Ask any 5- or 6-year-old what they want to be when they grow up and it’ll be fireman, policeman, or a professional athlete. Not many youngsters eventually end up doing what they said they wanted to do but Chris Pike is the exception.
Pike, a Water Mill resident and 2010 graduate of Southampton High School, had his dreams become a reality this weekend when he was drafted by the Tampa Bay Rays with the 277th overall pick of the ninth round of Major League Baseball’s First Year Player Draft on Friday, the second day of the draft. Pike was hanging out with friends and former baseball teammates Sean Johnson, Joey Guerin, Neil D’Cierno and Jeb Schmidt, and his youngest brother, Chad Pike, on Friday, then his father, Gary Pike, had walked into the house just before news broke that he would be the newest pitcher for the Rays.
“We were all going crazy,” Chris Pike said. “You have an idea where you might get picked but you can never really imagine it happening. When it does happen it’s a huge shock.
“To have my friends there and my family who have been with me forever, they know everything I had to go through, the ups and downs, to finally hear my name… it was a special moment,” he added.
Gary Pike, who was the head coach of the Southampton varsity baseball team this past spring, said he thinks his son is the first graduate from Southampton High School to get drafted by a major league team. Kyle McGowin, a Sag Harbor resident who graduated from Pierson High School in 2010 and attended Savannah State University, was drafted last summer by the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim with the 157th pick in the fifth round.
“I’m just really happy for Chris,” Gary Pike said of his son.
Chris Pike helped lead Southampton to back-to-back Long Island Championships and he was able to continue his success on the mound in college, first at Fordham University, then his final season at Oklahoma City University. He pitched the 24th perfect game in the history of the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics against St. Gregory on March 7, then tossed a no-hitter at Southwestern Christian in his very next start on March 14. Pike held opponents without a hit through 17 innings including those starts and one at USAO on February 28. He threw a one-hit shutout with 10 strikeouts at Mid-America Christian on April 24.
Overall, Pike went 10-2 with a 1.74 ERA, 125 strikeouts, seven complete games and three shutouts in over 82 innings pitched this season at Oklahoma City. Among the NAIA, Pike ranked fifth with 12.41 batters struck out per nine innings and seventh in strikeouts. He also ranked 12th in opponents’ batting average (.182) and hits allowed per nine innings (5.86), as well as 16th in victories.
Pike was the second player from Long Island selected in this year’s draft. Brian Hunter of Port Jefferson, who pitched at the University of Hartford, was taken just two rounds before Pike by the Cincinatti Reds.
Reaching the majors was a long-term goal for Pike. “That’s been the goal ever since I was five, six years old,” he said. “Me and my dad did what we thought was best, what put me in the best situation. Baseball has always been my main priority as long as I can remember.
“I would definitely say my parents are the biggest influence by far,” he added. “My dad would practice with me all the time, my mom [Kelly] was driving me across the island, trips across the country. The support from them, and my brothers and sisters, has been huge.”
Pike officially signed with Tampa Bay on Sunday and he was directly sent to the Hudson Valley Renegades, the single-A short season minor league team of the Rays, located in Fishkill, New York, where the season starts on Friday. With Dutchess Stadium being just a three-hour ride from Water Mill, Pike will enjoy seeing his friends and family watch him pitch on a more normal basis. And as far as his college degree is concerned, Pike is only about three to four classes away from graduating, since he lost a few classes when he transferred from Fordham to Oklahoma City. He will take care of his degree through online classes and during the offseason.
Pike said that while it was definitely tough making it to the majors, getting drafted is something he’ll never forget and something youngsters on the East End can strive for.
“It’s definitely not easy, but if you do have a goal and a dream, do everything to follow it,” he said. “It hasn’t all been easy, but if you can get through those hard times, and keep working hard and stay focused on what it is that you want, you can make it your career, it’s just a matter of how bad do you want that.”