After his junior season pitching for the University at Buffalo, Shawn Dubin thought he’d done enough to hear his name called in the 2017 MLB Draft.
But Dubin, left without a team after UB cut its baseball program, went unpicked. So the Allegany native went back to school at Georgetown College (Ky.) in the NAIA to prove himself again, and it paid off Wednesday with a selection in the 13th round, 402nd overall, to the Houston Astros. To Dubin, 22, the selection validated his long journey through various schools just to get a chance to pitch.
“Last year, I honestly thought I would be drafted,” Dubin said, “and when I didn't it was kind of like a wake-up call. The mere fact that I had to go back down to the NAIA was kind of a low point, but at the end of the day, it just made me realized how much harder I really had to work just to even gain notoriety.
“Luckily I had a good season, things finally clicked, the pitching coach down at Georgetown fixed my mechanics a little bit and all this success followed. At midseason this year, I started getting a lot of exposure, a lot of contact from scouts, so that's when I kind of knew it was going to happen this year. I talked to like 14 or 15 teams, so by the end of the year I was pretty confident that it would happen, but I honestly wasn't expecting it to happen this early. I was just hoping to be in the top 20 rounds and the mere fact that I went 13th was pretty huge.”
Dubin, a former Olean Oiler, went 9-1 this year at Georgetown with 2.09 ERA over 94 ⅔ innings, striking out 128 batters and earned an NAIA First-Team All-American honor.
Pro baseball will be a long way from high school at Allegany-Limestone, where he considered soccer his favorite sport and started at shortstop but barely pitched. He made stops at Jamestown Community College, where he played fall baseball, then returned home to take classes at JCC-Olean, then Erie Community College before earning attention from UB, where he played in 2016 and 2017.
“Being from this area, not a lot of people get this opportunity: I think the last guy to do it was Robb Vogtli,” Dubin said, referring to the Gowanda native who signed with the Yankees in 1998. “So it's pretty surreal, being home-grown Allegany-wise, it makes it that much more special. I've been to like five different schools... it's been a hell of a journey. I've been from D3 JuCo to D1 to NAIA. It's been a rollercoaster but it all worked out.”
Dubin said the Mets called him on Tuesday saying to expect he’d be picked in the top 10 rounds. But he never heard back and went into Wednesday’s third and final draft day feeling uncertain again.
“I sat by the phone all day, never got it and I was kind of in a bad place last night second guessing everything,” he said. “I woke up this morning to a call from the Astros at 9 a.m. and they just said, 'Hey, get ready for today.' Then three rounds later they took me.”
Dubin sat in the living room with friends and family waiting for the Astros’ call.
“I was at my house, I was sitting here with my brother, one of my friends Luke Hennessy and my mom and stepdad,” he said. “I got a call probably two or three minutes before it actually happened ... they called me and asked me if I was ready to be an Astro. It just kind of went from there.”
Dubin is particularly thrilled to join the Astros’ organization, given how well the defending World Series champions develop pitchers.
“Honestly this is the best case scenario,” he said. “I'm a Yankee fan being from New York, but the Astros organization, pitching-wise, they're No. 1 in every single category there is. So from a pitcher aspect, this is the best possible opportunity that I have, so it's pretty surreal.”
— Another former Olean Oiler, Eddy Demurias, went in the 27th round Wednesday to the Cincinnati Reds out of South Carolina. Demurias and Dubin each pitched for the 2016 NYCBL champions.