Andrew Politi knew he wanted more in his collegiate career. His first two seasons at Seton Hall left him yearning. Elbow trouble plagued him. He missed his entire freshman season because of injury and was hit hard while trying to navigate the Big East once he took the mound the following year. It was unfamiliar territory for the former West Morris Central High School standout.
“My freshman year I was always hurt,” Politi said. Sophomore season was kind of my first year (pitching). It was tough adjusting to new surroundings and the college environment. My first year (on the mound) was kind of tough, but I stuck with it and kept working hard every day and eventually was able to break through as a junior.”
Signs of encouragement came for Politi as a junior where he appeared to turn the corner. Thanks to improved command of the strike zone, Politi cut his ERA in half, posting a 3.13 ERA and earned a Big East Academic All-Star selection. Politi’s draft status improved significantly this past spring where he dominated the competition in the Big East Tournament, striking out 15 in two appearances. His swing and miss stuff illustrated his potential, culminating a four-year tenure at Seton Hall.
“I think (my performance) helped a lot (with the draft),” Politi explains. “I just wanted to compete for my team and win a Big East Championship, so I kind of gave it my all that weekend. It helped a lot with my confidence facing good teams like St. John’s and boost my stock in terms of the draft. I got a lot more attention, so it was a big moment.”
The Boston Red Sox selected Politi with their 15th round pick, continuing a recent trend of taking amateur prospects from the state of New Jersey. Led by Northeast Scouting Director Ray Fagnant, the Red Sox paid particular attention to Garden State products, including Jay Groome, Anthony Ranaudo, and 2018 second round selection Nick Decker. Mike Trout’s emergence out of Millville opened the door for scouts to unearth talent in the state with the Red Sox leading the efforts.
“I never really thought about it much, but it is just good to be in a great organization to start my career,” Politi said. “I’m just happy to be in a winning organization that really develops their players well. I talked to Zach Schellinger, who was my roommate in Seton Hall and was taken by the Red Sox last year. He told me to be ready to compete and play baseball every day.”
Having experienced individuals in the clubhouse helps ease pressure and nerves for young players learning the nuances of the professional game. For players with Politi’s college background, the trip up the organizational ladder begins in the New York-Penn League, where he made his debut with the Lowell Spinners.
The club received an unexpected addition in July when four-time Gold Glove winner Brandon Phillips began an assignment in Lowell shortly after signing a minor league contract with the Red Sox. Phillips’ leadership proved beneficial for Politi and his teammates during his brief stint in Lowell.
“Brandon was awesome to have around,” Politi said. “He told us what it was like to be a big leaguer and was really one of us. He took it upon himself to blend in with us and show us the ropes on how to go about your day as a professional. He led by example.”
After pitching in a variety of roles for Seton Hall, Politi settled into pitching in late relief for the Spinners, picking up three saves had not allowed a run in four appearances on the road. Politi features a fastball with late movement that peaks in the mid-90s, a slider, and a curveball with a sharp break down in the strike zone. He hopes to incorporate his changeup more as the year progress to keep hitters honest and stabilize his home/road splits after recording an ERA north of 6 at LeLacheur Park.
“I spent the majority of my college career relieving, so I was used to pitching out of the pen at the professional level, so it hasn’t been too hard,” Politi said. “There are a lot of good hitters in this league and a lot of kids that are still developing. I’ve had better luck on the road, but hopefully, things turn around. I need to work on my changeup to get some good action against left-handed hitters.”
Seton Hall’s connection with the Red Sox organization began in the late-1980s after finding success in the draft with Mo Vaughn and John Valentin, who formed half of the Boston infield for the next decade. The baseball program recently returned to the forefront with Staten Island’s Zach Granite reaching the major leagues with the Minnesota Twins last season. Most importantly, the school develops the right makeup for the success of its players and leaves them better equipped to handle life’s challenges.
“The (Seton Hall) baseball team has been very good over the years,” Politi said. “They developed a lot of good draft kids, and it has groomed me into a good professional baseball player. They really matured me with a lot of leadership qualities and team qualities. They taught me how to compete on the mound every day.”