Baseball: Path will wind for Bradley's Holderman

Baseball: Path will wind for Bradley's Holderman

More than 1,000 players were taken over 40 rounds in Major League Baseball's first-year player draft in June. Colin Holderman will have a better chance than most to reach the majors. Holderman, a 2014 graduate of Bradley-Bourbonnais, was selected in the ninth round by the New York Mets. He became the latest area player to join the professional ranks with his debut on June 10 with the organization's rookie league affiliate, the Kingsport Mets (Tenn.). Holderman recorded two outs and allowed one hit in his Appalachian League debut and then picked up his first career save Tuesday evening with a perfect ninth inning. After working as a starting pitcher for more than 70 innings this spring at Heartland College, Holderman will spend the rest of the summer working out of the bullpen and learning the ropes of being a professional baseball player. It's a childhood dream come true for the 20-year-old, but it doesn't come as much of a surprise to his former coaches. "He was was always a hard worker. He was a big kid, and he had the frame," said Bradley-Bourbonnais coach Kevin Arthur. "From his sophomore year to his senior year, he probably gained eight or nine miles per hour on his fastball." Holderman went on to pitch at Southern Illinois University upon graduating high school but transferred to Heartland College in Bloomington after a disappointing freshman season. There, he blossomed into a potential major leaguer this spring. In 12 starts, he turned in an 8-1 record with a 1.34 earned run average on his way to being named the NJCAA Division II Player of the Year. "We knew the possibility was there because of his size and strength," Heartland coach Nate Metzger said. "He has the prototypical body of a major league pitcher, but we didn't know his rise would be this quick." The 6-foot-5-inch righty signed with the Mets just days after the draft for $400,000 and now begins the somewhat tricky transition to the professional game, which a pair of former area draft picks can attest to. Kris Honel, a Bradley-Bourbonnais-native and a standout at Providence Catholic High School, knows exactly what it's like start your pro career in the Appalachian League. Honel was selected by the Chicago White Sox in the first round of the 2001 draft and sent to Bristol, Va. — less than an hour away from Kingsport — and was surprised by what he found. "My high school at Providence was better than my first pro field," Honel said. "Seriously, in my first clubhouse, our lockers were made of old chicken wire. It felt like the old concession stand at the local high school." But Honel along with Matt Hines, who was selected by the Chicago Cubs in 2002 out of Olivet Nazarene University, will tell you one of the most difficult and important parts is learning how to fit in. "You're in a melting pot with guys from all over the country and over the world," Hines said. "You kind of just get thrown into the middle. Everybody has to find their way." That's not always the easiest thing to figure out with players trying their best to balance being a good teammate while giving themselves the best chance to earn a promotion. "Pro baseball is pretty much a rat race," Honel said. "Yes you have teammates, but pretty much everyone is trying to get to the top. That was the hardest part for me. Some times it can be a cold, hard slap in the face." According to Honel, however, that won't be much of a detriment to Holderman. The pair grew up as neighbors, and while he or Hines never made it past Double A, he believes Holderman has the mental makeup to reach the majors. "He's a smart and talkative kid," Honel said. "That's big because as a pitcher you have to let your teammates get to know you, so that they'll play their best for you. He's got the stuff and the personality to go out there and make the area proud."

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