BY KYLE BEERY | ASSISTANT SPORTS EDITOR
Radley Haddad is trying to join the likes of Pat Neshek and Dan Johnson as former Butler University baseball players to play in Major League Baseball.
Haddad, a 2013 Butler graduate and Carmel native, is beginning offseason workouts after finishing his first season as a catcher with the New York Yankees’ single-A affiliate, the Staten Island Yankees, last week.
Haddad went undrafted and joined the club in late June, one day before he was supposed to join an independent team out of Evansville, Ind.
Haddad got a phone call late one night from the Yankees. He said he jumped at the offer, setting off a whirlwind 24 hours.
“(A Yankees’ representative) told me I had to be on a plane at 8:30 in the morning,” Haddad said. “So my bags were already packed to go to Evansville, and instead of getting in the car and driving, I hopped on a plane, and I was down in Tampa the next day, signing a contract with the Yankees.”
Haddad batted .267 with the Yankees and also played in a development league for the club at the team’s headquarters in Tampa, Fla.
Haddad will play in the development league for a few more weeks before returning to Indiana for the offseason. He said he will train on campus with the Butler team and spend time training on the East Coast with some of his Yankees teammates.
Butler baseball coach Steve Farley said Haddad was quickly a top catcher for the team after transferring from Western Carolina following his sophomore year.
Farley said he first noticed Haddad receiving attention from professional scouts during his senior year when the Bulldogs played Indiana University. Haddad threw out multiple Hoosier baserunners.
“They were there mostly to scout IU players,” Farley said. “They walked away saying, ‘Hey, this Butler catcher is pretty good.’”
Haddad said he enjoyed adjusting to the life of a professional baseball player.
“Baseball is baseball, but it’s a little bit different world being a professional,” Haddad said.
“First day I walked in the door (in Tampa), the first guy I saw was Derek Jeter.”
Haddad said he got to spend time in New York at Yankee Stadium as well, catching scrimmage games for pitcher Hiroki Kuroda and having his own locker in the clubhouse.
“The first time or two was a little nerve-wracking, (and) it was kind of surreal, catching for Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez,” Haddad said. “But after the first time or two, it was just like, ‘This is my life. I’m a professional now.’”
Haddad doesn’t have much downtime, but when he does, he spends it with his teammates, most of whom are his age.
“We’ll go out and get dinner, but we try and be in bed early because days are long and days are hot, especially in Florida,” he said.
Teammate Brady Lail, a 20-year-old who signed with the club out of high school, said he and Haddad became close friends during the season.
“He is easy to get along with and easy to communicate with, which is good to have as a pitcher and catcher,” Lail said.
Lail said Haddad’s laid-back style is important at the professional level.
“When you’re struggling, he’ll always come out and try to settle things down,” Lail said. “He’ll even try to make you smile. He’s the kind of guy you need behind the dish and to kind of take charge.“
Haddad hopes to advance his role next year, beginning with offseason and spring training, in order to get to the same level as Neshek and Johnson.
Neshek is a pitcher for the Oakland Athletics. He is most recognized for retiring two consecutive batters in relief against the Detroit Tigers in the 2012 playoffs days after losing his newborn son.
Johnson’s most notable moment came in 2011 when he hit a home run on the last day of the season for the Tampa Bay Rays, tying the game and ultimately sending the team to the playoffs.
Farley said he thinks Haddad has what it takes to get to the bigs.
“He’s living the dream, (and) it sure beats working everyday,” Farley said. “He just has to keep working hard to get to the big leagues.”