Welcome to October. The Major League Baseball postseason is here.
Ten teams will play for a chance at World Series glory. There are plenty of collegiate superstars among those postseason rosters. Here are some that hail from DII baseball:
Mike Fiers (Houston Astros) and J.D. Martinez (Arizona Diamondbacks), Nova Southeastern
The Sharks have a pair of teammates heading into the MLB postseason. If the Diamondbacks and Astros find their way to the World Series, there is going to be one heck of a viewing party on the Fort Lauderdale campus.
Fiers’ lone season with the Sharks was a memorable one. The right-hander posted a 10-3 record behind a 2.65 ERA. His 145 strikeouts led DII baseball and set the Sharks’ record at the time. It translated into a third team All-American campaign and a call from the Milwaukee Brewers in the 22nd round of the 2009 MLB Draft. Fiers was part of a blockbuster trade-deadline deal between the Brewers and Astros in 2015 and made his first postseason appearance that year against the eventual World Champion Kansas City Royals.
Giving Fiers plenty of run support was his Sharks teammate J.D. Martinez, who left as one of the most decorated players in Nova Southeastern history and became the first Shark ever to reach the pros. Martinez capped off his time in Fort Lauderdale with a huge season. He slashed .428/.530/.770 with 15 doubles and 15 home runs, earning All-American honors and leaving as the program’s all-time home run leader (32).
Martinez was chosen in the 20th round by the Astros. Spending time on three different teams, he has since become one of the premiere sluggers in MLB. His first taste of the postseason was in 2014 with the Detroit Tigers, where he hit .250 with two home runs in three games.
Evan Gattis (Houston Astros), Texas-Permian Basin
Not many 23rd rounders make the impact that Gattis did upon his arrival to the pros. El Oso Blanco was a late bloomer, leaving college at 23 and making his MLB debut at 26 with the Atlanta Braves.
Gattis’ journey to UTPB is a unique one, but once he arrived on the Odessa, Texas campus, he made his presence felt. He spent just one season with the Falcons, but it was a big one. Gattis finished third in the Heartland Conference with a .403 batting average and a .519 on base percentage, tied for the conference lead with 19 doubles and slugged 12 home runs. He earned first team All-Conference and was selected by the Braves that June.
“He was older so I knew there would be organizations that would say no, but I also knew that his power was unmistakable and that someone would take the chance on him,” UTPB head coach Brian Reinke said. “Gerald Turner was the guy who took him in the 23rd round. He was with the Braves at that time and is now with the Blue Jays. Gerald came to watch him hit BP one day. Our park is big and the wind blows in every day from left field. Evan proceeded to hit 13 of 15 balls out of the park with wood. I knew then that he would be drafted that year. The rest was up to him.”
Three years later, in the bottom of the fourth inning, Gattis took Roy Halladay deep for his first MLB home run in just his second at-bat. The legend of El Oso Blanco was born. A big part of the 2013 National League East champion squad, Gattis hit .357 that October in his first taste of the MLB postseason.
Gattis quickly became a fan-favorite known for his big home runs, but was a victim of the Braves’ rebuild. He was dealt to the Astros, where he has continued to be one of baseball’s big bats, averaging 23 home runs a season over the first five years of his career.
Brandon Kintzler (Washington Nationals), Dixie State
Things were a lot different when Kintzler was at Dixie State. The school at that time was one of the junior college baseball powerhouses of its region. Dixie State was knowns as the Rebels when Kinztler toed the rubber. He was the ace of their rotation.
Now, of course, the Dixie State University are a DII program known as the Trailblazers.
Kintzler? He pitches out of the bullpen for the Nationals, and is the first MLB All-Star in Dixie State’s history.
— NCAA Division II (@NCAADII) July 11, 2017
The righty spent just one season with Dixie State. He went 9-1 with a 2.30 ERA, anchoring the rotation that won the NJCAA Baseball National Championship in 2004. His No. 3 is retired and now he’s looking to extend his legacy in the bigs with a ring.
Kintzler has the dubious honor of playing on two playoff-bound rosters this season. He began the season closing out games for the Twins, racking up 24 saves en route to that All Star nod. He was traded to the Nationals at the deadline and has been reliable in a relief role since. In eight years in the bigs, Kintzler has a 3.16 career ERA and 46 career saves. Not too shabby for a 40th-rounder.
Yan Gomes (Cleveland Indians), Barry
Gomes began his collegiate career as a second team All-SEC catcher for Tennessee, but returned home to his Miami roots to finish out his collegiate career.
And what a season that was.
Gomes hit .405 for Barry in 2009, blasting 17 doubles and 21 home runs. He also proved himself a commodity behind the plate, throwing out 48 percent of runners on attempted steals. Gomes was considered the top DII baseball catching prospect, and the Toronto Blue Jays made him their 10thj round selection in the ’09 MLB Draft.
While Gomes hasn’t had a 2017 to remember, the Indians have. He continues to be a key cog for baseball’s hottest team as Cleveland tries to get back to the World Series.
Sunshine State strong
Five of the nine DII baseballers hail from the Sunshine State Conference. Martinez and Fiers spent their time at NSU, while Yan Gomes made headlines at Barry.
Lynn is another SSC school represented in the postseason. Tommy Kahnle spent his time in the rotation for the Fighting Knights before being selected in the fifth round of the 2010 MLB Draft by the Yankees. He’s floated around since then, but came back to the Yanks at the trade deadline, now serving as part of the team’s “super bullpen” setup.
Ryan Hanigan wasn’t even the starting catcher for Rollins, where he finished his career with a .359 batting average. The catcher who started in front of him — Kevin Davidson — was drafted and had a minor league career that spanned six seasons. Hanigan? He went undrafted, then signed a minor league free agent deal with the Cincinnati Reds.
Now, in the 11th year of his MLB career, Hanigan is still going strong as one of the most reliable backup catchers in the game.
10+ years in the Majors, 650+ games—and counting—behind the plate, Happy Birthday to Ryan Hanigan! pic.twitter.com/EFIapaYLMy
— Colorado Rockies (@Rockies) August 16, 2017
O’Koyea Dickson turned a big 2011 at Sonoma State into a 12th round draft pick by the Los Angeles Dodgers. He made his big league debut this year at the age of 27 just in time for the MLB Postseason. Ryan O’Rourke was the total package for Merrimack in 2010. He split time in the rotation and relief, going 5-2 with a 1.25 ERA and 93 strikeouts in 79 innings. O’Rourke showed his versatility, picking up three complete games and four saves as well. The Minnesota Twins took him in the 13th round and he became the first Warrior to reach the pros in 2015. O’Rourke is out this season recovering from elbow surgery, but is still technically a member of the Twins’ 40-man roster.