BOZICH | Trey Sweeney’s incredible journey from the St. X Freshman Team to the New York Yankees | Sports
LOUISVILLE, Kentucky (WDRB) – When Trey Sweeney started his baseball career at St. Xavier High School in 2015, he was just another freshman trying to get a few punches in the batting cage.
He hadn’t advanced quickly to college or even junior college.
“He weighed 5-7 or 5-8 and maybe 140 pounds,” said St. Xavier trainer Andy Porta. “He was a good player. But he was just a little guy. He played on the freshman team all year round. “
“He’s a man now,” Porta said.
Indeed, Sweeney is the man of the hour for St. Xavier, Eastern Illinois University, and the New York Yankees. On Sunday night, during the 2021 Major League Baseball Draft, Sweeney put his name on a list of Thurman Munson, Derek Jeter, Mark Prior, Gerrit Cole, and Aaron Judge: New York Yankees First Round Draft Picks.
“It’s just a great feel-good story, isn’t it?” Said Porta.
You can call Sweeney’s picks the # 20 overall pick best story from the draft’s opening day.
Although Sweeney had a great career at St. X. as a member of the 2016 and 2018 State Championship teams, the Major League teams had no interest in pulling him out of high school. Porta said at least two and likely three players on the St. X team in 2018 are considered better prospects.
St. X has produced four major league players in the past 35 years. They all played for major college programs: Jack Savage (Kentucky); Matt Anderson (rice); Paul Byrd (LSU) and Chris Burke (Tennessee).
This isn’t Eastern Illinois, an Ohio Valley Conference sports program known for producing New Orleans Saints coach Sean Payton and former Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo, nor the first-round picks for the franchise, the 27 World Series won.
“What you saw last night was major league teams put a lot of emphasis on racket-to-ball skills,” said Burke, who worked as a draft analyst for ESPN on Sunday night. “Boys who don’t strike are of enormous value. In addition to his 14 home runs, Trey had 26 extra base hits and only 24 strikeouts (this spring in Eastern Illinois). This is impressive.”
Sweeney’s .382 batting average, .522 on-base percentage, and .712 slugging percentage in 48 games. The 5-foot-7-inch, 140-pound newbie grew into a 6-foot-4-inch, 200-pound shortstop with a consistent left-handed punch. No wonder he drove 58 runs and scored 52 points, making it only the third OVC player in the first round.
One word in the baseball grape is that the Toronto Blue Jays are heavily considering taking Sweeney with the number 19, another source Minnesota wanted Sweeney to be there when the twins were picked at 26.
But the question keeps coming back to that question: Why did Sweeney play at Eastern Illinois?
These are certainly not the Southeast or Atlantic Coast Conferences, the leagues that generally fill the first rounds of the draft with perspectives.
Porta said Sweeney was the classic late bloomer. After playing his entire season in ninth grade on the freshman team and almost all of his season in 10th grade in JV, Sweeney began his final two seasons for the Tigers.
He has grown. He lifted. He worked in the cage. He has grown. He conditions. He has improved.
Porta said Sweeney competed in several Midwestern travel tournaments between his junior and senior seasons during the summer. During an event in Indianapolis, Eastern Illinois offered a scholarship.
With no further option, Sweeney accepted and signed in November 2017. Porta said that during Sweeney’s senior season, several college coaches watched him play shortstop and told the coach that Sweeney was the best candidate on the St. X team.
“My father (Al Burke, former Bellarmine coach) always liked him,” said Chris Burke. “Even if you didn’t know baseball that well, Trey had the kid of athletic ability that drew your eyes to the field.”
Porta said Sweeney had his share of sperm too. In 2018, during a tournament in Noblesville, Indiana, Sweeney exchanged words with an opposing catcher who complained that St. X was fortunate enough to kick off a field player’s choice.
Sweeney came to strike with loaded bases. He delivered a grand slam. After Sweeney crossed home plate, he turned to the opposing catcher and said, “How’s that for luck?”
There was no luck in the game on Sunday evening. Trey Sweeney played his way up from the St. X Freshman Team to the New York Yankees’ first-round draft pick.
“It couldn’t be better,” said Burke.
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