Nov. 9, 2007
The JU baseball program will be celebrating its 50th year as a Division I institution in 2007. Not only has the program enjoyed great success with 12 NCAA Regional appearances, including back-to-back trips in the past two seasons, but several Dolphins have continued their careers at the next level, and are enjoying great success.
As the 2007 season comes to a close, 13 former Dolphins competed at the professional level. The lone Dolphin to currently sit at the Major League level, pitcher Juan Padilla (1997-98), sat out the season due to a shoulder injury.
Among the Dolphins playing at the minor league level, third baseman Daniel Murphy (2004-06), first baseman Gordie Gronkowski (2003-06) and outfielder Pete Clifford (2003-07) made the most noise this past year. Murphy, who completed his first season with the St. Lucie Mets (A), earned the Sterling Award (team MVP) after . In recognition of his honor, he was sent to Shea Stadium where he had his named announced and his accomplishments during a Mets home game.
"The year went really well for me," said Murphy. "It was kind of trial by fire but the Mets gave me an opportunity. Getting the team MVP award and being a part of the home game presentation was a pretty cool experience." With his success, Murphy hopes to prepare himself for a jump to AA when he completes the fall season in Hawaii.
"The coaches told me I have a good chance of moving up to AA next season and they were impressed with my progress at third base," Murphy said. "I'll be in Hawaii for two months which will give me a chance for more playing time and I'll get an extra 150 at-bats."
Gronkowski, who played with the Orem Owlz (Rookie - Los Angeles Angels) in Utah, enjoyed a stellar season after hitting .344 with 86 hits, 19 doubles, eight home runs, 50 RBI and a .527 slugging percentage to lead the Owlz to a 2007 Pioneer League title. He also earned conference "Player of the Week" honors after going 4-for-5 with a home run and a career-high six RBI against Idaho Falls on June 28 and was featured in an article on FutureAngels.com.
"This was my first full season playing professional baseball and I have to tell you, I wish everyone could have this experience," said Gronkowski, who had been hindered by a back injury. "I had been a part of two NCAA teams at JU but winning the conference championship this year was an experience most people won't ever get to feel. If you are someone who puts a lot of time in preparing and getting yourself ready for a season, and you accomplish great success, that's when the game becomes fun."
Clifford, who finished his first season with the Missoula Osprey (Rookie - Arizona Diamondbacks), also enjoyed a solid season by hitting .280 with 63 hits, 12 doubles, two triples, 10 home runs, 40 RBI and a .502 slugging percentage.
Other Dolphins currently in the minor league system are pitcher Chris Kelly (2002-04) - Tampa Bay Devil Rays (A), catcher Alex Jamieson (2002-05) - Tampa Bay Devil Rays (A) and pitcher Neal Frontz (2005) - Tampa Bay Devil Rays (A).
Pitcher Dennis Robinson (2003-04), infielder B.J. Weed (2001-02), pitcher Hunter Davis (2005), first baseman Ryan McArdle (2007) and pitcher Justin Young (2003-07) each completed their seasons at the Independent level but Robinson and Davis are close to signing with Major League ball clubs. With so many Dolphins enjoying success at the next level, the program is seeing the effects at home as they hit the recruiting trail in search of the next student-athlete to follow in their footsteps.