By Jim Furlong | West Islip Patch
Pat Cantwell's long-time dream is a giant step closer to reality.
The former West Islip High standout can now choose an opportunity to play pro baseball.
The Baltimore Orioles selected Cantwell, a talented junior catcher for the Stony Brook University Seawolves, in the 39th round of the 2011 major league draft.
"It is an honor to get drafted," said Cantwell. "It is always special when something like this happens. I am excited. I found out at practice (Wednesday afternoon). I was pretty ecstatic."
Cantwell is currently in eastern Massachusetts, getting ready for his summer opener in the famed Cape Cod League. He signed a temporary contract on Tuesday to play for the Bourne Braves.
Cantwell is waiting for the Orioles, who made him the 1,175th overall pick, to contact him and discuss a pro contract. He said he wants to evaluate his options before he decides his future.
"I will probably ask to stay (in the Cape Cod League) for awhile before I make a decision," Cantwell said. "I will see how the talks go and see how everything falls into place."
Since helping boost Stony Brook to a record-setting 42-victories this season and the America East Conference regular-season title, Cantwell was not sure if he would get drafted. He said a pro scout told him not to get his hopes up.
He had hoped to compete in the 2011 NCAA Division I Tournament after he was named to the the First-Team All-League catcher for the America East.
But his dream of a league championship ended when Stony Brook, which had surged to win 23 of 24 games, lost back-to-back home games in the league tournament. The Seawolves finished 42-12 and Cantwell started every game as the No. 1 catcher.
He's eager to continue his deep affection for baseball, which started when he was six when he would play catch with his father in their backyard. He's grateful for the longtime support from his parents, Barbara and Pat, who have attended most of his games the last seven seasons. They have watched their son frequently combine with another standout from West Islip, Nick Tropeano, a record-setting pitcher for Stony Brook.
Longtime Stony Brook coach Matt Senk has watched Cantwell start 136 games the last three seasons, mostly as the leadoff batter. He made the 2009 All-America East Rookie Team and was the MVP of the 2010 league tournament. He caught 30 games as a freshman, but played the outfield last season before returning behind the plate.
"We knew all along that Pat was going to be our catcher," said Senk. "We have a long history of very talented catchers. Pat is an outstanding leader. . . . He's a presence behind the plate; an absolute cannon of an arm and his energy level is off the charts."
Folks in West Islip may remember the Lions' 2008 baseball season. Cantwell excelled; he produced a .477 batting average and 33 RBIs when the Lions built a 23-5 record and won the Suffolk County Class AA championship.
"Baseball has been a part of my life for so long," he said. "Besides my family and school, it is the only thing I know. It is the only thing I can go to when something is bothering me, and I can forget about everything else."