The Wyoming Valley Conference continues its rise as a developer of baseball talent.
Right on the heels of Tunkhannock grad Mike Papi’s first-day draft selection, the WVC landed another alum in the draft field. Crestwood grad Matt Wotherspoon was taken by the New York Yankees in the 34th round of the MLB draft on Saturday.
“It was a nerve-wracking day, to say the least,” Wotherspoon said. “But it’s exciting. It’s a privilege to be part of the Yankees organization. I can’t thank them enough for giving me this opportunity.”
It’s the second straight year that Wotherspoon, a pitcher at the University of Pittsburgh the past four seasons, was drafted. The former Comets standout went in the 20th round in 2013 to the Detroit Tigers before electing to return to Pitt for his senior season.
Up next is a trip down to the Yankees facility in Tampa for a brief mini-camp before returning back to the Northeast, possibly playing nearby in the New York-Penn League for the Staten Island Yankees.
With games in Williamsport and State College, it would be easy for friends and family to keep seeing him play. And, obviously, rising through the ranks in the system could mean a chance to play for the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders in the future.
“Matt’s represented his family name, Crestwood and now Pittsburgh in such a way that everyone you talk to from all those places knows he’s someone who’s very, very easy to root for,” said Mark Modrovsky, Wotherspoon’s former coach with the Comets.
Helping him make the transition to the pros will be long-time Pitt teammate and fellow pitcher Joe Harvey, who was also drafted by the Yankees on Saturday.
Harvey sent Wotherspoon a “congratulations, see you soon” text Saturday as the two are set to be reunited.
“I’ll tell you what, I’m so excited that I have a good buddy of mine in the same organization,” Wotherspoon said. “It’s going to be nice to have a familiar face there.”
With his selection, Wotherspoon becomes the fourth WVC player who has been drafted from Pitt in the past seven years. Coughlin’s Ray Black (seventh round, 2011), Coughlin’s Chris Sedon (10th round, 2009) and Hazleton Area’s Kyle Landis (18th round, 2007) were all successful in college for the Panthers.
Wotherspoon and Papi have both now been drafted twice. Papi was taken by the Cleveland Indians 38th overall on Thursday — just four picks outside of the first round — after being a 30th-round choice back in 2011 out of Tunkhannock.
Add in Hazleton Area’s Justin Gutsie (14th round, 2008), Pittston Area’s Paul Chmiel (22nd round, 2005) and Hazleton Area’s Russ Canzler (30th round, 2004) — a current member of the RailRiders — and the area has seen an uptick in players joining the draft ranks in the past decade.
Papi is the third highest WVC alum to be selected since the first-year player draft began in 1965. Lake-Lehman’s Johnny Oliver went 25th overall in the 1996 first round and Wyoming Seminary’s Mark Ambrose (via Vanderbilt) was the No. 34 pick in the second round of the 1986 draft.
Expanding to all of District 2, the region also can claim a top-10 overall pick in Abington Heights alum Cory Spangenberg, who was taken 10th in that 2011 draft.
Papi was batting third for Virginia in Saturday’s Super Regional opener, going 3-for-3 with a walk and an RBI. Right behind him in the order was Scranton grad Joe McCarthy, a sophomore who will be on the radar for next year’s draft.
“There’s some serious talent in Northeast Pa.,” Modrovsky said. “You look at Virginia and they could have a starting outfield all from Pennsylvania. It shows we have some real baseball ability here.”