La Salle grad Connor Hinchliffe is now with the Phillies
In the weeks leading up to last year's Major League Baseball's First-Year Player Draft, former La Salle closer Connor Hinchliffe remembers participating in a showcase event at FDR Park with some scouts from the Phillies.

He did his thing, then walked off the mound and shook hands with everyone in attendance.

Then he waited.

"That was the toughest part," Hinchliffe said recently in a phone interview. "The not knowing was tough."

Hinchliffe, a Pottsville native, led the Atlantic 10 last season with 28 appearances out of the bullpen and was among the national leaders in saves. He led the Explorers with a 2.27 ERA and a 1.31 WHIP while holding opponents to just a .181 batting average.

The right-hander was receiving interest from the Phillies and the Boston Red Sox and was hoping to hear from either organization in the waning hours of the draft. That call never came though, forcing him and his agent to go on the offense.

"At that point, I wasn't really sure of what would happen," Hinchliffe said. "The draft was on Wednesday, on Thursday I didn't hear anything, and on Friday my agent says there have been some good calls with a few teams about a free-agent contract and he tells me to look for a call shortly."

Moments after talking with his agent, his phone rang.

"It was the Phillies and an area scout offering me a contract," Hinchliffe said. "I was pumped."

After a quick call back to his agent to confirm things, Hinchliffe phoned the scout back to accept the offer. He then put the phone down and walked into his house to tell his family.

"I told my mom and her first words were "shut-up'", Hinchliffe said with a laugh. "The whole experience was awesome. The roller coaster of the draft, going into it thinking you're going to get drafted, then the day where you don't hear anything and you have some doubt. Then the call that they still are interested, it's an incredible feeling."

After his family, Hinchliffe passed word of his signing on to his La Salle family and third-year head coach David Miller.

"They were excited," Hinchliffe said. "They were thrilled to see someone else from the program get picked up."

The last La Salle player to ink a deal with an MLB club was reliever Pat Christensen in 2013 after he was selected by the Houston Astros in the 27th round of the draft.

Assigned to the Gulf Coast League, Hinchliffe made his professional debut on June 25 and went on to put on an outstanding campaign. He finished 1-1 with a 1.82 ERA over 16 appearances. He held opponents to a .163 batting average over 24 2/3 innings and collected 17 strikeouts.

"I had no idea how I was going to do," Hinchliffe said. "I wasn't really aware of what the competition was going to be like - making that jump from Division I to pro. Coming from a small school in the A10, I just wasn't sure, but then I realized I can go out and compete. I attribute much of that to the La Salle program. I think the quality competition there really helped me make the transition."

Hinchliffe isn't sure where he'll open the 2020 season. He could return for another stint with the Phillies in the Gulf Coast League or be bumped to Class A Williamsport. He reports to minor league camp on March 2.

"I'm not focusing on that really," Hinchliffe said. "If I go to spring training and pitch well, that's really all I can control. I'm not getting too worked up over it. Wherever they tell me, that's where I'll go."

As for the Explorers, he thinks the program is going to continue to improve under Miller and blossom into one of the better places to play in the region.

"I don't know the last time we ever had a nationally ranked recruiting class, and now we have three in a row, that's huge," Hinchliffe said.

"It was just a matter of time before coach Miller got a few recruiting classes, now they've put themselves in a position where they can take things to the next level and make some noise in the A10."
Follow Patrick on Twitter: @PGordonPBR

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