Biddle put on show for Phils
Jesse Biddle excelled when it counted the most, for both the Germantown Friends School baseball team and himself. Toward the end of the 2010 campaign, with the Tigers bidding for another Friends Schools League championship and Phillies scouting director Marti Wolever and pitching coach Rich Dubee watching closely, the 6-foot-5, 235-pound southpaw delivered several eye-popping performances.
Jesse Biddle excelled when it counted the most, for both the Germantown Friends School baseball team and himself.
Toward the end of the 2010 campaign, with the Tigers bidding for another Friends Schools League championship and Phillies scouting director Marti Wolever and pitching coach Rich Dubee watching closely, the 6-foot-5, 235-pound southpaw delivered several eye-popping performances.
In the FSL title game against Shipley, Biddle notched a career-best 19 strikeouts as Germantown Friends captured its seventh consecutive league crown. Three days earlier, in a semifinal against Westtown, the 18-year-old fanned all 15 batters he faced in a five-inning triumph.
Later, in the Independent Schools tournament, the lanky lefthander racked up 15 K's and allowed only an early infield single in a complete-game triumph over Inter-Academic League champion Haverford School.
In addition to Wolever and Dubee, general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. (hiding in the shadows at least twice); area scout Eric Valent, a regular this season at the Germantown Friends diamond that sits just off School House Lane, near Wissahickon Avenue; assistant scouting director Rob Holiday; and East Coast supervisor Gene Schall came out to see if Biddle was worth selecting early in Major League Baseball's first-year player draft.
"We knew they were very interested," David Biddle, Jesse's father, said. "And you don't get a private workout with the Phillies if they're not seriously interested. And there was a lot of back-and-forth talk between us and the Phillies in the last month or so."
The two-time defending National League champions, wowed further when Jesse Biddle threw between 30 and 35 pitches in the bullpen at Citizens Bank Park last Wednesday, used the 27th pick in the draft to select the local product.
With that, a lifelong dream was fulfilled.
"It still hasn't sunk in yet," Biddle said Tuesday. "The truth is, I wasn't prepared for the moment. But it felt great when it happened."
The flame-throwing hurler worked out for the Milwaukee Brewers on Saturday at Miller Park. A private session with the Atlanta Braves, held at Turner Field, was held late last month.
"The Brewers passed on me with the No. 14 pick in the first round," he said. "I wasn't happy about it, but I said to myself at the time, 'Maybe going to the Phillies and playing here was meant to be.' I was hoping they would take me at No. 27."
Biddle's fastball has been clocked as high as 96 m.p.h., with a comfort zone between 91 and 93 m.p.h. This season, while retiring overmatched batters in record numbers, he posted a 9-2 record with a 1.06 ERA and 140 strikeouts in 591/3 innings.
"He kept improving in every start," said Bob Bergholtz, the Tigers' fourth-year head coach. "You kept asking yourself, 'What else can he do to improve on what he just did?' "
Germantown Friends, an independent Quaker day school for students in kindergarten through the 12th grade, is better known for its rigorous academics, preparing many for the likes of Harvard and Princeton, than its athletic programs. The high school enrollment is about 350.
"First off, this is great for Jesse," Bergholtz said. "Being a first-round pick is a reward for all his hard work over the years. And it's certainly a unique thing for the school. We've had kids go on and play Division I baseball, but, as far as I know, we've never had one sign a professional contract."
Wednesday morning, the Germantown Friends lower school, which runs through the eighth grade, will hold a pep rally of sorts - the Phillie Phanatic is expected to be part of the celebration - to honor Biddle, who will graduate Friday. That will be followed by a news conference.
Bergholtz said: "Jesse has always stood out from the crowd in his days at GFS. All along, I thought he had the tools, including his confidence and maturity level, to be a major-leaguer."
Faye Steacy, Biddle's fifth-grade teacher, remembered him as a "huge kid who could barely fit his feet under his desk."
Biddle, who last year committed to play at the University of Oregon, lives in Mount Airy, near Germantown Avenue and West Allens Lane, with his parents, David and Marion, and his brothers, Sam, 21, and Conor, 14. Sam Biddle, an outfielder and relief pitcher while at Germantown Friends, recently graduated from Reed College, a liberal arts school in Portland, Ore.
There is much more to Jesse Biddle than a blazing fastball.
"He's a very genuine and competitive kid who has tremendous poise and maturity for a player his age," one scout said last month. "When watching him pitch, it's easy to see he's a team player and is willing to do whatever it takes to help his team win."
Biddle, Philadelphia fans should know, is also a tough out. Doubling as a first baseman and hitting third in the order for the Tigers, he batted about .475 this year. He was hitting about .530 late in the regular season.
"It's awesome that Jesse was picked by the Phillies," said Sean Coyle, Germantown Academy's standout senior shortstop, selected Tuesday by the Boston Red Sox in the third round with the 110th overall pick. "The Phillies got a real quality guy and a terrific baseball player."
Biddle, expected to sign with his hometown team on Friday or Saturday, is being advised by Northern California-based agents Matt Sosnick and Adam Karon, who represent Arizona Diamondbacks lefty Dontrelle Willis.
"They're working on a contract with the Phillies," David Biddle said. "Jesse made it clear before the draft that if the Phillies picked him, he'd sign. That's not going to be a problem. He'll sign."
Wolever said: "We're very close to getting it done."
Is David Biddle afraid of his son one day being booed loudly by the demanding faithful at Citizens Bank Park?
"No, he's played baseball here his whole life," he said. "He knows how to play Philly-style baseball. Philly fans loves scrappy, high-intensity, competitive athletes who are humble. That's Jesse. He'll be fine."