Sports -- June 14, 2007

Published on Thu, Jun 14, 2007
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SPORTS
by Jack Kintner

Paciorek now a Milwaukee Brewer

Blaine senior Joey Paciorek inked a professional baseball contract with the Milwaukee Brewers on Monday of this week, four days before he graduates from Blaine and four days after being selected in the fifteenth round of the annual amateur baseball draft.

Instead of what he’d planned to do if not drafted, firefighting school at Lower Columbia Community College in Vancouver, Washington,

Paciorek will leave Sunday for Phoenix and his rookie Arizona League team, the Arizona Brewers.

“It’s pretty exciting,” Paciorek said. Though the details of his contract can’t be revealed until it receives approval from the commissioner, a source who declined to give his name described it as “well into five figures,” adding that it also includes a full college scholarship available whenever he decides to go, even after he retires.

His dad, Blaine assistant baseball coach Jim Paciorek, couldn’t imagine a better way to spend Father’s Day, and is also planning to move to Tucson, Arizona, later this summer.

A former Brewer himself, he played 46 games for them 20 years ago at first, third and in the outfield before moving on to an impressive career in Japan.

“Joey’s a much more complete ball player than I ever was,” he said, “he’s faster and stronger than I was. This is something he’s worked for his whole life and I’m glad he’s getting the opportunity to try it out.”

Jim started working with his son as a three-year-old in T-ball, he said, adding that one of the most significant influences in high school has been Blaine football coach Jay Dodd.

“He really got him going on conditioning and now he’s a fanatic, really likes it,” Paciorek said.

“Joey’s been an absolute pleasure to work with,” thundered Blaine high school vice-principal Scott Ellis.

Paciorek is the second Blaine athlete in four years to be drafted into the pro ranks. Luke Ridnour, Blaine high school class of 2000, was drafted in the first round by the NBA Seattle Sonics in 2003 after playing three years at the University of Oregon.

“Despite his outstanding talent he’s very much a team player,” said Gary Clausen, Blaine high school athletic director and, for the past 27 years, head baseball coach, adding that the only other player he’s seen here in that time who came close to Joey’s level was fourth generation Blaine native Brad Wolten.

Paciorek was chosen 461st out of nearly 1500 high school and college players picked by the 30 major league clubs after trying out for the Brewers at Miller Stadium in Milwaukee earlier this month along with 35 other players, where Paciorek said he “fit right in, felt good about how I did.”

Brewers scout Brandon Newell, oldest of Blaine high school principal Dan Newell’s four boys and someone who has known Joey for many years, said that the try-out showed him off well to the Milwaukee brass, including Brewers manager Ned Yost.

“Joey’s got a strong arm to go with his very good athleticism and his hitting ability. He’ll show you 86 mph [pitches] on the mound, which shows a good strong arm, and he’s got very athletic. He showed very good reaction time, and we feel very, very fortunate to have signed him.”

He added that Paciorek will be at third base, “which is a step-and-dive position. That’s about all you have time to do, defensively, so his quickness will help.”

A batted ball goes roughly the same speed as the pitch, which means that a hit from the typical major league fastball reaches the third baseman in less than half a second.

Newell arranged to meet Joey and his dad at the Blaine high school office at 2 p.m. Monday afternoon for the signing. “Joey really got serious about his conditioning under Coach Dodd,” Newell said, “he really stepped up his work ethic. That’s what got him into pro ball.
Newell also said that “He’s got a lot of speed for someone so big (6’2” and 225 pounds),” comparing him to St. Louis Cardinal third baseman Scott Rolen.

“With his athleticism, size, speed and especially hitting ability I fully expect him to end up in the majors,” said Newell, who was an all-state pitcher at Nooksack High School for two years and was drafted by both the Seattle Mariners and New York Mets.

He graduated in 1990, the year Blaine won its last state baseball championship and the year Newell’s father became principal at Blaine high school.

Paciorek’s signing caps a stellar high school career. He set a record his sophomore year, when Blaine finished third in the state tournament, batting .514, and broke it this year with a .516 average despite being thrown mostly garbage by opposing pitchers.

Over the 90 games played in his four years on the varsity he got 76 singles, 33 doubles, nine triples and nine home runs for 127 hits in 264 at bats while striking out just 24 times. He stole 39 bases in 47 attempts. He was all-league all four years.

As a pitcher Paciorek showed good speed and movement, eventually getting his fastball up into the mid to high 80 mph range. Even in the minors he’ll face pitchers capable of throwing well over 90, but should adjust to that and to the faster pace at which the overall game is played early in the season.

Tom, John and Jim Paciorek grew up in Detroit’s Polish community and were all known as hitters, as are Joey’s three cousins who have also played professionally.

“The apple doesn’t fall too far from the tree,” said Brandon Newell, “so this pedigree really means something.”

Paciorek travels to Phoenix this weekend and will play in the season opener six days later on Saturday, June 23, against the Oakland A’s rookie team.

The nine-team league also has representatives from the American League Anaheim Angels, Seattle Mariners, San Diego Padres, Texas Rangers and Kansas City Royals, as well as from the National League Chicago Cubs and San Francisco Giants. The 56-game season lasts through August.

For the first half of the season games are at 10:30 a.m., and for the second, beginning July 28, games start at 7 p.m.

The team’s home field, also the Milwaukee Brewer’s spring practice facility, is the 56-acre Maryvale baseball complex in northwest Phoenix.
The main stadium seats 7,000 fans plus another 1,000 on the lawn outside the outfield fence. By comparison, Bellingham’s Joe Martin stadium seats just over 1,800.

Julie Meaker chosen for all-county track team

Blaine senior Julie Meaker was chosen for the all-Whatcom County track team on the strength of her consistent results in finishing sixth in the 400 and anchoring the 4 x 200 relay team to a seventh place finish.
Both results came at the state AA track meet in Tacoma.

She also qualified for the state meet in the 100 meter dash.

Meaker said she plans on attending Western Washington University in the fall where she will continue running for their NCAA Division II track team.