POUGHKEEPSIE - For most collegiate athletes, the opportunity to play professionally - while enticing and a lifelong dream - means overcoming long odds. But for two former Marist College baseball players, playing professional baseball is, in many ways, just another day at the office.
Tim Bittner (Wilmington, Del.) and Jacob Wiley (Cape Vincent, N.Y.) are part of a select contingent of Red Foxes who have successfully made the transition from the Marist College baseball diamond to the heights of professional baseball. Both are currently competing in the minor leagues and are looking to break through with their respective clubs in hopes of one day getting called up to the big leagues.
In 2001, Bittner was drafted in the tenth round by the Chicago White Sox after having an impressive career for the Red Foxes. Bittner compiled a 9-5 career record at Marist while averaging more than a strikeout per inning. He was also a force to be reckoned with at the plate - batting .346 with four home runs and 77 RBIs over the course of his three seasons with the Red Foxes.
After being drafted by the White Sox, Bittner also spent time in the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim and Washington Nationals organizations before ultimately latching onto a pair of teams in the independent Atlantic League. Bittner is currently pitching for the Camden Riversharks. In 28 games this season, Bittner has gone 1-1 with a 3.31 ERA. He has struck out 31 batters in 32.2 innings.
Before joining the Riversharks, Bittner spent a brief stint with the Newark Bears - also of the Atlantic League - where he played alongside the likes of former major leaguers Armando Benitez, Keith Foulke, Carl Everett, and Jay Gibbons.
Less than two months ago, the Cincinnati Reds selected Wiley in the 41st round of the 2009 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft - becoming the 11th player in the program's history to have accomplished such a feat.
A key member of the 2009 Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference (MAAC) Championship team, Wiley went 9-1 with six saves for the Red Foxes while boasting a 2.82 ERA in 30 appearances. His two wins and a save in the MAAC Tournament earned him Most Valuable Player honors as well as being named the 2009 MAAC Relief Pitcher of the Year.
Wiley is currently a member of the Gulf Coast League Reds - a Rookie Ball affiliate of the Cincinnati Reds - where he leads the pitching staff in saves and appearances with six and 12, respectively. He has struck out 10 batters in 13.1 innings. The Reds have a 15-14 record and sit just one game behind the Southern Division leading Orioles.