Baldelli

Cumberland native and Bishop Hendricken senior Dante Baldelli stands in front of the right-field fence at McCoy Stadium Monday. Baldelli was drafted by the Philadelphia Phillies over the weekend and will play for a Hendricken team that’s looking for its fifth straight state title.

By BRENDAN McGAIR • bmcgair@pawtuckettimes.com

PAWTUCKET – Two envelopes sit before Dante Baldelli.

One is marked “college” – as in the opportunity to play Division I baseball at Boston College. The second envelope is labeled “pros” – as in a tempting invitation to sign a professional contract with the Philadelphia Phillies, the team that selected Baldelli in the 39th round of the recently completed MLB First-Year Player Draft.

The two envelopes featuring clear-cut choices lead down different, mutually exclusive paths. If Baldelli – a Cumberland native and recent graduate of Bishop Hendricken – honors his commitment to BC, he would have to wait a minimum of three years to re-enter the MLB draft. If he elects to come to terms with the Phillies, he immediately forfeits all four years of college eligibility and would likely be assigned to the Rookie Level Gulf Coast League.

There may be no wrong decision in this particular instance, but there are plenty of variables to dissect and analyze before Baldelli plots the next step in his baseball odyssey. He’s fortunate to have some time to sift through everything, as MLB teams have until July 15 to agree to terms with an amateur draft pick.

“I’ll sit down with my family and think about what the best option is,” said Baldelli during yesterday’s R.I. high-school baseball press conference for the Division I and II finalists at McCoy Stadium.

“Whatever the decision ends up being, whether I go to school or play with the Phillies, I’ll know they’ll support me either way,” Baldelli added. “There’s a little bit of time and conversations to be had.”

***

The more Baldelli became the apple of the pro-scouting bureau’s eye, the more he warmed up to the possibility of seeing his name appear on the draft tracker. He filled out questionnaires that in turn were submitted to just about every MLB ball club.

Last winter, Baldelli took swings in front of representatives from the Chicago White Sox, Tampa Bay Rays and the Phillies at the indoor batting cages located in the basement of his family’s Woonsocket-based business. He was also on the radar of the Cleveland Indians, who staged an in-person visit to the Baldelli residence.

“There was a decent amount of interest,” said Baldelli.

Given the ongoing dialogue between all parties, fingers were crossed that Baldelli would hear his name called at some point. In the world of professional drafts, hopefuls like Baldelli are subjected to a team’s whims that can change depending on which way the wind blows.

In the end, there’s no substitute for experiencing what Baldelli equated as a thrill of a lifetime.

Last Saturday was already shaping up to be a pretty good day. Earlier, Hendricken had punched its ticket to the Division I finals with a 9-4 win over Cranston West. After the game, Baldelli returned home to watch Boston College compete against Miami in the super regional. All the while, he kept checking his phone for draft updates while mother Michele kept refreshing the browser on the family computer.

With the 1,157th selection of the 2016 MLB draft, Baldelli became the property of Philadelphia. The draft tracker listed him at 6-4, 170 pounds. Like older brother Rocco in 2000, Dante was drafted as an outfielder.      

“I can’t even describe the joy and excitement that I felt. The Phillies were the team that believed in me the most and I can’t thank them enough,” said Baldelli. “It was one of the greatest moments I’ve ever had in my life. A lot of great things happened (Saturday). It was awesome.”

Landing a scholarship at an ACC school was an important milestone for Baldelli. Getting drafted out of high school, regardless of the round, just about completes the culmination of this particular chapter of his baseball exploits.

“A lot of hard work went into this over the course of my life,” he said. “Through Little League, middle school, AAU and high school … a lot went into this.”

Echoed Hendricken assistant coach Bryan Lahey, “Dante is the type of kid who’s never satisfied. He’s always looking to get better and improve himself.”

***

There is one Hendricken-related piece of business that needs tending to, hence why Baldelli and his high-school teammates were at McCoy Stadium yesterday. Hendricken opens the best-of-three D-I finals tonight against South Kingstown, looking for the program’s fifth straight state title and eighth in the past nine seasons.

Baldelli this spring moved into the leadoff spot after batting in the No. 5 spot as a junior. Serving as the Hawks’ table setter represented a new challenge, particularly when it came to taking pitches and being more selective so that those batting behind Baldelli could get a feel of the pitcher’s repertoire.  

“I was expecting to be three or four, but I saw the positives of getting more at-bats and more plate appearances in bigger situations,” said Baldelli, who already has two R.I. varsity baseball championships on his résumé as well as a 2015 Division I Super Bowl title. 

***

As noted earlier, Baldelli is an 18-year-old with viable options. Heading to Boston College remains a distinct possibility, though the Phillies have expressed interest in tracking him in the weeks leading up to the July 15 signing deadline.

To that end, Baldelli plans to head to Nashua, N.H. to play for the Nashua Silver Knights, part of the wood-bat Futures Collegiate Baseball League. Also on the docket is freshman orientation at BC, scheduled for later this month.  

To those who know Baldelli best, they feel he will be just fine.

“His support system … Dante has a great family,” said Lahey. “No matter what decision he makes, it will be the best for him.”

Follow Brendan McGair on Twitter @BWMcGair03

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