Sports

Bossart among the few to live a baseball dream

O’Fallon High School graduate Austin Bossart, a 2011 all-state selection, was the 14th-round draft pick of the Philadelphia Phillies. He’s currently playing in the short-season Class A New York-Penn League as a member of the Williamsport Crosscutters.
O’Fallon High School graduate Austin Bossart, a 2011 all-state selection, was the 14th-round draft pick of the Philadelphia Phillies. He’s currently playing in the short-season Class A New York-Penn League as a member of the Williamsport Crosscutters. Courtesy of the Williamsport Crosscutters

Austin Bossart keeps himself in some elite company.

He was ranked No. 20 in his O'Fallon Township High School Class of more than 650 students and was one of just 9.9 percent of applicants accepted that year to the Ivy League's University of Pennsylvania.

And as the Philadelphia Phillies' 14th round pick of the 2015 Major League Baseball draft, Bossart became one of the 10.5 percent of NCAA players to turn pro.

The next step? To be included among 10 percent of drafted baseball players to actually reach the big leagues.

"That's the goal — I'm looking to go all the way," said Bossart, the 2011 O'Fallon graduate. "Right now it's all day-to-day, just trying to do the best I can in every situation to make it to the major leagues."

UPDATES: See how other metro-east professional players are progressing

That journey began with the Williamsport (Pa.) Crosscutters of the short-season Class-A New York-Penn League.

He currently sits behind Gregori Rivero, a 19-year-old switch-hitting catcher brought up through the Phillies' organization via the Venezuelan League. But Bossart has made the most of his opportunity to start every third day.

Including a weekend series with the Aberdeen IronBirds, a Baltimore Orioles’ affiliate, Bossart is hitting .365 with one home run and eight runs batted in through 52 at-bats.

"I've been getting good pitches to hit, which is about the best as I can break it down," said Bossart, 22. "I'm focused on learning a new life and style of play. I'd say the main difference at this level is in the pitching — it's a lot harder and sharper. Otherwise the competition level isn't too different. The transition hasn't been too hard in that way."

As a senior at O'Fallon, Bossart led the Panthers to a 31-6 record and was a first-team all-state selection.

He went on to an outstanding four-year career at Penn where, as a senior, was named the Ivy League's Co-Player of the Year and was a semifinalist for the Johnny Bench Award for the top catcher in NCAA Division-I. Bossart led the Quakers in batting average (.358), hits (49), and OBP (.420). He also recorded 13 doubles, four home runs, and 27 RBI.

For weeks prior to the June draft, Bossart though he was going to be selected by the Baltimore Orioles. But a phone all on the morning of June 9 gave him the idea he may land elsewhere.

"I had a decent idea that I might be taken, but I really thought I'd be going to the Baltimore Orioles," he said. "But on the day of the draft, the Phillies' regional scout called and said they liked me and, he said there were no guarantees, but he thought they might take me."

And then he heard his name called. He was able to share the moment with his parents, Jane and Bruce Bossart, as well as his grandparents and girlfriend.

"I had a lot of family over and I had my computer plugged into the TV," Bossart said. "I wasn’t paying attention at the time, but I heard my last name called and I looked up. I was in shock, almost like I didn't hear them right. It took a while for it to sink in."

Bossart signed for a $5,000 bonus and a monthly salary of $1,100 plus $25 per day on road trips.

Two things that have eased the transition to professional baseball, Bossart says, are his familiarity with the area — the New York-Penn League and Ivy League share a lot of real estate — and the connection he's made with his first pro manager, Pat Borders.

Borders had a 17-year major league career and was the starting catcher for the Toronto Bluejays’ back-to-back World Series championships in 1992 and 1993. He's in his first season managing professional baseball.

"If I have any questions about situations I go straight to him," Bossart said. "He's good with everybody because it's his job to get us all to the next level, but he's been great, especially for me."

Bossart earned his degree from Penn with a major in economics and minors in mathematics and computer science.

He says he'll spend his off season in O'Fallon looking for a temporary job to supplement his income.

Sports Editor Todd Eschman can be reached at teschman@bnd.com or 239-2540. Follow him on Twitter: @tceschman.

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