Minor League pitcher Sean Keselica rushed on the field after his Double-A Altoona teammate Tate Scioneaux struck out Trenton Thunder’s Zack Zehner to clinch a 4-3 victory for the Curve. The victory completed a sweep of the Thunder in the Eastern League Finals, ending Trenton’s historic season without a title.
Sean Keselica, a New Jersey native who was born in Summit and grew up in Glen Gardner, has already made it further than most imagined he’d get in pro baseball. Sky-high expectations don’t generally accompany college seniors who sign for $1,000 after getting picked in the 33rd round; they’re often expected to fill out a Minor League roster, not impact a Major League one.
Sean Keselica: Rising Fast
But the 24-year-old has moved up quickly in the Minors since he made his pro debut on June 26, 2015. He began the 2016 season with Class A West Virginia and earned a promotion to Class A Advanced Bradenton after posting a 1.41 ERA in 51 innings in the South Atlantic League. He only pitched one inning in the Florida State League last year, before beginning this past year in the Eastern League with the Curve.
“Being a senior sign, the 33rd round, basically no money, that’s kind of something that’s always driven me,” Keselica told BestofNJ.com at ARM & HAMMER Park in Trenton, before the Curve squared off against the Thunder in Game 1 of the Eastern League Finals. “Just always playing with that chip on the shoulder.”
Keselica played soccer, basketball and baseball growing up in New Jersey, but realized as early as his freshman year of high school that baseball offered him the best chance to play a sport at the highest level in college.
“As I grew older through high school, I just kind of found out that I was a little bit better at baseball and figured that would be the best for me moving on to the college level and then hopefully the pro level,” he said.
The southpaw thrived athletically at Vorhees High, earning three varsity letters in basketball and baseball. Keselica set the school record for wins in a single season his senior year, going 10-1 with a 1.16 ERA and 121 strikeouts in 60.1 innings under coach Sparky Mattson. He also played in the field for the Vikings, hitting .416 with a school-record 17 homers in three seasons, and wanted to continue to pitch and hit in college.
“For the most part, I got highly recruited around New Jersey, like Rutgers and places like that, but I always kind of wanted to go somewhere Division I, ACC or SEC, the bigger divisions,” he said. “And I really liked Tech because the programs and how beautiful the school is; but I liked it the most because at the time they wanted me as a two-way player, and a lot of the other colleges that were recruiting me wanted me as a pitcher only or just in the field, so that was kind of the main reason why I went to Tech.”
At Virginia Tech, Keselica did just that. He primarily pitched out of the bullpen as a freshman and sophomore. After that, he made 12 starts in both his junior and senior seasons. In addition, Keselica started 166 games for the Hokies as a position player; he is the first Virginia Tech player since Larry Bowles (May 1, 1999) to pick up a win as a starting pitcher and homer in the same game on March, 19 2013.
Keeping Up the Good Work
Keselica and his fellow Hokies also helped out in the Blacksburg community while balancing the rigors of student-athlete life. The team participates in the “19 Ways” campaign; a program for taking part in 19 different occasions to have a positive effect on someone during the school year. Keselica also shaved his head as part of the “Shave for the Brave” campaign; of course, this is to raise awareness for childhood cancer. He also collected books as part of a literacy foundation and supported causes including the Special Olympics and Micah’s Backpack; the latter addresses food insecurity for kids in 10 local schools.
“I love those times. It’s humbling,” he said of the program. “Anytime you can give back to the community it’s always a good thing.”
After a solid Double-A debut this year, his goal of making the big leagues appears more attainable than ever.
“Just working hard. My work ethic,” Keselica said of his strengths. “Just being motivated every single day to my ultimate goal of making the Majors. That’s really carried me.”