New York Yankees, Milwaukee Brewers sign former Western Nevada College players
Two Major League Baseball franchises, including the league’s most decorated team, have recently armed themselves with past Western Nevada College pitchers.
The New York Yankees, winners of 27 World Series titles, signed former Wildcat pitcher Cody Hamlin to a free-agent contract on June 23. More recently, the Milwaukee Brewers signed former WNC relief pitcher Evan Parker, and have not yet come to terms with Conor Harber, who starred for the Wildcats on the mound and in the outfield during the 2013-14 seasons.
A total of 25 Wildcat players have signed pro contracts in the 10-year history of WNC’s program. The two recent free-agent signings show what players can accomplish when they buy into a system and dedicate themselves to their craft, WNC baseball coach D.J. Whittemore said.
“Evan Parker and Cody Hamlin are two of the best feel-good American dream kind of stories our program has experienced in the last decade,” Whittemore said. “Evan Parker’s story from a small city in Utah to record-setting NCAA D2 closer for Dixie State, to pitching professionally for the Brewers is inspiring.”
After MLB teams didn’t call his name during the 40-round draft, Parker didn’t stop working out after his season with Dixie State ended in May.
“I was fortunate enough to get a call from the Brewers,” Parker said. “The call was certainly a surprise, but I feel ready, and I’m obviously very excited about it.”
Parker said several scouts had seen him pitch at Dixie State over the past two years and one in particular was very familiar with his consistent college career.
“I had close to 50 appearances at Dixie and they had scouting reports on me and video from each of the last two years, so the sample size and just kind of basing it off the numbers from the last two years, they felt pretty confident in knowing who I was,” Parker said. “I was fortunate and blessed enough for the Brewers to feel like I deserved a shot, and that’s all I wanted.”
Parker credited the WNC program for helping him reach his goals.
“WNC is the building blocks for not only baseball for me, but playing for coach ‘Whitt’ was the best decision I ever made,” Parker said. “From high school to college baseball, he certainly showed me the ropes.”`
In his two seasons at Dixie State University, Parker established himself as the top closer in the Pacific West Conference. As a senior, Parker recorded a record-tying 13 saves and pitched to a 2.45 earned run average. The control pitcher struck out 25 and walked just six.
The 6-foot-2, 180-pound Parker was even more dominant as a junior, setting the school record with 13 saves, registering a 1.54 ERA and limiting hitters to a .174 batting average against him.
In his final season with the Wildcats in 2013, Parker registered a team-low 1.53 ERA in 14 appearances.
“His success is all attributable to his work ethic and will,” Whittemore said. “He worked so incredibly hard behind the scenes that nobody truly knows what he has been through except for himself.
“He is such a great ambassador of what is possible through Wildcat baseball. We are grateful to Evan for his perseverance.”
In his only season in a Wildcat uniform in 2013, Hamlin became not only the team’s ace, but the region’s best pitcher. The Region 18 Pitcher of the Year won nine of 11 decisions and held opposing hitters to a 1.56 ERA. He struck out 70 and walked 10 in 81 innings.
“His 2013 season will go down as one of the finest in Wildcat history,” Whittemore said. “He deserves all of his success. He is self-driven. We couldn’t be prouder or happier than we are with his signing a contract to pitch for the Yankees.”
This past season, the right-handed pitcher with a sidearm delivery led the University of Arizona with six wins in 10 decisions. By far Arizona’s innings pitched leader at 102.2, Hamlin gave up only two homers while striking out 61 and walking 13. He also made two saves.
“At Arizona, he was almost equally impressive, leading the team in innings pitched and earning the Friday night starter’s job. Becoming one of the most consistent starters in all of the Pac-12 is remarkable,” Whittemore said.
Hamlin has already made two appearances for the Yankees in the Gulf Coast League, logging a 4.50 ERA with three strikeouts and no walks in two innings of relief. On Wednesday, he was made an active member of the Staten Island “Baby Bombers” of the New York-Penn League.
After being selected by the Orioles and Rays in previous drafts, Harber leaned toward signing with the Brewers when they chose him in the 16th round of the June 8-10 draft. Harber, however, indicated on Thursday that he hadn’t been offered a contract by the Brewers.
While playing for Whittemore in 2013 and 2014, Harber inflicted damage with his bat and right arm. He led the Wildcats in hitting both seasons and never lost a decision on the hill, finishing with a career mark of 8-0.
Used exclusively as a pitcher at the University of Oregon in 2015, Harber started the season as a reliever before making eight starts before season’s end. He won four games and fanned 59 batters in 55 2/3 innings.
“Conor really made some huge strides this year on the mound,” Whittemore said following the draft last month. “It isn’t surprising because he is such a competitor that he can elevate his game and play with the best. Couple that with great coaching and surround him with Pac-12 teammates, and it’s no wonder he increased his draft stock. The WNC program past and present are both proud of him and happy for him.”
Although Harber has yet to sign and Parker is awaiting his first relief appearance for the Brewers in the Arizona League, they could eventually find themselves on the same team again.
“It’s definitely cool that we are in the same organization together, and it would be awesome to be able to play with him again someday,” said Parker, who was on the 2013 WNC team with Harber.