Athletics News

Colonials in the Pros

Mike O'Connor ('02), now in the New York Yankees organization, pitched for the New York Mets in the Major League last season.

April 27, 2012

Colonials in the Pros

For 13 consecutive years dating back to 1999, the George Washington baseball program has produced selection in the Major League Baseball Amateur Draft. The road to the major leagues is a long, grueling battle for those who make it, with some former Colonials among the lucky few to get the call up, and others still working their way through the minors toward that elusive dream.

The GW baseball program has enjoyed success producing major-league talent, most notably catcher John Flaherty ('90), who played for 12 seasons with the Boston Red Sox, Detroit Tigers, San Diego Padres, Tampa Bay Devil Rays and New York Yankees. Flaherty now serves as the Yankees' television analyst on YES Network.

The Colonials also have alumni as part of major league coaching staffs. Sam Perlozzo ('73) won 124 games in parts of three seasons as manager of the Baltimore Orioles following an outstanding minor league managerial career. He is currently the first base coach for the Philadelphia Phillies.

Gregg Ritchie ('86), an All-American outfielder while at GW, is now in his second season as the hitting coach for the Pittsburgh Pirates. Prior to his promotion to the big leagues, Ritchie was the minor league hitting coordinator for the Pirates from 2006-10.

In addition to the rich history, the future of GW in professional baseball looks just as bright. The Colonials currently have five alumni in the minor leagues, including three in the farm system for the hometown Washington Nationals.

Here is a closer look at the active minor leaguers who starred collegiately at GW:

Mike O'Connor ('02) - LHP - AAA Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, International League (New York Yankees)

Mike O'Connor was the seventh-round selection of the Montreal Expos (now Washington Nationals) in the 2002 First-Year Player Draft after leading the Colonials to the 2002 Atlantic 10 Championship.

He was named the Nationals' organization Minor League Pitcher of the Year in 2005 and made his major league debut on April 27, 2006, appearing in 21 games. After missing the 2007 season with an injury, he came back in 2008 and threw 99.2 innings for the Triple-A Columbus Clippers and appeared in five additional games with the Nationals at the major league level.

O'Connor has moved around the minor leagues in the following seasons, pitching in the farm systems of the Nationals, San Diego Padres and Kansas City Royals before being signed to a minor league deal with the New York Mets in 2010.

He shined in the Mets' organization, appearing in 90 games over two seasons as a member of the Triple-A Buffalo Bison. He tallied 136 strikeouts in 131 innings and sported a 3.84 ERA.

In 2011, O'Connor returned to the Major Leagues as a member of the New York Mets' bullpen. During a two-week stint in parts of May and June, he was 0-1 with a 2.70 ERA, allowing just two earned runs with eight strikeouts in 6.2 innings of work.

Following the 2011 season, he signed a minor-league contract with the 27-time World Series Champion New York Yankees. He is currently pitching for the Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Yankees and is just one step away from entering the majors once again.

Josh Wilkie ('06) - RHP - AAA Syracuse, International League (Washington Nationals)

Josh Wilkie is currently in his seventh season in the farm system of the Washington Nationals after being signed as a non-drafted free agent on June 14, 2006. Most recently, he completed his third season as the anchor of the bullpen for the Syracuse Chiefs of the Triple-A International League.

In two full seasons in Syracuse, Wilkie has appeared in 105 games, striking out 119 batters in 130 innings. He also has recorded seven wins and 24 saves.

Wilkie spent 2009 with the AAA and AA affiliates of the Washington Nationals. He began 2009 with the Harrisburg Senators of the Eastern League and finished with a 5-2 record and 2.37 ERA in 34 games pitched. He was later promoted to Syracuse where he went 2-3 with a 3.22 ERA, striking out 60 batters in 71.2 innings.

