Being drafted by Phils ‘surreal' for Penn grad Cusick


Friday, June 10, 2011Posted: 2:30 p.m.
By Dave Contributor
Paul Cusick was watching the Phillies game Tuesday when he received a phone call. It was from the Phillies. They were calling to tell the former University of Pennsylvania pitcher that they had selected him in the 29th round of the Major League Baseball Draft.

Not a bad day watching the ballgame.

I would have been ecstatic for any team to take me, Cusick said. But growing up a Phillies fan, living 30 minutes away from the ballpark, it was just a dream come true.

On Thursday, Cusick, the 2011 Ivy League Pitcher of the Year, signed his first professional contract from his Wilmington, Del., home. He plans to report to camp with the Gulf Coast League Phillies this Tuesday.

Then, he will begin to play baseball for the same organization he grew up watching.

Growing up in the Philadelphia area, I went to so many ballgames a kid, Cusick said, noting he was at Citizens Bank Park the night the Phillies clinched the 2008 World Series. Any time I had a day off from school, Id try to go down to the ballpark.

Being able to join that same organization is surreal.

Cusick, a 6-foot-3 righthander, began to realize he had the stuff to make it in pro ball last summer when scouts, most notably Eric Valent of the Phillies, started to talk him after he had a phenomenal campaign with the Atwater Aviators of the Pacific West Baseball League. He carried that over into Penns fall ball season and then broke out this spring, posting a 5-3 record with a 2.70 ERA for the Quakers. In 66 23 innings, the senior struck out 80 batters, which is tied for the second most strikeouts in a single season by a Penn pitcher. His 200 career strikeouts rank fourth all-time.

Despite Cusicks big year on the mound, though, Penn finished with a 19-21 overall record, 10-10 in the Ivies.

My first two years at Penn were tough but I had a real good summer out in California and I gained a little confidence, Cusick said. I feel like I came out this year and had that feeling that I expected to do well.

I think a lot of things went right for us this year, he continued. It would have been nice to win an Ivy championship before heading out there. But we had a lot of individual success on our team this year.

Another example of Penns individual success was shown earlier this week when fellow right-hander Vince Voiro was drafted by the San Diego Padres in the 47th round. Voiro, who hails from nearby Cherry Hill, struck out 104 batters over the past two seasons and tossed five complete games during the 2011 campaign.

Like Cusick, Voiros stock rose with a superb performance on his summer league team. With the Woodstock River Bandits, Voiro was ranked the sixth best prospect in the Valley Baseball League by Baseball America after winning five games and posting a 3.08 ERA.

Vince is one of the hardest working guys Ive ever met in my entire life, Cusick said. To see him have the chance to further his career, its an awesome feeling. Im so happy for Vince.

Both Cusick and Voiro will now begin their lives as a minor league baseball players, which is often unglamorous and always a grind. Cusick, though, says he got used to that kind of lifestyle while playing in summer leagues the past three years.

We were packed into these vans, 16 of us, and wed go on eight-hour bus rides, he said. That was a glimpse, a taste, of what minor league baseball would be like. I love baseball, Im sure like everyone else in the minor league system. So I have no problems sitting in the back of the bus for a couple of hours to go play some games.

For Cusick, the biggest adjustment will be trying to become a more consistent pitcher. Coming through high school at Salesianum and then at Penn, a lot of his success came from striking people out. He even said his favorite all-time Phillie is Brett Myers because he tried to model his own game after the hard-throwing right-hander with a nasty curveball.

But at the professional level, Cusick knows he wont be able to rely on blowing people away or fooling them on every pitch.

Im gonna need all of my pitches, he said. Ive had good success this year with my fastball, curveball and slider. I feel like my changeup is definitely something Ill need to develop more and work on going forward as a good fourth pitch.

If things go right and he begins to climb up his way through the farm system, you can be sure the surrealism of the whole situation will become even more surreal.

Of course, even if his baseball career fizzles, he has a good backup plan, having just graduated from Penn with a degree in economics. But he doesnt want to think about that yet.

If someone is going to offer me to play something Ive been playing since I was 8 years old, why not milk that until it runs dry? Cusick said. One of the reasons I wanted to go to Ivy League school is to obtain that degreebut I want to play baseball for as long as I can.
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