Right handed pitcher Brian McAfee ’15 was selected by the Tampa Bay Rays organization in the 2016 Major League Baseball Draft in the 38th round (No. 1140 overall). He’s the first Cornellian selected since fellow pitcher Brent Jones ’15 was taken in 2014 by the Arizona Diamondbacks.
“It was one of the best feelings in the world,” McAfee said. “I had no clue what to expect going into the draft. I was just hoping that my name would be called at some point. It was definitely nerve-racking to have it come down to the end.”
The Washington state native finished his time at Cornell in 2015 with one year of eligibility remaining in his collegiate year due to an Ivy League eligibility rule. He then took his talents to Durham, N.C., to join the Duke Blue Devils, where he spent this past season in a starting role.
His time in North Carolina resulted in a 7-5 record through 14 starts, striking out 65 and leading the team in 92 innings pitched.
“I was able to try to prove myself against the toughest competition in college baseball, and also work with a world class coaching staff to become a better pitcher and prepare for professional hitters,” he said of his time at Duke.
McAfee’s career at Cornell is highlighted by his resurgent senior year after sitting out his junior year due to injury. During his senior year, McAfee became the Red’s ace, sporting a 5-2 record and a cool 1.77 ERA.
Also during this year, he posted the fewest walks per nine innings for a Cornell pitcher in program history and was named Ivy League Pitcher of the Week on two occasions.
“It takes a cumulative effort from family, teammates, coaches, trainers and everyone else that has been involved and supported me throughout my career,” he said. “I take pride in being humble, not in the sense of downplaying accomplishments, but rather recognizing that you can learn something beneficial from everyone that surrounds you.”
Even with his success at Duke, the two time All-Ivy pitcher accredits this success with the lessons and development that he started in Ithaca.
“Cornell was where I really made big strides and developed into the pitcher I am today,” he said. McAfee credits the coaching staff for his improvement while on the Red.
Through the adversity of his junior year season-ending injury, McAfee says maintaining his confidence and morale were key components in ensuring he had a successful finish to his Cornell career when he recovered.
“The one quote that has guided me through my five years of college baseball was, ‘the only thing that stands between someone and what they want in life is often merely the will to try it and the faith to believe it’s possible,’ ” McAfee said. “There were a number of times that I faced adversity and I kept reminding myself to just have faith and keep doing whatever I can to get better.”
His never-quit attitude, McAfee noted, stems from the inspiration he got from watching big leaguers growing up just outside of Seattle.
“From the age of five to seven I watched the Seattle Mariners 1995 highlight video over and over,” he said. “I tried to imitate the swings of just about every player on that team. I’m honored to have the chance to make it to that level myself.”
While being drafted is just the first part of the process, McAfee knows there is still hard work left to make the most of the Rays’ selection.
“The next step for me is to report to wherever Tampa Bay wants me to play and to execute pitches,” McAfee said. “I’m not going to switch up my style of pitching or anything drastic. I just look forward to focusing on baseball and not worrying about prelims.”