Baseball: Moskovits launches pro career in Canada

Like many recent college graduates, it's been hard for Danny Moskovits to find a job in his chosen field.

Professional baseball player is one career an Ivy League education can't accelerate.

Moskovits graduated from Harvard in May with a degree in psychology and four years of college baseball under his belt. Undrafted by any Major League organization, Moskovits remained undeterred.

Last month, the right-handed pitcher from Newport Coast who stood out at Corona del Mar High signed with the Quebec Capitales of the independent Canadian American Association of Professional Baseball.

"He was our best pitcher when we brought him up his sophomore year," said John Emme, Corona del Mar's baseball coach. "He didn't throw much for us the last two years – I think there was a little arm trouble. We used him mostly as a hitter his junior and senior years."

Moskovits, the 2009 Daily Pilot Dream Team Player of the Year, graduated from CdM with a 4.2 GPA and was good enough on the diamond to get scholarship offers from several Division I schools. Cal Poly SLO and UC Santa Barbara are two strong programs that wanted him as a pitcher.

"My priority was always baseball," Moskovits says without slighting his higher education. "When Harvard came in and said I could be a two-way player, I mean, who's going to say no to an offer from Harvard?"

After playing infield through most of his first three seasons, Moskovits focused strictly on pitching in his final year at Harvard. He appeared in only 10 games but finished second in the Ivy League with a 1.70 earned-run average and 28 strikeouts in 37 innings. Impressive stats but just not enough experience to seriously attract pro scouts.

After returning to California, he worked out hard and attended tryout camps for the Major League Scouring Bureau. Scouts took more notice when he added velocity to his 90 mph fastball and started hitting 93 on the radar gun.

Still, no organization offered a contract — until last month. His pitching coach at Harvard knew an assistant with Quebec of the Can Am League and made a call. Coincidentally, on the same day, a scout with the Phillies, who noticed Moskovits at a tryout made a recommendation to the same coach in Quebec.

Moskovits made his professional pitching debut on July 31 with the first of three solid appearances out of the bullpen. He was promoted to the Capitales starting rotation and tossed seven scoreless innings and struck out eight in his first start on Aug. 8.

"It felt great," said the 6-foot-1, 195-pound Moskovits. "Honestly, I'm throwing darn well. I always knew I would have to pitch to make it in pro ball."

The four-team Can-Am League can be compared to a mid-level minor league with a different blend of players.

Instead of prospects all climbing over each other to reach the majors, indy players are often talented older veterans with foregone big league hopes; released or suspended players trying to resurrect careers; and rookies like Moskovits grasping at a chance to prove themselves against professionals.

Teams play in front of large, enthusiastic crowds in Quebec City, and Trois-Rivieres, and stateside in Rockland, N.Y., Little Falls, N.J. Last week, two players from the Can-Am League signed minor league contracts with Major League organizations.

"There's nobody breathing down your neck — and I like that," he said of the difference between college and pro ball. There's no class time and homework either. Here, it's just baseball and you better be self-motivated or you'll just be gone."

Rosters are peppered with international imports and hometown players alike. Technically, Moskovits is a foreign player in Canada and it's given him a taste of the adjustment many Latin and Japanese players understand, but U.S. players rarely experience in North America.

"I speak zero French," he said with a chuckle.

All Capitales games on radio and television are broadcast in the official language of Quebec City.

"It's bizarre to go in to a Subway, or McDonalds, and struggle to order food. Or even read the menu," he said.

After two solid starts, Moskovits took his first loss Wednesday night, giving up six runs in four innings in a 19-4 loss to Trois-Rivières. He feels his attitude as much as his arm strength will help advance his career.

"They're professional hitters," he said. "I like to pound the zone, pitch to contact. Guys will hit you. The point is to get outs. If you have a bad game, it's how you bounce back."

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