Headed to the big times

Arch­bish­op Ry­an gradu­ate Nick Ferdin­and is draf­ted by the Phil­adelphia Phil­lies.

Picked by the pin­stripes: Nick Ferdin­and, shown here com­pet­ing for the Uni­versity of Delaware, was draf­ted by the Phil­adelphia Phil­lies in the 35th round of the June Ma­jor League Draft. PHOTO COUR­TESY UNI­VERSITY OF DELAWARE

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. ••

You can reach at mgibson@bsmphilly.com.

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