Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Joe Nathan still excited for Stony Brook baseball - Newsday

Joe Nathan is the biggest name to come out of the Stony Brook baseball program. But after a historic run brought national recognition, that title may soon be in jeopardy.
"I think, sometime in the near future, I won't be one of the bigger names," Nathan said. "Hopefully there are some more guys that make a name for themselves and continue to do great things for that school and help out the program as much as we can."
Perhaps it will be a name like Travis Jankowski, one of the seven Seawolves drafted this year. Jankowski was selected by San Diego with the 44th pick to become the first player in program history to be drafted in the first round.
Nathan, the 37-year-old All-Star closer for the Texas Rangers, was in town this week for a four-game series against the Yankees. It was first return to New York since his alma mater made an unlikely run to the College World Series in June. The Seawolves' Cinderella story ended in Omaha, Neb., with losses to UCLA and Florida State. Two months later, Nathan reflected on Stony Brook's successful season.
"It was just really cool being able to follow them, being able to watch them, knowing how far they'd come," Nathan said at Yankee Stadium before Monday night's game. "It was no fluke for sure. I think they showed that they belonged there."
Nathan was selected by the Giants in the sixth round of the 1995 draft. He has 284 career saves and is a five-time All-Star. But he played shortstop at Stony Brook while the program was Division III. The Seawolves advanced to their first Division III Tournament in Nathan's final season. He knew at the time that the program was on the rise, but never imagined that Stony Brook would reach heights such as the College World Series.
"I don't think it was ever a thought to be honest," Nathan said. "As far as moving from D-III, I think we had a feeling that was going to happen. We were proving that we were definitely a step above the D-III schools we were playing. We had a feeling the program was going to move. We didn't know it would move so rapidly and get to where they are so quickly. I think that's what makes the story so special."
Nathan, who donated $500,000 in 2008 for the construction of what is now Joe Nathan Field at Stony Brook, said he wouldn't have time to visit the Stony Brook during his stay in New York, but did see Stony Brook head coach Matt Senk recently. Both were in Boston last week, Nathan to play the Red Sox and Senk to attend a baseball clinic.
"It was very cool seeing him for the first time since the run," Nathan said.
Nathan, who has 23 saves and a 2.78 ERA this season, was asked what Stony Brook's run will do for the program moving forward. He recalled a game in Los Angeles against the Angels last month when two fans came down near the field during batting practice to tell him that they will be going to Stony Brook.
"I think that speaks volumes to have guys from the West Coast heading to play baseball in the Northeast," Nathan said. "So, obviously, it's done a lot for that program. I think the more times they do this, people are going to become believers. It lets people know that you don't have to go to the top schools to play this game and go further, beyond college. They can go to Stony Brook, get a great education, play at great facilities and be part of a successful program."
And start making a name for themselves.