Somerset boasts a proud baseball tradition. So much so, that a wall at the facility shared by the Somerset Golden Eagles and Somerset’s American Legion team lists those who have been drafted by a major-league club or have moved on to play collegiate baseball.
Time to find more paint.
Right-handed pitcher Ian Stiffler was drafted in the seventh round by the Atlanta Braves during Friday’s portion of the MLB First-Year Player Draft. The Somerset product was taken 223rd overall by Atlanta.
It’s not the first time a Somerset product has had his name called early in the draft.
“Andy Rush was drafted in the second round (in 1988) and I never thought I’d come close to the second round,” Stiffler said. “I’m amazed. Top 10 ... I’m just blessed to have this opportunity.”
On top of adding this year’s District 6 Class AAA championship to the wall, Stiffler’s name will join a list of Somerset baseball luminaries, who have carried the region’s banner out of Somerset.
“I knew I could play college ball somewhere, I didn’t know what division,” Stiffler said. “But never professionally. It was always a dream of mine since I was a little kid, all I wanted to do was play baseball.”
Stiffler found out the news like many others, by watching the draft stream online.
“I got a call from (Braves scout Gene Kerns), who has been talking to me for a couple of months,” Stiffler said. “He asked me about my price. He asked ‘Would you sign for this price?’ I said ‘Yes.’ About 10 minutes after that, I looked on my computer and the Braves were coming up. I just waited and they called my name out.”
Had there been no professional interest, Stiffler was already committed to play at Virginia Commonwealth under the tutelage of his brother, Shawn, who is the Rams’ coach. He accepted a scholarship from the Atlantic-10 squad in November.
According to PrepBaseballReport.com, Stiffler throws four pitches – a fastball, curveball, changeup and a slider – with his fastball topping out at 90 mph.
While Somerset has produced a number of players who have received the call from a major-league team, the luster of those moments never fade.
“It’s just as exciting,” Somerset High baseball coach Steve Costea said. “You’re happy for the kids. You’re happy for the parents and the community. These kids come up through the system and get the best baseball they can get. It’s another name on the wall. we have the system set up and have athletes come through and do our best to make them the best they can be.”
The 6-foot, 175-pound 18-year-old is also a part of AAABA League power Delweld’s roster.
“For us, we’re obviously excited when someone who plays for us moves on and gets drafted,” Delweld manager Chris DelSignore said. “It speaks volumes for the kind of kids we can get and that we’re fortunate enough to bring in to our team.”
Both Costea and DelSignore was also quick to praise Stiffler’s work ethic.
As a senior, Stiffler carved out a 2.35 ERA and recorded 67 strikeouts in 442⁄3 innings pitched, helping the Golden Eagles to an 18-5 mark that also carries a District 6-AAA crown.
As of now, Stiffler is weighing his options before making a call on his baseball future.
“As of right now, (Kerns) is supposed to come this weekend,” Stiffler said. “We’ll talk at my house and make the decision there. As of now, I’m not quite sure what’s going to happen.”