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Joining the Pros

by Marc Narducci; photo by Marc Narducci

Seneca alum Kevin Comer reflects on a memorable spring

There will be many exceptional performances during this spring sports season, but any individual will have to go a long way to top what 2011 Seneca graduate Kevin Comer (pictured) achieved.

Fighting off early-season injuries, Comer produced at the highest level during the most opportune time. The right-hander went 5-0 during the state tournament and led Seneca to the NJSIAA Group 3 state title.

That alone would be enough for most, but for Comer there was much more. The recent graduate was the 57th overall selection in the First-Year Major League Baseball Player Draft by the Toronto Blue Jays. Comer was a supplemental pick, chosen after the first round and before the second.

And so Comer had the enviable position of choosing between accepting a full scholarship to Vanderbilt University or signing with Toronto.

He eventually signed, approximately 10 minutes before the midnight deadline on Aug. 15. Had he not signed, Comer wouldn’t have been eligible to be drafted again until after his junior year in college.

And what a deal he made.

Comer signed for a $1.65 million bonus. The deal also includes a provision to pay for college. For the young pitcher, it was the right place at the right time. The Blue Jays failed to sign their first-round pick, pitcher Tyler Beede, who was selected 21st overall. Comer was actually the Blue Jays’ fifth pick in the draft. The next four players selected by Toronto after Beede, signed.

Most people would be climbing the walls in waiting until the last moment to sign, but that isn’t part of Comer’s demeanor.

“I was waiting around but it wasn’t too bad,” Comer recalls about taking the negotiations down to the last minutes. “I was trying not to be stressed out and in the end it all worked out.”

Imagine, pitching in a state championship one day and a little more than two months later signing for more than $1 million.

During the fall, Comer was in Florida competing for the Blue Jays Instructional League team.

“I think I did well there,” says Comer, who pitched two shutout innings in one win over the Phillies Instructional League team. “I did what I was looking for.”

No matter how his professional career turns out, Comer will always cherish the end of his high school career. During the state tournament, he was 5-0.

“That was the perfect ending for high school,” he says.

Comer was under the microscope the entire season. He had Major League scouts at virtually every Seneca game, with radar guns on each pitch. The way he handled the attention was as impressive as how Comer dealt with opposing batters.

“Kevin’s humility was one of his best attributes that helped him be successful,” says Seneca coach Sean Cassel. “Believing the hype can be a difficult obstacle for a teenager, specifically someone who has as much talent as Kevin. He was able to put it into perspective and assimilate as just another member of the team.”

It’s this type of demeanor that made Comer such a pleasure to coach, Cassel says.

“Coaching Kevin for four years was extremely rewarding,” he says. “As I’ve said many times before, his character superseded his supreme talent. I had a special opportunity to see him grow athletically and personally.”

It’s the type of growth any student-athlete would strive for. He began the year as a high school pitcher and ended as a professional, one who set a standard that will be very difficult to top.

Photo by Marc Narducci.

Published (and copyrighted) in Suburban Family’s High School Spring Sports Preview, January, 2012.
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