Fleck forgoes senior year to start MLB career

Brandon Zeris, Copy Editor

Former Pitt-Johnstown starting baseball pitcher Kaleb Fleck has decided to skip his final season with the Mountain Cats to pursue a career in Major League Baseball.

Fleck signed a free-agent contract with the Arizona Diamondbacks. He has been assigned to the team’s Arizona Instructional League team.

In his three years of UPJ pitching, he earned 14 wins and 7 losses while posting a 4.18 ERA, with 117 strikeouts and 44 walks.

Last season was cut short for Fleck because he had Tommy John surgery. Rehabilitation usually takes a year or more.

UPJ’s head baseball coach Todd Williams said Fleck probably would have been drafted had he not been injured because he had drawn a lot of attention from professional teams.

“He had scouts looking at him ever since he got here as a freshman. . . He had 30 scouts looking at him at a tournament in Florida.”

“I definitely would have been drafted last year if I didn’t get hurt, but it didn’t really hurt me in the end,” Fleck said.

One of the reasons for his success was his fastball. Williams said Fleck was throwing hard as a freshman but continued to improve by working on his accuracy and now throws in the mid- 90s with good control.

Baseball player Zach Vignero caught for Fleck during some of his time at UPJ and was impressed with Fleck’s ability as a player and a leader.

“I never caught for someone who threw so hard. When I got here as a freshman, Kaleb was throwing 93 mph,” he said.

“His work ethic is admirable. He was a great leader and did everything he could to help the team, even while he was injured.”

Athletic Director Pat Pecora was enthusiastic about the news of Fleck’s professional contract, and said it was nice to have someone like Fleck represent UPJ.

“It’s exciting for the university. It’s good any time you have someone recognized nationally,” he said. “He’s a good representative of our baseball team. He did it the right way. He’s a great athlete, a great student and a great teammate.”

Fleck is the second baseball player from UPJ to be signed to a professional team in the last three years.

Pitcher Ben Watkins was drafted in the 40th round of the 2009 Major League Baseball draft by the New York Yankees.