Gatemen, Kane was able to “show off” for scouts a bit more. So while he only pitched 5.1 innings, his nine strikeouts and four earned runs in 34 batters faced certainly caught the eye of the San Francisco Giants, who selected Kane in the 19th round of the draft.
Kane was the only Gateman still with the team in Wareham when he got the phone call, and as soon as he picked up the phone everyone around him knew what was happening. He knew too, and it couldn’t have been any more of a relief.
Teams had contacted Kane earlier in the day about drafting him, but ultimately all he could do was wait.
“I was planning on getting something, not sure exactly which round that was going to be,” he said. “Watching the rounds go by throughout the day while we were here at the field was kind of bittersweet.”
The other three Gatemen pitchers heard their names called back at home, and were congratulated by their summer ball teammates from afar. Picard was the first to go, taken in the sixth round of the draft by the Kansas City Royals. The righty hurler had a highly effective stint with the Gatemen, posting a 1.93 ERA, 13 strikeouts and three earned runs in 14 innings of work.
After Picard’s final start with the Gatemen, manager Ryan Smyth said if Picard wasn’t drafted it would be the biggest surprise he’s ever had and teams would be foolish not to take him. The Royals are no fools, however, and in selecting Picard they also made history for Smyth himself.
Picard, Manfredi, Wichrowski and Kane are the first players to get drafted underneath Smyth while he was a head coach. As an assistant coach at Keystone, and former assistant coach with the Brewster Whitecaps, Smyth saw many players move to the next level. But it means a little more when he can say he was their head coach.
“It’s got a little different feeling to it when you’ve actually managed them, maybe you’ve helped them in the slightest way get there,” Smyth said. “Giving guys opportunities to come out here and showcase what they have and increase their stock, it’s just special.”
Manfredi, who was selected as the 272nd overall pick in the ninth round by the Milwaukee Brewers, dealt with a torn UCL and Tommy John surgery in 2021. He worked through the hardship, committed himself and had a stellar senior year at Dayton University, totalling 96 strikeouts for 66th best in the nation.
The scouts already knew who Manfredi was, but his time in the Cape League further cemented the idea that he was top-level material. In three starts and 13 total innings pitched he struck out 16 batters while only walking four.
Manfredi got to experience the best of the Cape League while was with Wareham; team chemistry, big wins and good coaching defined his time as a Gateman. He also learned things about himself that will help him for years to come.
“When I pitch my game, and when I’m conscious of it, it really goes well,” Manfredi said. “And then when I stray away from that or almost dial it back a bit, that’s when stuff starts not going my way.”
A few rounds later, Wichrowski joined Manfredi as the second 2023 Gateman to head to the Brewers, chosen in the 13th round as the 392nd overall pick. Wichrowski also became the second Bryant Bulldog and Wareham Gatemen to be selected, joining former college teammate Picard in that very small category.
During his time with the Gatemen, Wichrowski threw 11.2 innings of work with a 10:2 strikeout-to-walk ratio.
These four pitchers will join the long list of Gatemen to reach the next level, and they’ll do it knowing their hard work finally paid off and, in the process, they were able to create something new and special for their summer ball manager.
“Hearing the feedback (about the player’ time in Wareham), that’s what this is all about,” Smyth said.