In 2008, Wilkie was named the Potomac Nationals' Player of the Year after a strong third professional season. He was one of only four players to spend the entire 2008 season with the Carolina League Champion. The anchor of the club's bullpen, Wilkie led the P-Nats with 46 appearances and went 1-2 with a 2.08 ERA. He also recorded five saves in seven tries during the regular season. The right-hander strung together an impressive stretch from May 27 to July 5 where he worked 18.1 scoreless innings.

Wilkie currently ranks second in GW history with 291 strikeouts and third with 25 victories.

Pat Lehman ('09) - RHP - AA Harrisburg, Eastern League (Washington Nationals)

Pat Lehman continues his rise through the Washington Nationals' farm system, spending majority of last season with Double-A Harrisburg and accepting and invitation to play in the prestigious Arizona Fall League.

Lehman has the unique distinction of being drafted twice. In 2008, he was selected in the 41st round by the Minneosta Twins, but opted to return to GW for his senior season. The following year, he was selected in the 13th round by the Washington Nationals.

In 2009, Lehman was assigned to the Vermont Lake Monsters, the Short-Season Single-A affiliate of the Washington Nationals and pitched in seven games. He finished with a 3-1 record and a 1.65 ERA before getting a quick promotion to the Hagerstown Suns, the Low-A affiliate of the Nationals. In Hagerstown, Lehman made six starts and finished with a 1-1 record and a 2.25 ERA. He struck out 42 batters in 59.1 innings between the two teams in his first season of minor league baseball.

Lehman split his second season in the minor leagues between the Gulf Coast League Nationals and Single-A Potomac Nationals. For the GCL Nationals, he appeared in four games, making one start. He was dominant in those four games, recording a victory and striking out 10 while allowing just two earned runs in 10 innings pitched. He was quickly awarded a promotion to the Potomac Nationals of the Carolina League.

Lehman continued to shine after his promotion as he finished the 2010 season with a 5-4 record in 21 appearances. He made 14 starts and struck out 88 in 87.1 innings pitched. Between the two clubs, Lehman finished with a 6-4 record with a 4.53 ERA, 98 strikeouts and 28 walks in 25 games.

In 2011, his third full season in professional baseball, Lehman appeared in 12 games at Single-A Potomac before being promoted to Double-AA Harrisburg. Lehman shined for the Senators, earning six saves, one win and striking out 34 in 34 innings of work, earning him an invitation to the prestigious Arizona Fall League

Lehman started the 2012 season in Harrisburg and is currently the anchor of its bullpen.

Eric Cantrell ('10) - RHP - Single-A Kane County, Midwest League (Kansas City Royals)

Eric Cantrell has spent his first two seasons of professional baseball playing in the farm system of the Kansas City Royals, the team that drafted him in the seventh round of the 2010 First-Year Player Draft

After an injury-plagued debut season, Cantrell rebounded to appear in 13 games in 2011 for the Burlington Royals of the Appalachian League. The former Colonials' standout, who currently holds the GW record with 114 strikeouts in a single season, recorded 47 strikeouts in 51.2 innings for Burlington.

Cantrell is currently a relief pitcher for the Kane County Cougars in the Class A Midwest League.

Bobby Lucas Jr. ('11) - LHP - Single-A Hagerstown, South Atlantic League (Washington Nationals)

Bobby Lucas Jr. was chosen by the Washington Nationals in the 27th round of the 2011 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft. Lucas' selection marks the 12th consecutive year that a GW baseball player has been selected in the draft.

In his first season in professional baseball, Lucas appeared in 11 games and earned one win and one save in 21.1 innings of work for the GCL Nationals of the Rookie Gulf Coast League. He recorded 29 strikeouts and allowed just four earned runs while limiting opponents to a .187 batting average.

Lucas finished his senior season as the Atlantic 10 Conference leader with 95 strikeouts. The Baltimore, Md., native also finished the season ranked fourth in Division I with 11.92 strikeouts per nine innings.

He concluded his career ranked eighth in GW history with 233 strikeouts and 12 victories in 193.2 innings.