By Christian Flores
Not every college athlete, regardless of the university, goes on to play professionally. In fact, among major team sports, (football, soccer and men’s and women’s basketball) fewer than 1.5 percent of NCAA athletes will make the professional ranks at any level, according to NCAA.org. However, when it comes to baseball, due to the much more extensive amateur draft, the probability of athletes competing in 2017 who will turn pro is much higher, 9.1 percent.
And California State University, Dominguez Hills can boast its own professional baseball players. There are currently five former Toros who play in Major League Baseball organizations, including one who is a starting player for the Toronto Blue Jay. We take a look at those players who made an impact during their time wearing the Toro uniform and now strive to keep representing the cardinal and gold at the profession level.
Kevin Pillar 2008-2011
Pillar finished his sterling four-year career with the Toros with a .367 batting average, the highest career average in the school’s history. He also rattled off a 54-game hitting streak as a junior, an NCAA Division II record. Drafted by the Toronto Blue Jays in the 32nd round of the 2011 MLB draft, he torched the minor leagues, and became a starter for Toronto in 2015. He’s a three-time Gold Glove finalist in center field and last year tallied the most home runs (16) and doubles (37) of his career, while hitting .256 and slugging .404
Winston Lavendier 2014-2015
In 2015, the left-handed Lavendier was the Toros No. 1 starting pitcher, finishing the season leading the CCAA in innings pitched, fourth in wins and fifth in strikeouts. He was a major factor in leading the Toros into the postseason. He was drafted by the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim in the 33rd round of the 2015 MLB Draft. The Lancaster, California native remains in the Angels organization, last playing for the Class A Advanced Inland Empire 66ers, where he struck out 60 batters in 57 innings in 2017.
Brady Conlan 2013-2015
Conlan, who played three years with the Toros, didn’t just represent CSUDH. He also played for the Philippines in the qualifying round for the 2017 World Baseball Classic. In 2015, he hit .413, the second highest mark in Toros history, earning him first-team all-CCAA numbers. Conlan was drafted in the 24th round by the Chicago White Sox in the 2016 MLB draft. He remains in the White Sox organization, playing for their Class A advanced minor league affiliate, the Winston-Salem Dash, where he tallied 413 at-bats in 116 games last season.
Kevin Lenik 2015
Lenik played one season with the Toros in 2015, splitting time between the outfield and the pitching mound. Despite not being drafted in the MLB draft, he received an open tryout with the Texas Rangers organization in 2016. He is now part of the Kansas City Royals organization and, in 2017, posted a 1.88 ERA in 12 games at its AAA-affiliate Omaha. Early reports this year indicate he’ll get a close look by the Royals for their bullpen in the 2018 season.
Brandon Polizzi 2015-2017
Polizzi, a Bellflower native, burst out to an outstanding freshman season, batting .305 and posting a nine-game hitting streak. In 2016, after starting 55 games with a .353 batting average, Polizzi was named to the second All-CCAA team. In 2017, he led the team with a .381 batting average and finished second in the West Region in hits, earning him a first-team All-CCAA nod. Polizzi was drafted by the Toronto Blue Jays in the 35th round of the 2017 MLB draft. He is currently with their Class A level team, the Vancouver Canadians.
Photos provided by gotoros.com