Kalamazoo, Mich. – Following the conclusion of the 2023 MLB draft, six former Kalamazoo Growlers were selected by major league organizations to play at the next level. The #GrowlersPipeline continues to grow in the professional ranks of baseball with four Growlers being drafted and another two signing undrafted free-agent contracts. The list includes 2021 Growlers Jake Gelof, Dominic Pitelli, Anthony Calarco, and Austin Strickland, 2020 Mac Daddie Ethan O’Donnell, and 2022 & 2023 Growler Logan Bursick Harrington. In the ten-year history of the Kalamazoo Growlers, 39 players have now been selected in the MLB draft while 48 have experience at the professional ranks.
The first Growler off the board was the Virginia home run and RBI king in Jake Gelof. Gelof was drafted in the second round as the 60th pick by the Los Angeles Dodgers. The younger brother of former Growler Zack Gelof was the leader in batting average, slugging percentage, and extra-base hits for a 2021 team stacked with draft talent. Across 32 games, Gelof hit .370/.445/.597 with 21 RBI and five home runs.
Three more K-Zoo alumni were selected on day two of the draft. Ethan O’Donnell, the first-ever Kalamazoo MacDaddie to get drafted, was taken by the Cincinnati Reds in the sixth round with the 168th pick. O’Donnell played 38 games in the COVID-19-shortened 2020 season for the newly formed Kalamazoo Mac Daddies. O’Donnell led the team in extra-base hits with eight and slashed .296/.406/.423 with 10 RBI.
The Reds once again would go the Growlers route in the seventh route, selecting Dominic Pitelli with the 198th pick. Pitelli was another consistent presence in that 2021 Growlers squad. Pitelli across 38 games slashed .221/.286/.237 with 16 RBI and flashed the glove out at short, turning double-digit double plays. With six different Growlers picks, the Reds have selected more K-Zoo alumni than any other major league team.
To end off day two, the Pittsburgh Pirates selected Austin Strickland in the eighth round with the 227th pick. Strickland was a first-half starter for the 2021 squad appearing in five games. Across 18 innings, Strickland struck out 21 while only walking seven giving up 11 earned runs.
Following the end of the day Tuesday, the Texas Rangers saught their eyes on a pair of two-year K-Zoo alumni, Anthony Calarco and Logan Bursick-Harrington. Calarco or “Larky” known by Kalamazoo faithful started off as a Kalamazoo Mac Daddie and was one of the best players in the entire Michigan South Division. Calarco had a team-best .321 average, a .423 slugging percentage, and 22 RBI while walking 23 teams across 167 plate appearances. After his first season in K-Zoo, Calarco would come back in 2021. Larky played in 20 games his second season hitting .292 while again walking 23 times this time in just 88 plate appearances. With his younger brother Alex Calarco a part of the team in 2022, Anthony stayed involved with the organization, many times meeting up across road trips to support his sibling.
The first 2022-2023 Growler headed to professional baseball is Logan Bursick-Harrington. The 2022 Northwoods League champion and K-Zoo closer signed an undrafted free-agent deal with the Texas Rangers. Bursick-Harrington struck out 36 in 2022 across 22.1 innings pitched, securing a pair of saves. With a combination of a fastball topping 94 and a dirty breaking ball, Bursick-Harrington again settled in as the Growlers’ closer in 2023. In 6.2 innings, Harrington snagged another pair of saves while striking out eight and ending the year with a 4.05 ERA.
Kalamazoo alumni continues to filter into the ranks of professional baseball. With six players having played at the major league level, this next class looks to bring more of the #GrowlersPipeline into the biggest stages of the game.