This week could be the biggest one of John Cain’s young life. And while he’s not exactly sure how he is going to spend his time, the one thing he won’t be doing is watching television.
Cain, the 6-foot-10 left-hander for the Manhattan Jaspers, is expecting to hear his name called sometime this week when Major League Baseball conducts its annual amateur draft.
The event was to be carried on MLB Network beginning Monday night, so Cain was looking to be otherwise engaged rather than deal with the round-by-round agita.
“I’m pretty superstitious,” said Cain, who just completed his graduate season with the Jaspers after a three-year career at Lafayette College. “I’m probably not going to watch it and just keep my phone on-hand. I’ll just do something with my family or friends over the course of those three days to try and keep my mind off it. But I’ll definitely have my phone with me just in case I get the call.”
The call could come from the St. Louis Cardinals or New York Yankees, and both teams have shown interest in Cain after a season in which he led the Jaspers with nine wins while striking out 96 batters in 98 innings.
“I’ve talked to the Yankees a couple of times over the course of the last few weeks,” Cain said. “Nothing too particular, but they have been in touch.”
A Cardinals scout also reached out to Cain just prior to his debut appearance in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference tournament in Staten Island on May 22. Cain worked eight innings in that game against Marist, allowing six hits and two earned runs while fanning nine in a 6-2 Jaspers win.
“They just said, ‘Hey if we pick you, are you signable?’ And I was like, ‘Yeah, I want to play,’” Cain said. “So they told me to keep my phone on-hand during the draft and we’ll let you know.”
Yankees area scout Cesar Presbott was on hand to see another of Cain’s gems at Monmouth on April 27.
“He came and saw me pitch, and he gave me some feedback on what he liked and what I need to work on,” said Cain, who worked six innings while allowing one earned run and striking out 12 in a 5-2 Manhattan win. “But overall it was pretty positive, and he said just keep in touch. So we’ve been talking about every week or so the last four or five weeks.
A chance for the Middletown native to be drafted by the Yankees seems like it comes right from a cheesy Hollywood script. Only Cain has no loyalties to the Bronx Bombers.
“This is a little weird, but I actually grew up a Washington Nationals fan,” Cain said. “When I was a little kid my family took a vacation to (Washington) D.C. and we’re a big sports family, so we went to a series at Nationals Park while we were down there, and I just said, ‘I’m a Nats fan.’ I was just 10 years old, but I stuck with it.”
Cain, who attended Manhattan College to work on his master’s in mechanical engineering, said he enjoyed his one season as a Jasper.
“I loved my experience there,” Cain said. “All the guys on the team took me in like I had been there for all four years. From Day One I was one of the guys. It was awesome. I really loved the team and the coaching staff. The whole baseball experience and the school itself. I really enjoyed my time there.”
Now Cain has a chance to add to Manhattan baseball’s growing reputation. If he is drafted, it would be the third straight season a Jaspers player has been selected, following in the footsteps of Tom Cosgrove (Padres 2017), Fabian Peña (Giants 2018) and Joe Jacques (Pirates 2018).
“I heard Cosgrove, Peña and Jacques are all having solid success right now in the minors,” Cain said.
“I think a lot of that comes from the coaching staff and I think they have done a great job here. There’s definitely something happening here with baseball.”
So is Cain hoping his name is called by the Nationals so he could one day possibly pair up with Stephen Strasburg in D.C.?
“To be honest, I’d be happy to be drafted by any team that is willing to take a shot at me,” Cain said. “I just want the opportunity to play. That’s really all I can hope for.”