For Nick Ferdinand — just like many of his Bensalem neighbors — the Philadelphia Phillies are his team.
So when the Phillies picked him in the 35th round of the June Major League Draft and quickly extended a contract offer, it was a dream come true.
“I was drafted Saturday (June 8), flew down Tuesday, and signed Wednesday,” Ferdinand said in a phone interview from his hotel room in Clearwater, Fla. “There were no negotiations. I was so pumped up just to be offered this opportunity.”
The Archbishop Ryan High School and University of Delaware graduate was tabbed on the final day of the draft and, by that Tuesday, was at the Phillies Carpenter Complex for minor leaguers.
That was particularly interesting because the connections between the Phillies and Ferdinand extend to more than just that of fan and favorite team.
Ferdinand’s next-door neighbors on Woodsview Drive are Andrew and Rob Amaro, the nephews of Phillies’ general manager Ruben Amaro Jr.
Ferdinand’s college job was as an usher at Delaware’s Bob Carpenter Center, named for the former Phillies’ owner. Carpenter, in the 1960s, signed a slick-fielding shortstop named Ruben Amaro Sr., the current GM’s father.
Now Ferdinand, a power-hitting outfielder, has come full circle, working out every day at the Carpenter Complex, also named for the same man.
“It’s funny how that worked out,” he said. “There’s a long history of the Phillies and (University of) Delaware because the Carpenter family and Delaware’s program has been so good in baseball.
“I feel so fortunate to have been able to play at a school like Delaware, which really prepares its players to compete at the highest levels,” he continued. “I really feel I’ve come here ready to compete right away and that’s all I’ve ever asked for.”
Ferdinand’s work with the Blue Hens opened the eyes of major-league scouts. He’s coming off his best season, batting .362 in 54 starts, and he led the Colonial Athletic Association (CAA) with 15 home runs. He was third in the league in RBI with 63.
Ferdinand is believed to be only the second Archbishop Ryan graduate ever drafted. Dan Cataline was drafted after the 1980 high school season. Another Ryan grad, Tom Filer, was signed as a free agent by the New York Yankees in 1978. He had success as a major-league pitcher, going 7-0 with the Toronto Blue Jays in 1985.
Ferdinand also played football for the Raiders, becoming an All-Catholic wide receiver. But baseball was always his first love.
He tried to do both at Bloomsburg University during his freshman season, but decided he wanted to give baseball a shot at a higher level and transferred after his first year.
“It turned out to be a good decision,” he said. “I feel so prepared for the next level. (Delaware) Coach (Jim) Sherman, his whole philosophy is that he has that big-league mentality and that’s the way he approaches coaching. He wants you to strive for the highest level.”
Delaware had four players drafted this June, one short of the school record of five in 2007.
Ferdinand currently is practicing with the signed rookies and has been assigned to play for the short-season Class A Clearwater Gulf Coast Phillies.
“I’m very excited for Nick,” Sherman said. “All of his hard work paid off. He can hit for average, he can hit for power and he can run. Plus, he started out as a shortstop, so he’s got a great arm.”
Looking around the practice field the first week, Ferdinand feels his college experience gives him an edge.
“There are a lot of high school players here,” he said, “a lot of guys from the Dominican Republic and places like that, so there are more high school kids than the college guys.
“I’m not really worried about it,” he added. “I’m focused on how I try to do my job the best. All I can do now is to focus my energy that way. That’s the way I’ve kind of always approached it.”
So far, that approach has paid off.
“The Phillies’ scout (in the Mid-Atlantic Region), Paul Murphy, has been interested in me the past couple of years, so I had a feeling it would be the Phillies,” Ferdinand explained. “I had four teams interested — the Phillies, Detroit, the Royals and the Mets. I saw Ruben here and he congratulated me. That was cool because we’re kind of friendly.”
Occasionally, some Phillies stop by the complex on rehab assignments.
“It was funny, I was actually next to Roy Halladay yesterday,” Ferdinand said. “He kind of kept to himself. I didn’t try to talk to him. He’s in his own routine and I respect that.”
So, too, is Ferdinand, who knows that players drafted in later rounds often make it.
“What round I was drafted wasn’t a huge concern to me,” he said. “I mean, (former star Mets catcher and Norristown native) Mike Piazza was drafted in the 38th round.”
If Ferdinand’s path to the majors is as quick as Piazza’s, chances are the next contract negotiations might take a little longer than the most recent one. ••