Less than a year ago, Fordham ace Matt Mikulski was on his second Cape Cod League team in three days, sleeping on the floor of a temporary house with ten other guys that didn’t have host families yet. Coming off what Mikulski described as “one of the worst practices of my life”, the southpaw wasn’t sure he even wanted to stay and toss for the Brewster Whitecaps. