Former Salem State Viking and North Shore Navigator Brock Riley reached his lifelong dream of becoming a professional baseball player this week. Riley, a right-handed pitcher, signed with the Lake Erie Crushers of the Frontier League Monday.
“I’m extremely excited,” Riley, a Lowell native, said. “I was just so thrilled to be signed by a professional team after going undrafted. That hurt a lot because myself and a lot of other people thought I was going to get drafted by a professional team. I’m just excited to get the experience and show what I can do.”
Riley went 4-6 with a 3.88 ERA in 15 appearances this past spring at Salem State. After graduating with a degree in history in May, Riley traveled the country looking for an opportunity to continue his career.
“As soon as I went undrafted I knew I wanted to keep playing baseball,” Riley said. “I didn’t want to give up on my dream. I reached out to a lot of independent leagues and had some tryouts around the country. I performed well at a lot of these tryouts. Because most of these teams are midway through their seasons, there aren’t a lot of spots. Lake Erie reached out to me. They asked me how fast I could get to Cleveland. I said ‘right away’ and it all came together.”
The Crushers are 32-25 this summer, good for first place in the Frontier League’s East Division. Riley heard positive remarks about the Frontier League through his travels.
“I’ve known a lot about the Frontier League for a long time,” Riley said. “It’s definitely one of the best independent leagues in the country. It’s one of the leagues I had my eyes on. I’m excited to be here. I knew a lot about Lake Erie before signing my contract. I had a lot of friends who’ve been here and they recommended it very highly to me.”
At Salem State, Riley emerged as one of the top pitchers in MASCAC. He pitched for the Navigators last summer before leaving the team to join the Chatham Anglers of the Cape Cod Baseball League. Having matched up against top-notch competition, Riley feels he’s ready for what awaits him in Lake Erie.
“I feel extremely prepared,” Riley said. “During my summers playing in the Futures League and the Cape Cod League, I played with and against a lot of draft picks and guys that’ll be in the majors soon. I got to see what it’s like to compete against those guys. Surprisingly, I don’t feel nervous at all. I think I should be able to hit the ground running here.”
Al Donovan, Riley’s coach at Salem State, agrees.
“Brock’s one of those kids that whatever level he pitched in, he was the kid that wanted the ball,” Donovan said. “Whether it’s starting a game or coming in during the middle of the week and closing games. Doesn’t matter who he throws against. He’ll go out there, give it his best and do well. He’s a fierce competitor. He’s one of the fiercest competitors I’ve ever seen. He’s not afraid to fail. He’s one of those kids.
“He doesn’t take ‘no’ for an answer,” Donovan said. “When he’s out there competing, he’s the type of kid you want on the mound. That’s going to take him a long way. He’s been waiting for this for a long time and I think he’ll take this chance and make the best of it.”
Riley’s five-pitch arsenal includes a two-seam fastball, four-seam fastball, change-up, slider and sinker. During recent tryouts, Riley’s fastball topped out at 93 MPH. He knows he’ll need command of all five pitches in order to succeed at the pro level.
“My sinker’s the one I’m most comfortable with,” Riley said. “It gets a lot of ground balls and swings and misses. Being able to mix my pitches is going to be extremely important at this level. These guys know how to hit. These guys know how to hit everything so you have to outsmart them and keep them off balance. That’s something I want to get even better at.”
With the Crushers well on their way toward a postseason push, Riley’s goals are simple. He’s looking to do whatever it takes to contribute to the team while proving himself on the pro diamond.
“A lot of these guys are already established,” Riley said. “I’m the new guy and everything and I want to show that I belong. I want to show that I can stick around and hopefully advance up the ladder in professional baseball. I certainly have a lot to prove but I’m definitely ready to do that.
“It’s always been my dream,” Riley said. “I’m really excited to fulfill my dream and show that I belong.”