He couldnt help himself. One day during the off-season, Jordan Steranka made the 10-yard walk from Penn States locker room to the one that accommodates State College Spikes players in the summer.
He gazed at the professional clubhouse for curiosity purposes. The spacious and plush room represented a tease.
The Pittsburgh Pirates are Sterankas favorite team. That clubhouse down the hall is where 30 of the organizations minor-leaguers store their baseball belongings each summer.
When the Major League Baseball Draft resumed on Wednesday, Steranka had a 1-in-30 chance of swapping Medlar Field at Lubrano Park clubhouses.
Consider this one of the most memorable days of his life.
The Penn State infielder received a jolt when the Pirates selected him in the 21st round. The selection likely earned Steranka a return trip to University Park to begin his professional career with the State College Spikes, the Pirates short-season Class A affiliate.
Its kind of cool that Im from Penn State and that I might be beginning my career there, he said.
If the Pirates send Steranka to State College, he will become the third former Nittany Lion to play for the Spikes. Infielder Matt Cavagnaro was a steady performer for the 07 team. Gary Amato spent parts of 07 and 08 in the Spikes bullpen.
Sterankas story is somewhat different. Cavagnaro hailed from New York. Amato attended high school in Florida.
Steranka spent his childhood in Mount Lebanon, a venerable Pittsburgh suburb less than 20 minutes from PNC Park. Steranka grew up a Pirates fan, and he lists Jay Bell and Andrew McCutchen among his favorite players.
I was waiting around for a call and when I did finally get it, it was the Pirates, he said. It was amazing. They were my favorite team growing up. I watch them all the time. Today has been surreal.
Steranka had mild celebration plans for Tuesday nights.
Ill probably be watching the game, he said.
The result partially soured the day. The Cincinnati Reds edged the Pirates 5-4.
Reaching Pittsburgh will be an arduous task. The farm system includes six levels. State College is the second lowest rung.
Steranka, who hit a team-high .363 with 11 homers and 40 RBIs, would view playing in State College as an advantage despite the pressure his status as a former Penn State standout might create.
Im going to probably get a chance to live in my apartment which I was going to lease out, he said. And being there with the local surroundings and having the community help me out would make the transition easier than if I had to play in Florida or somewhere else. I see it as a positive.
The Houston Astros selected Steranka in the 30th round of last years draft. Steranka didnt agree to terms and returned to school for his senior season. He graduated last month with a criminal law degree, and his bat helped Penn State rebound from a slow start to qualify for the Big Ten Tournament.
Steranka, who worked with Penn State graduate assistant coach and former Cleveland Indians minor-leaguer Adam White on improving his speed, was the Nittany Lions first baseman this past season. The Pirates drafted him as a third baseman, a position he played earlier in his college career. The versatility should help Steranka receive at-bats this summer and beyond.
I worked really hard in hopes of getting drafted higher and it paid off, he said. I was really pleased with how everything went.
Steranka was one of two Nittany Lions drafted on Wednesday. The Kansas City Royals selected right-hander John Walter in the 29th round. Walter went 2-8 with a 5.07 ERA this season. The San Francisco Giants drafted left-hander Joe Kurrasch in Tuesdays eighth round.
The Pirates selected three western Pennsylvania products on Wednesday. The organization used its 26th-round draft pick on Kent State infielder Jim Rider, who attended District 7 Peters Township High School. Steranka and Rider are close friends who competed against each other in high school and college. Kent State begins NCAA Super Regional play at Oregon on Saturday.
The Pirates selected Valley High School outfielder Zarley Zalewski in the 40th and final round. Zalewski was one of six players drafted from a Pennsylvania high school.
Guy Cipriano can be reached at 231-4643. Follow him on Twitter @cdtguy