Jason Hirsh knows he’ll face more than his share of challenges in an
attempt to pitch in the major leagues one day.
But after being selected by the Houston Astros in the second round
-- with the 59th overall pick -- of the June 3 first-year baseball
player draft, the toughest obstacle for the 21-year-old hasn’t been
locating his 97 mph fastball, but rather, when the 6-foot-8,
250-pound right-hander would finally be able to throw it in a game.
Hirsh knows that after Thursday, he won’t have to wait much
The Burbank resident -- who graduated from St. Francis High in
2000 and recently completed his junior season at Division III
California Lutheran University in Thousand Oaks -- signed a
minor-league contract with the Astros shortly before 3 p.m. Thursday
and will report to one of the organization’s three single-A
affiliates, the Tri-City Valley Cats, following a mandatory physical
examination in Houston.
“I’m just thrilled. Ever since I got drafted, I just wanted to go
out and play and that’s why the biggest emotion has just been
anticipation,” said Hirsh, who will fly to Houston on Sunday for his
physical exam and then to Albany, N.Y., eventually joining the team
“It’s been hard to sit here and not play while they’re out there
competing. [That’s why] I just want to get out there and start my
Said Bill Hertz, the family’s advisor: “Jason is a terrific
athlete whose discipline, dedication and hard work have allowed him
to excel at each level.
“He has a major-league arm and major-league ability, and him being
drafted in the second round is reflective of the opinion the Astros
have of his potential. They see him on a very fast track and you’re
going to see him pitching in the big leagues someday.”
Hirsh -- who became the third member of the Golden Knights’ 2000
squad to sign in the past three weeks, joining Fernando Valenzuela
(San Diego Padres) and Errol Simonitsch (Minnesota Twins) -- would
not reveal the terms of his signing bonus, but confirmed that the
figures were reflective of a second-round draft pick.
“It’s nice to have a nice sum to fall back on, but it’s more about
playing the game,” said Hirsh, who posted a 9-1 record with a 3.68
earned-run average and 126 strikeouts in 100 1/3innings this past
season for Cal Lutheran, earning first-team All-West Region accolades
by the American Baseball Coaches Assn., in addition to first-team
All-Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference honors.
“You always dream about the big paycheck, but I’ve been working my
whole life for this, so it’s not like I’m getting something for
nothing. I’ve spent all these years to get to where I am and it’s
been amazing to have all these people on my side who are looking out
for my best interest.”
After earning Leader All-Area second-team honors at St. Francis,
Hirsh blossomed during his time at Cal Lutheran, elevating his stock
to become the Astros’ first draft pick and one of 17 pitchers
selected by the organization.
“I’ve matured a lot the past two years,” said Hirsh, who was
discovered by Astros’ scout Mel Nelson and is represented by Arn
Tellem and Joel Wolfe of SFX Entertainment, Inc.
“I went to Cal Lutheran because I wanted to play and make an
impact right away instead of going somewhere else and getting lost in
"[That’s why] this just shows that you don’t have to be the guy on
the cover of Baseball America to be successful or be recognized. I
knew if I was able to succeed, scouts would find me and this proves
that you can go to a small school and still [be a high draft pick].”
Said Jason’s dad, Michael Hirsh: “It’s been a long, long road to
get [here] and I couldn’t be happier for him. What a dream.
“It’s been like a Polish birthday, it just keeps going on with one
party after another.
“But you also become educated real quick [to all that signing a
prospect entails]. But I think we’ve put together a tremendous team
of people and we couldn’t have asked for a better arrangement.”
By the time Hirsh -- a product of Toluca Little League, who also
spent a great deal of time honing his skills at Olive Park -- arrives
in Troy, he’ll be with the Valley Cats less than two months before
returning to Southern California.
Tri-City (8-7, third place in the New York-Penn League’s Stedler
Division entering Friday’s home game with the Lowell Spinners)
concludes its season Sept. 3, the same day classes begin at Cal
But Hirsh is committed to finishing his final two semesters in
order to earn his degree.
“I’m going to try as hard as I can to go back to Cal Lutheran,”
Hirsh said. “Along with baseball, education is the most important
thing to me.”