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Manhattan’s John Cain signs free agent deal with Angels

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It was June 11, almost a full week since Major League Baseball’s amateur draft had concluded without Manhattan College’s John Cain hearing his name called.

There was some contact afterward between Cain and a handful of teams — clubs like the St. Louis Cardinals and Tampa Bay Rays touching base and kicking the tires on the 6-foot-10 left-hander. But nothing solid until a very unexpected call came that evening.

“It was 6 o’clock and I just got back from working out,” Cain said. “And I got a call out of the blue.”

It was the Los Angeles Angels, and they wanted to know about Cain’s availability.

“I mean, I hadn’t talked to them at all,” the pitcher said. “I was really waiting to hear from five or six other teams that I had been in contact with. But they called me out of the blue and said, ‘We want you to sign with us and come play.’  I said, ‘OK, give me 15 minutes to talk to my parents.’ Then I called them right back and said I was good to go. Then I flew out the next morning.”

It turned out to be an early Father’s Day gift for Cain’s dad, Tim, a former Jaspers basketball star in the early 1980s who also is a member of the school’s hall of fame.

“Yeah pretty good gift,” Cain said, with a laugh. “It was a big surprise for sure.”

As welcome as the news was, it turned that Tuesday night at the Cain home into a frantic night of packing, booking flights and very little sleep. Cain was expected to be in Arizona the next day to sign his free agent contract and begin his pro baseball career.

“There was a lot going on that night,” Cain said. “Like I said, I got the call at 6 o’clock, and I was leaving my house at 6 the next morning to fly out to Phoenix. Just got my suitcase together, packed up really quick, got a couple hours of sleep, and was out the door.

“It was definitely a very happy night for us. But it was very crazy with the packing I had to do, and some of my friends came over to congratulate me. There was definitely a lot going on.”

The next day was a whirlwind of flying to Arizona — the Angels’ spring training home — meeting his new teammates, checking out the team’s facility, and moving into his new apartment. After a long week of uncertainty whether baseball was going to work out, life was moving fast for Cain.

“When I got to Arizona, there were a couple of other draft picks that landed at the same time, so they picked all of us up at the airport and took us over to the facility,” Cain said. “Then they took us over to the apartment complex we’re staying in, and we had the rest of that night off.”

Then it got busy.

“The next day was really crazy,” Cain said. “I went over to the field at 2 o’clock, and me and a couple of the other guys threw bullpens” sessions.

After that, Cain ate lunch in the locker room and then sat through a pitcher’s meeting before a full practice at Tempe Diablo Stadium.

After that, it was weightlifting and then dinner.

“We got out of there at around 10 o’clock,” Cain said. “They keep us busy, but it’s exciting. It’s just a very cool experience.”

Cain admits, after failing to be drafted, he had some doubt as to whether a call would ever come.

“That idea definitely did pop into my head,” said Cain, who led the Jaspers with nine wins this season while striking out 96 batters in 98 innings. “I was still staying hopeful, but it did get a little concerning. So it was really good to hear from the Angels.”

Cain was scheduled to make his first pro appearance last Monday night in Arizona, but will eventually be on the move again.

“What they told me when they first called me, and what was written in my contract, was that I’d be starting for the Advanced-Rookie League team in Orem, Utah,” Cain said. “I don’t know a timetable. But that’s the plan, and I’m just taking it day by day.”

Life is good for John Cain these days. He got his call and he’s getting his shot.

“This has been my dream since I was a little kid,” Cain said. “I’m so excited, and I’m going to try and live it out the best I can.”

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