Out of the frying pan, into the fire.
Ian Kennedy, a promising right-hander who excelled at the University of Southern California, was the New York Yankees' first-round selection in the 2006 draft. After signing with the Yankees, the 21-year-old was assigned to Staten Island -- with less than a week remaining in the regular season.
He made his professional debut in the opener of a doubleheader against Tri-City on Sept. 6, tossing 2 2/3 scoreless innings in a game the Yankees eventually won, 1-0. His second appearance came with considerably more pressure, as the Huntington Beach, Calif., native started Game 1 of the New York-Penn League Championship Series on Tuesday.
"It's kind of a strange situation," remarked Kennedy. "There's a priority on winning in the Minor Leagues, but there's also a priority on development. I have no idea why the Yankee organization chose for me to come here, but it's a great way for me to get adjusted to professional ball. The hitters have wood bats here, but the level of competition is higher than in college."
Kennedy stepped up to his postseason challenge, as he held the ValleyCats to two runs on four hits while striking out six over four innings. Staten Island's bullpen contributed five scoreless innings, and the Yankees held on to win, 4-2.
Even though Kennedy arrived at Staten Island with the baggage of being a first-round draft pick, he says his teammates made him feel at home right away.
"There is some pressure that comes with being a first-rounder, but all I can do is pitch my game," he said. "There's no difference between me and any of my teammates. We're all just a bunch of professional baseball players.
"The guys here have all been really cool. They don't resent me or treat me like an outsider."
Despite the fact that Kennedy has been with the team for such a short time, he's excited at the possibility of celebrating Staten Island's second championship in as many years.
"If we win, I'm going to party right along with the rest of the team," he said. "Ever since I got here, these guys have acted like I've been there all along."
Been there, done that
"We did it in Greeneville, and hopefully we can do it here," Parraz said. "Since the All-Star break, I've known that this team would make the playoffs. Well, we did, and now we're just trying to pull this one out."
Regardless of the outcome, Parraz has had a spectacular season, leading the league with a .336 batting average.
"I approach every season with the same mind-set -- just try to maintain consistency and put some good swings on the ball," he said. "I wanted to hit over .300 this year, and I did that. I'm going to enter next season with higher expectations."
While Parraz has no idea where he'll end up in 2007, the Henderson, Nev., native does have one goal already.
"I've only played in short-season leagues," he said. "Next year, I want to play a long season."
If tomorrow ever comes
The Yankees will counter with George Kontos, who has also pitched well. The 21-year-old right-hander went 7-2 with a stellar 2.74 ERA during the regular season.
If Staten Island wins the championship, the Yankees will become will become the first New York-Penn League team to win back-to-back titles since the Oneonta Tigers won it all from 1979-1981.
Benjamin Hill is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.