Larry Day extended a streak by University of Connecticut catchers when the New York Yankees chose him in the 50th round of the major league draft.
Since 1994, every Husky starting catcher has become a professional player.
The mere fact that Day, a 22-year-old former All-Scholastic from Amesbury and St. John's Prep, is getting an opportunity to extend that unusual streak is remarkable.
Day had an off year this spring. He finished his career with a .291 batting average with 109 RBIs and four homers, but as a senior he hardly lived up to his preseason Big East selection. His batting average fell to .260, he had a .314 on-base and a .353 slugging percentage, and finished with just 21 RBIs.
"I suffered a torn left labrum late in fall ball and needed surgery. I couldn't work out all winter and, consequently, I didn't hit the ball well," Day said from the Tampa Yankees' minor league complex yesterday.
"My catching was normal, though, and with a catcher - same as with a shortstop - defense is the precedent. My injury was no secret."
The Nahant-born Day got pre-draft invitation to work out for the Yankees in Yankee Stadium courtesy of ex-Harvard coach Matt Hyde, now a Northeast scout for the Yanks.
"I still never expected to be drafted. That was my gut feeling," Day said.
Now for the kicker: he was the last player chosen in the draft, No. 1,453 overall.
"That didn't bother me. I was thrilled to be picked. It was the most exciting day of my life," Day said.
"Some of my friends read in papers that I was mentioned in an Associated Press story, something to do as the winner of the "Mr. Irrelevant Award". It's popular in the NFL, where the last football pick becomes a celebrity, gets a TV interview and a lot of ink.
"Nobody called me ... but maybe if I do some good things they will," Day said with a laugh.
Day signed with the organization and learned that he'll probably be assigned to Staten Island (N.Y.) Saturday in the all-rookie New York-Penn League.
"My bonus? When you're the last guy chosen, it's not all about the money," he chuckled.
The bottom line here is that Day would have had a story to tell if he got the TV treatment. He got one showcase invite from a pro team - and almost missed it.
Let him tell the story.
"I drove down to New York with my father (Lawrence, an Amesbury postmaster and Lynn native), and we got stuck on the George Washington Bridge. Some guy jumped off the bridge," he said. "That's what we were told. Maybe the guy threatened to jump; I don't know.
"We were 45 minutes late. A lot of the guys were late in that traffic. I was going nuts. It was an ordeal. I was sweating bullets, but the Yankees understood. It took two hours to travel three miles, but I made it five minutes before the throwing (for catchers) started."
At the session, Day felt he caught and hit the ball OK, but threw pretty well. There were probably 10 catchers among the 30 college prospects at Yankee Stadium, he said.
"To be in Yankee Stadium was quite an honor," he said. "I went to Monument Park (in center field) after the workout. It's quite impressive."
Meanwhile, Day now has some calls to make. One to St. Lawrence University, where he visited and applied for a post graduate coaching position. Another would be to Endicott College head baseball coach (and athletic director) Larry Hiser.
"I sent a resume to Larry Hiser to see if any there were any opportunities, and he got back to me about some possibilities. He was nice guy," said Day. "I also thought of (playing) independent baseball. There was also a new league starting out, the New York State League, and I thought they might need players.
"I was fresh out of college (as a political science major) and trying to figure out what I was going to do. So I did some interviews, and got a summer job as an assistant with the team I played for in the Cape Cod League in Orleans. I also was going to do baseball clinics for the town."
Day, who was All-Big East and All-New England as a junior in 2006, said he never watched any of the baseball draft on TV or followed it on MLB.com.
"I packed and drove to the Cape to get ready," he said.
The father and son spoke while he was en route.
"The grass needed to be cut and I was outside when Larry phoned. I told him the draft was in the 40th round when I got home, and that his mom (Johanne) was still following the draft on the computer," Mr. Day said, then resumed mowing.
About 15-20 minutes later Mrs. Day came out flying out the back door and yelled, "He's a Yankee. Larry's been drafted!"
In a heartbeat Mr. Day called Larry and said, "Son, I'll be playing 1-4-5-3 in the lottery. That's the number the Yankees just picked you in the draft."
Day, who said he was "looking for something to do," now has something to do.
"I can honestly say I've been dreaming about this since I was five years old," Day said. "It's a chance for me, and I'll ride it out as long as I can."
Day said he had some people to thank, like Prep head coach Pat Yanchus and the staff at Extra Innings in Middleton, including Joe Luis, Rob Nash, Pete Feeley and Mike Moroney.
"I learned a lot from Coach Yanchus and all the guys at Extra Innings. I worked there and lived in the (batting) cages," Day said.
He also found out the Yankees act pretty quickly.
"I got a call that they drafted me," said Day, "and was told they'd call me the next day. When the club official got back to me Saturday, he said there was a plane ticket to Tampa later in the day, and off I went."
Bill Kipouras is a staff writer at The Salem News. Contact him at 978-338-2615, or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.