Last week, Austin Urban used his contacts to arrange his own personal showcase in front of Major League Baseball scouts at Point Stadium.
The Richland High graduate and former AAABA League standout worked out during a break in the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference Tournament.
“That’s the best we saw him throw,” said Dean Albany, the Baltimore Orioles executive Mid-Atlantic scout. “When he threw at Point Stadium he was up to 94 miles an hour with his fastball. His slider was good. His change up was good. He looked like he was in good shape. Whatever he did to prepare himself to throw at the Point that day, he did a great job.”
Albany is better known in Johnstown for his role as the former manager of the perennial powerhouse Youse’s Maryland Orioles AAABA Tournament franchise from Baltimore. Last week at the PSAC Tournament, he was among “seven or eight scouts” watching Urban throw.
Urban impressed Albany enough that the Orioles signed him to a contract.
“It was great that they were able to come and they showed the interest,” said Urban during a telephone interview from the Orioles’ training facility in Sarasota, Fla. “I have a pretty good relationship with the Orioles after playing two summers ago with Youse’s. I’m fortunate that they do believe in me and they’re giving me a shot.”
The Orioles drafted Urban in the 27th round in 2010, the same year he pitched for Johnstown’s Delweld franchise in the AAABA Tournament. Urban remained an amateur. In 2011, he pitched for Youse’s Maryland Orioles in the Cal Ripken Collegiate Baseball League and was part of Baltimore’s AAABA Tournament title-winning team that August.
The Chicago Cubs selected Urban in the 41st round of the June 2011 draft. He signed a professional contract as the AAABA Tournament wound down, just prior to the signing deadline. Urban reported to the Cubs and was set to pitch in the minors, but an injury sidelined him in 2012.
“With the Cubs last season, I missed the whole year because I hurt my back,” said Urban, who spent much of his time in Arizona as part of his rehabilitation. “There was new management and they cleaned house. There was nobody left from my draft class in the front office. I think it was a combination of that and my back injury that caused them to let me go. In the long run, I think it worked out better for me.”
Urban will work with former Orioles World Series-winning pitcher Scott McGregor, the organization’s pitching rehab coordinator, and Mid-Atlantic scout Frank Kolarek, who previously had ties with Walter Youse, the late former scout and AAABA Hall of Famer from Baltimore.
“They’ve got me on a program for the next 3 1⁄2 weeks, getting me ready to go for short season Class A ball in Aberdeen (Md.) in the middle of June,” Urban said. “I’m healthy. Everything is feeling great. I’m glad to get back out there and start throwing.
“I did my first bullpen work. I’m looking forward to getting back in the game and going out and competing.”
Albany emphasized that Urban wasn’t signed simply because of his past ties to Youse’s Maryland Orioles.
“He’s a good athlete, a big kid. We’ve liked him ever since high school. I think he’s a prospect,” Albany said. “We didn’t sign him as a filler. He’s only 20 years old. We signed him because we think he’s a prospect.
“I think he’s got a bright future ahead of him. He’s a great kid and he comes from a good family. Our people down in Florida are excited about the opportunity to work with him and get him out there pitching.”
Urban has some extra incentive to earn a roster spot.
“The whole situation and how it happened really motivated me,” Urban said of his break from the Cubs. “It put a chip on my shoulder to go out there and prove people wrong. I want to work hard and get where I want – to pitch in the big leagues.”