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NA's Hungerman signs with Rockies

| Sunday, June 14, 2009

Payday finally arrived Saturday for North Allegheny graduate Josh Hungerman, who signed a professional baseball contract with the Colorado Rockies.

Hungerman's deal included dollars, years and hope for a bright future. His mother and father were rewarded, too, with something even more meaningful.

Hungerman, a left-handed pitcher who was drafted Wednesday in the 17th round out of Cleveland State, made arrangements to sign the contract in Room 609 of UPMC Passavant Hospital, where his mother Rebecca has been a patient for the past two weeks.

"I just wanted to make sure both of my parents were there," he said. "They have been with me through my whole baseball career. There is no reason why they shouldn't be there on the best day of my baseball life. If I deserve it, they deserve it even more."

With hospital staff giving the family total privacy for the hour-long signing, Rebecca was joined by her husband, Dave, who has been his son's coach since he was 6 years old, and Rockies regional scout Ed Santa, a North Catholic graduate who has followed Hungerman's career since he first came to Santa's tryout camp in the 10th grade.

"It was really excitng," Rebecca said from her hospital bed. "I felt bad for the poor kid trying to make arrangements to have the signing here."

But she was pleased to see the culmination of many years of hard work. Rebecca's role included pitching some backyard batting practice in the early years and, often, staying up past 11 o'clock on game nights washing uniforms for the next day.

"We just wanted to give him every opportunity to make his dream happen," she said.

Less than 24 hours after signing the contract, Hungerman boarded an airplane this morning bound for Casper, Wyo., where he will join the Casper Ghosts, a Rockies rookie affiliate in the short-season Frontier League. Games begin June 23.

Hungerman, 6-foot-2, 200 pounds, was a first-team All-Horizon League designated hitter for Cleveland State this season, with a .345 batting average and a team-high 11 home runs and 50 RBI. His pro career will commence as a pitcher.

Santa said Hungerman throws in the 88-91 mph range and possesses the one characteristic many bigger, faster pitchers lack.

"He has great control (of his pitches)," he said. "Some (coaches) think you can teach that to kids, but it's really hard to do. Josh has it."

Hungerman, who led Cleveland State with 13 starts and 88 innings, walked only 37 while recording 91 strikeouts and a 4.60 earned-run average.

Hungerman's dad Dave is the coach of the Allegheny Athletics of the Tri-State Collegian League, which gives college players home for the summer an opportunity to continue playing.

Josh played for the team last year and showed enough promise to be drafted by the Rockies for the second consecutive year. He was a 50th-round choice in 2008, but he decided to stay in school.

After Josh gets settled, Dave and Rebecca hope to travel to Wyoming this summer and become big Ghosts fans.

Dave will try to watch with an objective eye, but it won't be easy.

"As his dad and his coach," he said, "I think he has a lot of ability."

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