Draft in the offing for former Molloy star

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“I want to make it to the big leagues.”

But how would the Ozone Park native achieve...

By Dylan Butler

When he was asked that age-old question, “What do you want to do when you grow up?” a young Jason Fardella responded like many others who played Little League baseball:

“I want to make it to the big leagues.”

But how would the Ozone Park native achieve that dream? After all, he was cut from the Archbishop Molloy junior varsity team not once, but twice. And when he made the varsity squad his junior year, he sat every game.

Fardella wasn’t worried — all he needed to do was find his niche. And at St. Francis College he did just that — on the pitcher’s mound.

Fardella has turned into one of the hottest pitching prospects on the East Coast, attracting a slew of major league scouts every game he throws. And it’s likely when the Major League Draft rolls around on June 5, Fardella’s childhood dream will come true.

“In the back of my mind, I knew I could do something real well in baseball, that’s why I played my whole life but what was my calling? And this is where it seems to be,” he said. “Every day I go out there it’s a learning experience.”

Fardella said he pitched a bit when he was younger, but he was just average. He was always a first baseman whose strength was his offense. He could flat out hit a baseball.

After not playing three years at Archbishop Molloy, Fardella started every game for the Stanners at first base on the city championship squad in 1998. He wanted to go to Hofstra or C.W. Post, but there wasn’t much demand for a backup first baseman.

Mike Lopiparo, an assistant coach at St. Francis College, recruited Fardella to be just that, a backup first baseman. But he also liked Fardella’s 6-foot-4 frame. While he saw him pitch sparingly during the summer, Lopiparo told Terriers head coach Frank Del George to take a chance on Fardella.

“I saw him pitch for the Metro Cadets’ summer league high school team and even though he was only throwing 80 mph, he had pretty good control of his changeup for a big guy,” Lopiparo said. “I guess sometimes we are even luckier than we think.”

It’s not the first time Del George has recruited a first baseman from Molloy who became a quality college hurler.

In 1995, John Mangieri made the switch and had a solid three-year career at St. Francis College. He was drafted in the 10th round of the 1997 draft by the New York Mets.

Del George also saw pitchers John Halama (23rd round, 1994 draft by the Houston Astros) of the Seattle Mariners and Edwin Almonte (19th round, 1998 draft by the Chicago White Sox) selected in the draft, but he said Fardella, whose fastball is clocked between 88 and 92 mph and who has good control of a changeup and slider, could be better than them all.

“When he has command of two pitches, he’s as good as anyone we’ve had,” he said. “I just can’t believe how in two years he’s really developed into a pitcher. He’s young and I can’t believe how far he’s come.”

After an injury-plagued freshman season where he only saw 13 innings of work, Fardella blossomed last year. He finished fifth in the nation with a 1.88 earned run average but because of a lack of run support, had a 3-4 record. He went the distance in 5 of the 10 games he started, striking out 73, shattering Chris McConnell’s mark for strikeouts in a season in 1995. He pitched 72 innings, placing him second on the St. Francis College list for innings pitched in a season behind John Worthington’s 75.1 innings pitched in 1990.

When the Terriers opened their 2001 season in Oxford, Miss. at the Ole Miss Invitational, the major league scouts were out in droves. Fardella was admittedly nervous, and went 6.2 innings, giving up five earned runs in a 20-2 loss to Ole Miss.

Since then, he has simply been awesome. After starting the season 0-2, Fardella has won seven straight games for St. Francis College. He has a 1.87 ERA, with 55 strikeouts in 57.2 innings pitched.

“He has a great fastball, slider and a real good change-up when it’s on,” Del George said. “When he has all three pitches working for him, he’s very hard to beat. When he has two working, he has a very good chance of winning.”

In his last three Northeast Conference starts, Fardella has been nearly unhittable. He pitched all 21 innings, allowed two runs, one earned, and eight hits while striking out 24. After tossing a two-hit shutout against league foe Central Connecticut in a 6-0 win Saturday, Fardella was named NEC Pitcher of the Week for the second time this season.

“I’m pretty smart, I think that’s where my success on the mound comes from,” Fardella said. “I use my head and try and think what the batter is thinking and do the opposite. I know I can throw hard, but I don’t consider myself a power pitcher. I mix it up well and hit my spots and it’s been working really well for me.”

Reach Associate Sports Editor Dylan Butler by e-mail at or call 229-0300, Ext. 143.

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