Towson pitcher Ethan Pecko drafted by Astros after whirlwind three years: ‘He had his eye on the prize’

13 July 2023

Having grown up in Ridley Park, Pennsylvania, Ethan Pecko is a fan of all things Philadelphia, especially the city’s professional sports franchises. And as a baseball player, he once attended a Phillies game in full uniform.

“Baseball was a sport that always just kind of stuck with me,” he said. “I was a fan from 4 years old until now. As a kid, I moved up in age and other kids were there picking flowers. So that was definitely something I always wanted.”

Pecko’s dream is now reality after the Houston Astros used the last pick of the sixth round (194th overall) of the Major League Baseball draft on Monday to select the Towson pitcher. He is the fourth-highest draftee in Tigers history, trailing pitchers Chris Nabholz (49th in second round by the Montreal Expos in 1988) and Chris Russ (94th in third round by the New York Yankees in 2000) and shortstop Richie Palacios (103rd in third round by Cleveland in 2018).

Pecko, who doesn’t turn 21 until next month, said he was watching the draft at home with his parents Kathleen and Greg, older brother Marc and friend John Lockhart when the reigning World Series champion Astros selected him.

“We knew about 20 picks before, but we had to see it to believe it,” he said. “It was really just a dream come true. Several weeks leading up, I knew I had put myself in a position to maybe be selected, but you never really know going into it. It was a very anxiety-filled week, but then it was just a pure moment of relief and just happiness and probably every emotion you could think of in that one-minute moment.”

Tigers coach Matt Tyner described Pecko as “the kind of guy you would want your daughter to date and one of the fiercest competitors I’ve ever had on the mound.”

“I’ll take that mix in any and every player that I coach,” Tyner said. “He’s that kind of kid. He had his eye on the prize from the minute he walked into Towson University, and he prepared himself for this. This is his game. He did a great job.”

Pecko, a 6-foot-2, 195-pound right-hander, recently completed his redshirt sophomore season with a 2-2 record that included a 3.21 ERA and 48 strikeouts in 42 innings over 11 starts. The slot value for the 194th pick is $280,700.

The last three years have been a whirlwind for Pecko, whose senior year of high school in 2020 was wiped out by the coronavirus pandemic. In the fall at La Salle, he began to experience discomfort in his right elbow and underwent ulnar collateral ligament surgery in February 2021 just before the university discontinued the baseball program.

One of three Explorers players who transferred to Towson (senior outfielder Elijah Dickerson and junior pitcher Luis Rivera were the others), Pecko said he was grateful that Tyner welcomed him to the team.

“I got there, and the work of him and the other coaches and trainer Jimmy Lee and strength coach Henry Bergmann, they helped me out a ton, and I got back healthy,” he said. “This year, it definitely came all together. I don’t regret anything. I feel like everything kind of happens for a reason, and those three or four years have definitely molded me into the player and person that I am today.”

Tyner said Pecko’s fastball topped out at 95 mph and remained in the low 90s even as he threw close to 100 pitches in a game. Just as importantly, Pecko is a player who cares, said Tyner, who recalled offering Pecko a partial scholarship at the end of the 2022 season.

“The guy accepted the scholarship and teared up when he got the offer from us,” he said. “That’s the kind of kid he is. He’s got a heart, and he plays the game the right way. I’m extremely happy to call him a friend and to have had the opportunity to coach him and watch him develop and reap this reward.”

Tyner said he and his coaches talked with 10 MLB clubs – including the Miami Marlins, San Diego Padres, Texas Rangers and Washington Nationals – about Pecko. Many of those conversations revolved around Pecko as a starting pitcher, and that’s where he envisions his future role.

“At Delaware this year [on May 13], I threw 107 pitches, and my last pitch was a 92-miles-per-hour fastball,” he said. “I feel like I have the endurance to do that, and I feel like if I get a little stronger and put on a little more weight, I can get back into it.”

Tyner said Pecko has the potential to be a longtime contributor to the Astros.

“I think there are probably 3 to 4 more miles per hour on that fastball,” he said. “He’s got such a high spin rate as well on his breaking ball. I think once the Astros get a hold of him and really start working with him and he develops a little more confidence, I think the worth in him is that he’s a guy who can carry a load.”

Pecko is scheduled to fly to Houston on Thursday and undergo a physical and work through contract details on Friday. Barring a setback, he will then travel to join the Astros’ Florida Complex League team to begin his professional career.

Pecko is aware he is set to play for an organization that defeated his beloved Phillies for the World Series title. He said he has reconciled any lingering feelings from that pain.

“It was tough to see my Phillies lose to them, but that chapter has closed, and I couldn’t be more excited to join a great and accomplished organization,” he said. “Some of my friends may give me a little [mocking] from time to time, but they’re super happy for me, and I’m just super grateful, and I can’t wait to get started.”


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