Catawba Baseball: Albertson will be back
Catawba’s Will Albertson was drafted June 10 by the New York Yankees.
After more than a month of anxious waiting for an offer that never came, Albertson announced his intention on Wednesday to return to Catawba for his senior season. The deadline for MLB teams to sign players selected in the June draft is July 17.
As a 40th-round pick, Albertson had no illusions about his status. He knew it was unlikely the Yankees would make an offer competitive with the worth of Albertson’s scholarship for his senior year at Catawba.
“The Yankees never made an offer and basically just told me they didn’t have room for me in their organization,” Albertson said. “I’m not blaming anyone. I knew, as a 40th-round guy, it was a longshot for everything to work out. My scholarship at Catawba is worth $34,000, and I wasn’t going to sign for $5,000 or $10,000. I wasn’t going to sell Catawba short. Catawba means a lot to me.”
The Yankees would’ve been a storybook home for Albertson. They are the favorite team of Catawba coach Jim Gantt. Albertson, who turned 21 two weeks after the draft, was born 20 years to the day after Yankee legend Derek Jeter.
“The best part of the draft was that I did hear my name called,” Albertson said. “Not many people ever get to experience that feeling.”
He’s moving on from the Yankees. The only pinstripes in Albertson’s future are the ones he’ll wear next season as a Catawba catcher, outfielder and designated hitter.
Albertson is playing this summer for the Asheboro Copperheads, a Coastal Plain League wood-bat team made up mostly of Division I players. A 5-foot-11, 190-pound right-handed hitter, Albertson pounded out three hits, including his third homer of the summer, Wednesday at McCrary Park. His 19 RBIs in 28 games are second on the team in a pitching-dominated league. He’s batting .271.
“It’s a tough league, and there aren’t many D-II dudes here,” Albertson said. “I’m facing pitchers from Carolina, Tennessee, schools like that. I started off well, but then I went cold. It surprised me a little bit that I made the league all-star game, but I’ve had good at-bats lately.”
Catawba will welcome Albertson back as its No. 3 hitter, and Gantt will build the 2016 lineup around him. Albertson’s All-America junior season, his first at Catawba after transferring from D-I Campbell, was monumental — the greatest offensive season in South Atlantic Conference history. Albertson’s on-base percentage was .531 and his batting average of .467 led Division II. His 91 RBIs were one short of leading the nation and he ranked third with 26 homers.
There was an 11-game, 17-day stretch from March 7-24 in which Albertson became a folk hero at Newman Park. He went 38-for-48 with 22 runs scored and 26 RBIs. There were two 5-for-5 games and four four-hit days. No one had ever witnessed a streak like it.
“I had a blast playing for coach Gantt, and I’m looking forward to winning more games for Catawba,” Albertson said. “Winning the regional (he was MVP) and going to the World Series (Catawba was runner-up) with my teammates was a fantastic experience.”
Catawba lost four outstanding players. Blake Houston was one of the best center fielders and leadoff men in Division II. Seventh-round draft pick Craig Brooks was the finest all-round player in Division II, an ace pitcher who also drove in key runs and made acrobatic plays at third base. Ryan McClintock was a record-setting reliever. T.J. Wharton was a solid catcher and a powerful cleanup hitter behind Albertson.
Still, with Albertson, Catawba could be among Division II’s elite again in 2016.
“We will be good,” Albertson said. “We had special freshmen. (Right fielder) Luke Setzer was one of the most consistent freshmen I’ve ever seen. (First baseman) Chance Bowden is one of the best first baseman I’ve seen.”
The business-like Albertson will be counted on for more than his bat next season. He and shortstop Dylan Richardson will be looked to as the leaders-by-example.
Albertson is a sports management major. He’s banked on baseball for a career for a long time, but he also understands the importance of getting a college degree. If professional baseball isn’t in the cards for him, he still wants to stay in the game as a coach or administrator.
“Right now, I’m just looking forward to enjoying my senior year and winning a lot of ballgames,” Albertson said. “Hopefully, when the draft comes around next June, I’ll hear my name called again.”
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