Going through all the prerequisites, including taking a physical and going through all the other tests before embarking on his professional baseball career, Verona’s David Festa knows that it’s simply the beginning of a process in which there is much that remains unknown, but there are always those boyhood dreams which can be fulfilled in time with the quest to one day be a big-league pitcher.
And, it doesn’t always mean being a top pick to one day make it big in America’s Pastime. Former pitching great Nolan Ryan was a 12th round pick of the New York Mets, first baseman Jim Thome was a 13th round selection of the Cleveland Indians, while second baseman Ryne Sandberg was taken in the 20th round by the Philadelphia Phillies and pitcher John Smoltz was a 22nd round pick by the Detroit Tigers.
The most striking example of being a late round pick and becoming a Major League star is Hall of Fame catcher Mike Piazza, who was selected in the 62nd round by the Los Angeles Dodgers.
The quest to succeed in the big leagues continues to be a dream for double-digit round picks today. After all, as Juanita Hall said in ‘South Pacific,’ ‘If you don’t have a dream, how can you make a dream come true?’
For the lanky 6-foot-6, 185-pound Festa, an All-Big East Conference pitcher for Seton Hall University and the 399th player selected in the 13th round by the Minnesota Twins in the recent Major League First-Year Player’s Draft, it’s all about controlling what you can in the still-evolving process while staying at the Twins facilities in Fort Myers, Fla.
“It takes one step at a time and all it takes is an opportunity to make something special happen,” said the cerebral Festa, a 2018 graduate of Seton Hall Prep who completed his junior season this past spring at SHU. “I am blessed to have the opportunity and I look forward to taking things one step at a time, working as hard as I can, and controlling the things I can control.”
Festa raised his stock as a pro prospect with a superb junior season for Seton Hall University compiling a 6-4 overall record with a 2.00 ERA, including 67 strikeouts in 72 innings. In the Big East he was an outstanding 5-1 with a 1.54 ERA with 40 K’s in 41 IP.
He had three straight outstanding appearances between May 1-15 this past spring when he had back-to-back-to-back 7-inning starts while allowing just two runs in 21 innings in victories over Georgetown, Xavier and Creighton.
“Things were working well over that stretch,” said Festa. “Thankfully, it was easy to trust my catcher and defense, and my coaches came up with really good scouting reports on attacking those particular hitters.”
Then, there was his participation in MLB’s first-ever Draft Combine, June 21-28, in North Carolina where more than 150 draft prospects were invited to attend and display their talents for pro scouts in a great lead-in to the July 11-13 draft.
“The draft combine was a great experience and was impactful before the draft,” added Festa. “The combine allowed for me to leave one last impression leading up to the draft. It was a fun and incredible experience and it was definitely an honor to be invited alongside a number of great players.”