the Butler Eagle Staff Writer Mike Kilroy
SLIPPERY ROCK, PA -Two years ago, Radley Haddad had very little knowledge about Slippery Rock.
Then just a freshman at Butler University in Indianapolis, Haddad was looking for a place to play baseball in the summer to improve his skills.
He landed in the Prospect League and with the Sliders .
Two years and 108 games later, Haddad has left his mark on Slippery Rock.
And Slippery Rock on him.
“I owe a lot to this league and especially this team,” Haddad said. “I have gotten a lot better because of it. Every single day I got stronger, I got better and learned a lot about the game. I’m very grateful.”
Haddad is one of the rare two-year players in the Prospect League. But the 6-foot-1 catcher felt like he had a lot more to prove after a disappointing first summer in the circuit.
Haddad batted just .199 in 54 games last season. The first half of his second season wasn’t much better.
On June 30, Haddad was hitting .220, but something clicked. Even Haddad isn’t quite sure what it was.
He had multiple hits in 14 of his last 29 games to raise his average to a team-leading .310 by season’s end.
The blossoming came despite nagging injuries suffered from being behind the plate in 53 of the 60 games this season.
“It was nice to finish strong, particularly struggling like I did in the first half,” Haddad said. “I owe a lot to my coaches and my teammates for sticking with me and believing in me and knowing I had the talent to do it.”
The signs were there this spring with Butler. Haddad hit .295 with a team-leading 12 doubles in 56 games as the Bulldogs’ catcher. He also was solid defensively.
This summer, Haddad’s biggest fan might have been Slippery Rock manager Shawn Pynn.
“It says a lot about him as a player to come out every single day as banged up as he is knowing we needed him behind the plate 90 percent of the time,” Pynn said. “He tore it up the second half of the season. No one could get him out. It’s really been a pleasure watching him.”
Haddad has aspirations of playing at the next level.
His second-half surge has put him on the map with pro scouts.
Haddad said he would not have been in that position had it not been for the Prospect League and Slippery Rock.
“The biggest thing I learned was work ethic,” Haddad said. “You have to make adjustments every day. If you want to play at the next level, that’s what you are going to have to learn and I learned that here.”
In fact, that’s the biggest message he has for future players in the Prospect League.
“It’s a grind. A lot of these guys who are first-time players in this league maybe get a little tired and get down on things,” Haddad said. “I’ve been there, but that’s the best part of this league. You play every single day. You can’t let one game bother you the next day. You have to come out with a fresh mindset each day.”
Pynn believes Haddad has the potential to make it as a player professionally.
“Right now Baseball America is expecting (the Prospect League) to put together a list of 15 guys who we think can make it to the next level and be pro prospects,” Pynn said. “Honestly, I think there are three in this league who are as close as a sure thing to make it at the Double-A, Triple-A level and maybe even the majors, and he’s one of them.”