Every year, thousands of parents prepare for the annual spring event—Little League Baseball. The time for most parents to locate baseball gloves, come to the realization that they need another pair of cleats this season and start coordinating with their neighbors and friends on transportation to and from the various ball fields in and around town.
From T-ball to senior league, it’s the kids that play the game, but it’s the parents that do most of the work. Practices, early spring night games that can be a constant
42 degrees with the wind chill and then onto tournament teams. All because of the infinitesimal chance that they might someday become a major league ball player.
Millions of children play baseball every year in organized leagues, yet only about 1,200 of them get drafted and less than 1 percent of them ever make it onto a major league diamond. For the Mulford family, those dreams came true in June when the St. Louis Cardinals drafted their son Jonathan, a 2016 Adelphi University graduate, in the 34th round and assigned him to their Gulf Coast affiliate in Florida.
“It’s pretty cool,” said Scott Mulford, Jonathan’s father. “As parents, we didn’t expect it. Jonathan’s desire and motivation were always ahead of his skill, but he was never satisfied with his performance. If he struck out 12, he wanted to strike out 14.”
The right-handed pitcher spent his college career on Long Island at Adelphi and was being scouted by the Yankees, Mets and Phillies after a junior year that saw him finish 7-0 with a minuscule 1.76 ERA. But when he didn’t get drafted in 2015, he was more determined than ever in his senior year.
“He figured out what to do to get drafted,” said Scott. “He needed a better fastball.”
After throwing 89-90 mph in his junior year, Jonathan improved his velocity to 91-93 on the radar gun by using a weighted baseball and throwing more fastballs.
When draft day came, Jonathan spent the day with his parents watching rounds 11-30 unfold on MLB network without hearing his name and left the room. Then his father received a text from the Cardinals that they would select Jonathan in Round 34. The young pitcher was outside reconsidering an offer with Ernst & Young when his father showed him the text and got him to come back inside. Within minutes, their phones lit up while friends and neighbors descended on their Massapequa home.
“Our house was filled with people in 15 minutes,” said Scott. “They wiped me out of food and booze.”
Officials from the Massapequa Coast Little League invited them to Smuggler Jack’s for an impromptu party where they distributed Cardinals hats and T-shirts to everyone.
Within 48 hours, Jonathan was on a plane heading down to Florida to begin a career as a professional baseball player, where, he has two saves and two holds in his four appearances for the Red Birds.
Although his parents admit that they didn’t think he would be drafted, Scott said that Jonathan never had any doubt.
“I asked him when he thought he might get drafted and he told me, ‘In T-ball, I always thought I was going to get drafted.’”
So for all you parents out there lamenting the annual treasure hunt for last year’s baseball equipment or wishing that just once you could get a nice evening down at Burns without your winter parker, keep Jonathan Mulford in mind.