Long Island In The Majors: A Look At Local MLB Players

 

Travis Jankowski slides into home during a game against the Baltimore Orioles. (Photo by Keith Allison via Wikimedia Commons / CC by SA 2.0)

West Islip hurler Nick Tropeano became the most recent Long Island baseball player to make headlines when he inked a deal with the New York Yankees earlier this month.

First brought to prominence in the baseball world as a starter on the dominant Stony Brook University baseball teams of the early 2010s, Tropeano will now look to claw out a spot on the major league roster over spring training. The 29-year-old has struggled to bounce back from a 2016 Tommy John surgery that cost him all of the following year, posting ballooned numbers in his big league outings as he bounced between the Los Angeles Angels and the team’s minor league affiliates. 

Tropeano is far from the first Long Islander to net a contract in the big leagues. Suffolk County has famously been home to several major league hitters, including Kings Park’s hall-of-fame second baseman Craig Biggio and Southampton-born triple-crown winner Carl Yastrzemski. Over in Nassau, Bethpage High School alum Joe Sambito earned 12 saves in relief for the Boston Red Sox en route to their infamous defeat in the 1986 World Series. 

Lately, Long Island has been a breeding ground for major-league caliber pitchers in particular, but keen-eyed observers will find natives in the league at all sorts of positions. Here’s a look at some of the local products making their way at the highest level of America’s pastime.

Travis Jankowski

A fellow veteran of the Seawolves powerhouse baseball teams of the 2010s, Jankowski was drafted out of Stony Brook by the San Diego Padres with the 44th overall pick in the first round of the 2012 MLB Draft, the highest a Seawolf has ever been selected. He made his debut with the top-level squad in 2015, and bolstered the team’s outfield with his strong defensive play and speedy legs until being traded to the Cincinnati Reds at the end of the 2019 season.

The Lancaster, PA, native was enshrined in the Stony Brook Hall of Fame in 2017, and was named a first-team All American while helping lead the Seawolves to the College Baseball World Series in his 2012 junior season.

Marcus Stroman

The diminutive pitcher first made waves as a high school ballplayer in his hometown of Medford out in Suffolk County. Drafted straight out of Patchogue-Medford High School in 2009, Stroman instead opted to further his education at Duke University, where an extra few seasons only increased his draft prospects. Stroman made his MLB debut with the Toronto Blue Jays in 2014, but truly made himself a household name three years later, when he finished 2017 with both a Gold Glove for his fielding and MVP honors in the 2017 World Baseball Classic, the first tournament won by the U.S. since the competition’s 2006 inception.

Stroman made his first All-Star appearance in 2019, and was sent to the New York Mets a couple days before the league’s trade deadline. In 11 starts for the Mets, Stroman posted a 4-2 record with a 3.77 ERA. Catch him sporting No. 0 at Citi Field in 2020. 

Steven Matz

The Stony-Brook-born Matz was drafted by the Mets straight out of high school in 2009 after his four stellar seasons at Ward-Melville High School caught the attention of MLB scouts. A bout with Tommy John surgery delayed his debut in the majors until 2012, but Matz made up for lost time when he finally got his chance to step up to the mound in Flushing. 

Matz excelled in his first two seasons with the club, compiling a 13-8 record with a 3.16 ERA in 28 starts from 2014-15. Since then, he has made himself a fixture in the team’s starting rotation, averaging nearly one strikeout per inning with a strong fastball and solid breaking pitches that have consistently netted him a high number of swings-and-misses from opposing hitters. He’s also made headlines off the field for his charitable efforts through his foundation Tru 32, which honors first responders with free Mets tickets and raises money for the children of firefighters, police officers and military personnel who have perished in the line of duty.

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Mike Adams
Mike Adams is the editor of the Great Neck Record and The Roslyn News.

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