NEW YORK (AP) — Eric Orze has already stared down a much tougher challenge than the professional hitters he could soon be facing.
As baseball’s amateur draft was wrapping up, a feel-good story surfaced in the final round Thursday night when the New York Mets selected Orze — a two-time cancer survivor.
The 22-year-old pitcher from the University of New Orleans missed part of the 2018 season and all of 2019 to recover from multiple operations while fighting off testicular cancer and skin cancer.
“This is a kid that will not quit. He really won’t,” Mets vice president of international and amateur scouting Tommy Tanous said on a Zoom call.
“Our scouts fell in love with his split-finger, to tell you the truth. He throws a heavy, heavy fastball and he uses that split as his out pitch, his strikeout pitch. He accumulated tremendous numbers this year, and we felt it was a great value there. To get that kind of arm with that kind of out pitch there was a great way to end the draft. So obviously, this is a high-makeup kid, high-quality kid who happens to have a really gifted pitch.”
At 6-foot-4 and 195 pounds, Orze went 3-0 with a 2.75 ERA and 29 strikeouts in 19 2/3 innings before this season was stopped because of the coronavirus. The senior right-hander from Carol Stream, Illinois, was chosen in the fifth round, 150th overall out of 160 total picks in a draft cut from 40 rounds to five this year due to the pandemic.
“To go through what he went through a couple of years ago when it would have been easy to stop playing baseball or lose his purpose, and he never did,” Mets general manager Brodie Van Wagenen said. “And so, he’s motivated and he wants the challenge of professional baseball and we’re glad to be able to give him that opportunity.”
No doubt, as Orze embarks on the next significant step in his journey, it won’t only be Mets fans who are rooting for him.
“Eric is the real life story of overcoming adversity and now having the opportunity to live his childhood dream,” New Orleans coach Blake Dean said. “He worked relentlessly towards a dream that at one point was almost taken from him.”
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