Former Cornell baseball first baseman and California native Cole Rutherford ’17 did not hear his name called in the MLB draft earlier this month, but has signed as a free agent with the San Diego Padres, it was announced this weekend.
“It was a dream come true. I remember when they called me I was ecstatic,” Rutherford told the Sun. “I hung up and gave my dad a huge hug and started tearing up a bit. I was absolutely overwhelmed with emotions.”
Rutherford said that the team called him on June 15th, but didn’t make it official until the 23rd when he went out to Arizona to sign.
“I was once again overjoyed and called both of my parents my brother and my girlfriend and was almost at a loss for words,” Rutherford added about the signing.
Rutherford, who was named one of the Sun’s top 25 senior athletes this past May, becomes the first Cornell field-player to join a professional organization and fourth overall this summer after Paul Balestri ’17, Peter Lannoo ’17 and rising senior Justin Lewis — all pitchers — were drafted during the 2017 MLB Draft.
Rutherford will also be joining his younger brother, Blake, in the professional ranks, who was drafted straight out of high school by the New York Yankees with the 18th overall pick in the first round of the 2016 draft. Blake currently plays for the Charleston RiverDogs, the Single-A affiliate of the Yankees. But Rutherford said the idea of facing off against his brother hasn’t crossed his mind yet.
“I think mainly just because we’re in completely different leagues,” he said as to why it has never come up, “but that would definitely be something special if that happened some day.”
Cole spent his freshman and sophomore years playing for Orange Coast College — a two-year community college in Orange County, Ca. — helping the team on its way to state championships in both of his seasons with OCC and a national championship in 2014 before transferring to Cornell.
“The biggest adjustment was just the level of commitment to both baseball and school and balancing the two,” Rutherford said about the transition. “There is so much to do in order to be successful at both and only so many hours in the day to get it all done. You have to really stay on top of everything and be diligent in everything that you do.”
Rutherford immediately made an impact for the Red. He was named All-Ivy League honorable mention after the 2016 season, and led the team in home runs in his two seasons in Ithaca with six in 2016 and seven in 2017. Rutherford also led the team in RBI’s in both of his seasons with 26 and 33, and led last year’s squad with a .512 slugging percentage and a .314 batting average in Ivy League play.