NEW ROCHELLE, NY -- A pair of Bronx institutions made a connection over the weekend as the New York Yankees selected Monroe College pitcher Tony Hernandez in the 15th round of the MLB Draft. The West Hazelton, PA native is the second Monroe pitcher in two years to be drafted; Alex Vargas was chosen by the Houston Astros in the 39th round last year.
Hernandez, a left-handed pitcher, arrived at Monroe in 2015 after being recruited by Lou Melendez, the current Athletic Director at Monroe who had been Head Baseball Coach during Hernandez' senior year at Hazelton Area High School.
Hernandez was a stand-out player during the 2016 season, setting the school mark for most wins in a season (ten), and pacing the staff in ERA (1.91), completed games (five), strikeouts (77) and innings pitched (73). Hernandez was named to the All-Region Team at season's end.
Mustangs' Pitching Coach Manny Roman reflected on Hernandez's signing, "We knew he was special when he arrived at Monroe and he proved himself as the ace of the staff early on, leading the team in wins and strikeouts. He has all the tools to become a successful professional pitcher. Like all of us at Monroe, I look forward to seeing how he does at the next level."
Hernandez will travel to the Yankees' spring training facility in Tampa, FL next for additional assessment before moving on to a minor league affiliate.
He shared his thoughts on being drafted: "I am excited to join the Yankees. I had a spectacular year at Monroe and this is the culmination of all my work through the years. I am grateful to Coach (Lou) Melendez for offering me a scholarship."
He added, "None of this would have been possible if Monroe hadn't given me the opportunity. I am thankful for the chance they gave me."
Hernandez was the 458th selection in the draft. He had also seen interest from the Orioles, Phillies, and Pirates.
In speaking with Hernandez, he credited Anthony Hernandez, his Monroe teammate and older brother, for playing a big role in his success. "He doesn't realize it, but he pushed me a lot as a kid. Being the little brother, I always wanted his approval and he was better at baseball than I was. I'm sure he's proud of me today."
Hernandez, who idolized former Marlins pitcher Jose Fernandez and Red Sox ace Jon Lester, was a member of this season's Mustangs baseball team that went 38-16 overall and won a Regional Championship before being eliminated in the Eastern District final.
Those who know Hernandez describe him as an "all-around good guy," noting his strength has a team-builder, strong work in the classroom, and eager participation in Monroe community happenings, including most recently a charity event last week to benefit a local non-profit after-school tutoring program.