Elizabeth Forward grad Altavilla expects to be drafted, sign pro deal
From Elizabeth Forward High School coach Frank Champ to Seton Hill University coach Marc Marizzaldi and virtually everywhere in between, there's a lot of memories to share about Dan Altavilla this baseball season.
It doesn't all revolve around the Mercyhurst University campus in Erie, where Altavilla came away from his junior year with an armful of awards, including NCAA Division II All-American and Division II pitcher of the year.
But there sure were some good times there.
“I've never had a first-team All-American as a head coach,” Mercyhurst's Joe Spano said. “I'd love to have him back, but I know that's probably not going to happen.”
Altavilla, who pitched undefeated Elizabeth Forward to the 2011 WPIAL Class AAA championship, with Champ as coach, was rated as the No. 202 player overall by Baseball America prior to Thursday's Major League Baseball draft. The 5-foot-11, 200-pound right-hander said he wants to sign a professional contract, no matter when he's taken or which club selects him.
The first two rounds will be conducted Thursday, beginning at 7 p.m., with rounds 3-10 on Friday and 11-40 on Saturday.
“My mindset right now is to sign,” said Altavilla, who has attended pre-draft camps hosted by the New York Yankees, Minnesota Twins and Washington Nationals. “I'm open to any offer. If it doesn't work out, returning to Mercyhurst is an option. But I want to do what's best for me, for my family and, if it gets down to it, Mercyhurst University. I've had a great time there.”
Altavilla, who throws a two-seam fastball, slider and changeup, is the latest in a line of major league prospects at Elizabeth Forward who happen to be pitchers. There were the Holton brothers — Brian, Mark and Shawn — Ralph Adams and, of course, J.J. Hoover, now in his second season as a reliever with the Cincinnati Reds.
Hoover also played for Champ at EF, and he and Altavilla rank about the same to Champ in work ethic.
“It was year-round with those guys,” Champ said. “They worked extremely hard, and they never stopped. That, to me, has taken them to the next level.”
The 202nd pick would equate to the seventh round in the draft. Spano's gut feeling, after hearing multiple reports, was that Altavilla would be selected within the top 10 rounds.
“You really can't control how the draft shakes out,” Spano said. “Nobody knows for sure who's going to take who ahead of you, so it's just a trickle-down effect.”
Of Mercyhurst's 14 MLB draft picks, current Baltimore Orioles outfielder David Lough was chosen the highest in 2007 in the 11th round by the Kansas City Royals.
“Dan Altavilla is one of the best pitchers in the country — at any level,” said Marizzaldi, who led Seton Hill to a spot in the Division II World Series, where the Griffins won a game before eventually being eliminated by Minnesota State-Mankato.
And to think, Altavilla, who struck out 19 in a game against West Chester and pitched a no-hitter against Clarion this season, couldn't play for Marizzaldi awhile ago.
“Back in 1999 or 2000, I forget which it was, I coached the Baldwin Legion team,” Marizzaldi said. “We played a game at Three Rivers Stadium, and we took a team picture. Dan Altavilla was a batboy.”
That was worth a chuckle for the two, when they visited on the diamond before a recent Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference game. Altavilla's uncle, Dean Altavilla, played catcher on that Baldwin team.
Dan Altavilla lost just once in 10 decisions this season at Mercyhurst, which was 30-15 and finished as runner-up to Seton Hill in the PSAC Western Division. He had five shutouts and a 1.23 ERA in 12 starts, and he struck out 129 in 80 1⁄3 innings.
Seton Hill scored all four of its runs in one inning and got the best of Altavilla on its way to winning the Division II Atlantic Region tournament. The 4-1 victory for Marizzaldi's club avenged a 1-0 loss to Mercyhurst and Altavilla during regular season. In both cases, Altavilla struck out 11.
“You only get a couple of runners against him in a game,” Marizzaldi said. “The first time, we didn't capitalize. His stuff is nasty. What sets him apart is his velocity. He just comes at you consistently at 93 mph. I tell people all the time that he could be in the rotation with any Division I team in the country. Anybody.”
Dave Mackall is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at email@example.com.