Players from Catholic schools in St. Louis living their dream

Photo courtesy of the Vermont Lake Monsters
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Players from Catholic schools in the archdiocese were well represented at the Major League Baseball draft in June. The draft lasted three days, with 40 rounds and 1,215 selections, and three players from St. Louis Catholic schools were drafted.

Jake Burger was drafted 11th overall in the first round of the 2017 Major League draft by the Chicago White Sox. He was undrafted after attending Christian Brothers College High School and chose to attend Missouri State University, where he was a three-time All-American. This year, he hit .328 with 22 home runs and 65 RBIs.

Burger was assigned to the the Kannapolis Intimidators where he was hitting .356 with two home runs and 14 RBIs.

CBC coach Mason Horne praises Burger as a player and as a person. "He's just a great, great human being. In high school, he was Student Leadership Council president his senior year and was a great guy for younger students to look to, very humble, a natural leader," Horne said. "It an obvious testimony to Mike and Shannon, his parents, who did a phenomenal job of raising him."

What most impresses Horne is that "he has a lot of fun playing the game."

Brian Howard was picked in the eighth round by the Oakland A's, 231st overall. He was taken in the 17th round in last year's MLB Draft by the Houston Astros, but opted to come back to school for his senior season.

The St. Louis University High School graduate was 12-3 this year for Texas Christian University with a 3.77 earned run average following a 10-2 season in 2016 and 3.19 ERA, the first TCU player with consecutive 10-win seasons.

At the Big 12 tournament this year, Howard set a career high with 12 strikeouts in a complete-game shutout against Kansas, adding to his reputation for pitching his best when the stakes are the highest. He tied that career high with 12 strikeouts over seven innings of one-run ball in a 4-1 win against Texas A&M in the playoffs.

Howard got off to a fast start with the Vermont Lake Monsters in the New York-Pennsylvania League giving up just one earned run in his first five games. He has a 2.20 earned run average with 15 strikeouts and no walks.

Brian's mom, Denise Howard, reported that her son finds minor-league ball a lot different than at TCU where the facilities were top-notch and travel closer and involving flights to distant games. "The bus rides are probably the hardest. If you're 6-foot-9 and you have a 10-hour bus ride that starts at 10 at night, that's kinda tough," she said with a laugh. "True to form, he's making the best of it. He's always happy no matter what."

The 22-year-old pitcher likes his pitching coach and the help he's getting on perfecting his change-up, his mom said. He's a starter but is on a limited pitch count because he pitched so much in college this year. His faith life will help him, Denise said. His grandfather has had a health challenge, and Brian has been praying for and pulling for him. "It means a lot that he can go to his faith in times like that," she said.

At her parish, St. Raphael in south St. Louis, "we can't get out of church without someone telling us that they read something about Brian or they want to know how he's doing. They're really excited about it," Denise said.

The San Diego Padres took Christian Brothers College High School and Missouri State University grad Justin Paulsen in the 39th round (1,158th overall) on the final day of the 40-round amateur draft this year. Paulsen hit .322 with seven home runs and a career-high 49 RBIs with Missouri State earlier this year. He made his pro debut with the Padres' Rookie-level Arizona League club and is hitting .234 with nine RBIs so far. "He's just a good, old-fashioned ballplayer, a professional hitter," CBC Coach Mason Horne said.

Vinny Santarsiero, 23, is a righthanded pitcher who was told he'd never throw a baseball again after a high school motorcycle accident. He credits God for his fortune, and his profile on his Twitter account lists three Bible verses.

Fontbonne University keeps close tabs on the former Griffin pitcher, such as earlier this year when the school congratulated Santarsiero on his newest placement within the Los Angeles Dodgers organization. Santarsiero bypassed his final season of eligibility by signing a deal late last year with the major-league organization. The 6-foot-7 pitcher was originally placed with the Ogden Raptors, a rookie team in the Pioneer League. Santarsiero pitched 8.2 innings there for a 1-2 record with two saves. He struck out six batters with a 0.00 ERA and allowed just four hits. The 23-year-old was on the mound when the Raptors earned their division-clinching 14-13 win over Grand Junction.

In April, it was announced that the Florida native earned a spot on the Michigan-based Great Lakes Loons roster, a Class-A affiliate of the Dodgers.

Santarsiero said he's been having fun getting to know his teammates. He likes his role as a reliever, coming in when his pitches "make or break " the game for his team. The pitching coach helped him with his arm slot, and his fastball speed is in the 90s and offspeed pitches have good movement.

His faith is "the biggest part of who I am," he said. 

>> College stars

Matt Vierling played varsity baseball four years at Christian Brothers High School. In 2015, he was picked in the 30th round of the Major League Baseball draft by the St. Louis Cardinals, but chose instead to attend the University of Notre Dame in Indiana.

As a sophomore, Vierling earned All-ACC honors after leading the Irish in batting average (.330), slugging percentage (.549), RBI (42) and homers (seven).

He ended the season on an 11-game on-base streak. Vierling was one of two players to start all 58 games and reached base in 50 games.

Vierling also made 10 appearances on the mound, recording two saves and contributing to a shutout.

"He's super-talented, on the student leadership council his senior year, a pretty awesome guy," CBC Coach Mason Horne said.

Vierling's brother, Mark, a 2017 grad of CBC, signed to play baseball at the University of Missouri-Columbia.

CBC also produced a star player at Arkansas State University, Joe Schrimpf, who was a leading hitter at the school, finishing his senior season this year and gong undrafted. He had a .343 batting average, .474 on-base percentage, and .528 slugging percentage his senior season and set a school record for most career RBIs.

"All of these guys have represented the CBC community and their families to the utmost. They represent themselves well and represent God in a humble way. We're proud of all of them," Horne said. 

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