Andrew Misiaszek played tee ball at the age of 5. He hated it, and never expected to play baseball again.
Several years later, he went to a friend’s Rockville Centre Little League game and had a catch with his friend’s dad, who called Misiaszek’s mom and urged her to sign him up. At age 10, he began playing again.
“Thankfully that happened,” Misiaszek told the Herald. “If it wasn’t for that one game of catch, I might have not been here.”
The Cleveland Indians drafted Misiaszek, 21, a 2015 graduate of South Side High School, in the 32nd round of the Major League Baseball Draft on June 5.
The 6-foot-2 lefty relief pitcher played the last four seasons at Northeastern University in Boston, logging 187 2/3 innings, notching 203 strikeouts and amassing a 3.50 earned run average.
Before that, he was a standout starting pitcher at South Side, posting stats that varsity head coach Tom Smith called “kind of silly.” Misiaszek finished his three-year varsity career with a 14-4 record and more than 180 strikeouts. A two-time All-County selection, he earned All-State accolades his senior season, striking out 93 batters in 46 innings during the regular season, Smith said. He also won the Diamond Award, given to the best pitcher in Nassau County.
“He had impeccable control,” Smith noted. “His fastball, his slider and his changeup, which are still his go-to pitches, were completely dominating at the high school level.”
Misiaszek threw a two-hitter and two one-hitters during his senior season, Smith recalled, and struck out 18 batters in a no-hitter against Hewlett. He gave up just four earned runs during his final season for the Cyclones, noting that playing relaxed baseball with his friends allowed him to have a breakout season.
“Other than obviously given talent, Andrew always wanted to get better,” Smith said. “He had a tremendous work ethic. He was an intelligent young man who always wanted to learn more about the game.”
His fastball topped out at about 83 miles per hour at the beginning of his senior season, Misiaszek said, but hit the high 80s by the end of it. He was clocked at 90 mph after arriving at Northeastern, but he learned that a fastball wasn’t enough if he wanted to pitch successfully in college. So, in addition to working both sides of the plate with the fastball, he continued to polish his slider, which he started throwing his senior year at South Side.
“The biggest difference was developing off-speed for strikes and being able to bury it to put guys away, and then just kind of attacking guys,” Misiaszek said.
Northeastern head baseball coach Mike Glavine said he first watched Misiaszek pitch the summer before his senior year at South Side during a tournament in New Jersey. “His slider was a swing-and-miss pitch — he threw a lot of strikes,” Glavine recalled. “Good, strong kid and he worked really fast.”
About a year later, during Misiaszek’s first bullpen session at Northeastern, Glavine said, he was “ecstatic” to see that his fastball had jumped up to about 88 mph. Over the following four years, the team leaned on Misiaszek in key situations, Glavine added, as both a starter and a closer. Misiaszek leaves the Huskies as the program’s leader in career saves (30), tallying the single-season saves record (12) in each of the last two years.
“He was just so reliable with everything that he did, and such a great leader, that from a coaching standpoint, you just trusted him with everything,” Glavine said.
Though hoping to get drafted, Misiaszek said he was preparing for the possibility of being done with baseball.
Gathering with his mother, girlfriend and some childhood friends at his home in Oceanside on June 5, he saw his name pop up on an online draft tracker, still unsure what team had selected him.
“Everyone was going nuts, and as they’re going nuts I get a phone call from the Indians,” he recounted. “Getting that call was amazing. It made it all worthwhile.”
Many of his South Side teammates texted him within minutes of being selected, Misiaszek said.
“Andrew was one of the greatest teammates that I’ve ever coached,” Smith said, noting that the 2015 squad was one of the most cohesive groups he can remember. “He was extremely supportive of his team, and his team fed right off of that.
“When his name got called on Wednesday, that’s what you get excited for,” Smith added. “He deserves it. He worked so hard, and it’s exciting.”
The 970th overall pick in the draft, Misiaszek traveled to Goodyear, Ariz., last week, where the Indians have their spring training facility, and said on Monday that he was slated to pitch in relief on Tuesday in a game for the rookie-level team. He noted the potential of moving up to a short-season team by the end of the year, and said he dreamed of being a closer in the majors.
“Whatever they want, wherever they see me,” he said, “I’m going to embrace it and roll with that.”
Glavine said he was confident the organization would be happy with its choice. “His velocity could take another tick up and his slider could tighten up, and he could be someone that could be in the back end of a major league bullpen,” Glavine said. “I don’t see any reason why he can’t pitch in the big leagues.”