Every couple years, a player will burst on the scene in the Valley League, but will not quite reach the threshold to be included in post season lists. For example, Ryan Schimpf in 2008 for Luray (now the 2nd baseman for the San Diego Padres), and Rudy Flores for the 2010 Haymarket Senators (now in Double-A Mobile) immediately come to mind. Chris Devenski, too, who played for Woodstock in 2011, and now pitches in the Houston Astro’s bullpen.
Brandon Quaranta is one of those players, too. He arrived in Strasburg on June 30, almost exactly halfway through the season, and proceeded to do nothing but rake (and throw exceedingly well, too, of course). He didn’t make the at-bats minimum to be included on ATVL’s best hitters list, even though he was named first team All-Valley at designated hitter.
Well, the good thing about these pages is that we can celebrate whomever we wish. Brandon was kind enough to answer some questions about his life and his time in the Valley, so he will get his time in the sun (so to speak).
So, first, some stats. Then an interview.
Did I mention that Brandon raked this summer? In 20 games and 80 regular season at-bats, Brandon hit 375/425/713, with 17 runs, 24 RBIs, 7 doubles, 1 triple, 6 home runs, and a 4/15 BB/K ratio. He obviously carried his hot hitting into the playoffs, where he hit 448/500/1.034 in 29 at-bats, along with 9 runs, 12 RBIs, 2 doubles, 5 home runs, and a 3/8 BB/K ratio. ATVL named him the best hitter of the playoffs, and it wasn’t particularly close. His two best games were on July 22 against Staunton, and July 29 against Purcellville. Against the Braves, he went 5-5, with 2 runs, a double, home run, and 4 RBIs. Later, against the Cannons, he went 3-4, with 4 runs, 2 home runs, 5 RBIs, and a walk. Actually, I think it’s safe to say that the Express would have had significant trouble winning the Jim Lineweaver Cup without him.
But Brandon doubled his contribution to the Express, because he pitched as well. In the regular season, he went 0-0, 0.00 with 1 save in 6 games and 7 1/3 innings, allowing 6 hits, 1 unearned run, 2 walks, and striking out 8. In 3 games in the playoffs, he went 0-0, 0.00, with 1 more save, and 2 hits, 0 walks, 0 runs, and 7 strikeouts in 4 innings. ATVL named him the 2nd best pitcher in the playoffs.
Some stats, huh? Now let’s take a look at the interview:
All Things Valley League: Tell us how you got hooked up with Strasburg this summer.
Brandon Quaranta: I got hooked up with the Strasburg Express this year because I referred to them by Duke Dickerson who helps the Strasburg Express recruit players. They called me and asked me if I wanted to play, and I said absolutely. I could not pass that opportunity up.
ATVL: What was the best part of the Valley League for you?
BQ: I think the best part of the valley league for me was playing against some great competition. Every day I was able to compete against great ball players that have the same passion as me, to get to the next level, and continue their baseball career.
ATVL: What was the part that could have been better- a way to improve the experience?
BQ: I had a great experience in the valley league. I do not think there is much to change. One thing that could be different is maybe playing the weekend games at 1 pm instead of 7 pm. I think it would be good to get some day games. Other than that I wouldn’t change anything.
ATVL: I heard through the grapevine (Mike Grim, actually) that you didn’t play your senior year in high school. A: Is this true; and B: how did you choose Philadelphia U? Did you have to walk on, or did things still work out with a scholarship?
BQ: Yes, it is true that I did not play my senior year. When I was a senior my mom was diagnosed with stage 3 breast cancer, and was really sick. It was one of the hardest things any family will ever have to go through. Thank God she is better now, and doing great. Anyways, because my mom was sick she had to stop working, and our family and I needed money to survive. I had a car, and a younger brother that needed things as well. So I quit baseball, and worked two jobs full time. One day I was thinking about how much I loved and missed the game; I just couldn’t give it up. I decided to go to a junior college, and do what I loved. I was fortunate enough to meet Duke Dickerson who was one of the coaches there at the time. I wanted to go to a four year school, and also continue my education. I looked at few schools far away from my home town, that I thought would be too far from my family. I decided that Philau had great academic programs, and I was also offered a baseball scholarship to play there. With the help of Duke I was able to get to continue my education, and baseball career. Philau was also appealing because the CACC (Central Atlantic Collegiate Conference), the conference we play in, is wood bat which I love playing the game with. So that was a plus!
ATVL: Tell us about your pitching. What do you throw?
BQ: When I pitch I throw a 2 seam fastball, slurve, and change up. I love to pitch; I have always being the closer type pitcher to come in, and try to shut down a team. It’s just fun for me, and love being able to do it for Philau and the Express.
ATVL: If you were drafted, would you rather it be for pitching or hitting?
BQ: Well that’s a hard question. First off, if I was to get drafted that would be a huge honor. That has always been my goal, to play in a major league organization one day, and try to get to the show with the greatest ball players in the world. That’s hard though because I love to do both so much. It would be nice to get drafted by a National League team, because then you can pitch and hit. Two guys I think of off the top of my head are Madison Bumgarner, and Noah Syndergaard. They are two guys that can throw it, and swing it pretty darn well. It would be awesome if I could do what they do.
ATVL: Was it fun having a college teammate along this summer?
BQ: Having a teammate on the team with me was huge for me. Abraham Almonte, who was the teammate with me on the Express, is also one of my roommates back in Philadelphia. He is one of the hardest working guys I know, and he only pushes me to become better. We work out together, throw together. We do whatever we have to do to become better every day. He is a guy I can only hope for the best for, and I hope he gets that chance to play at the next level also.
ATVL: You obviously had a great summer. Did you get any nibbles from other programs? (This happens sometimes with high-performing players)
BQ: Thank you a lot, and I was not asked by any other schools to think about them. My time this year is dedicated to Philadelphia University, and that is where I hope I can get another championship, and help my team win.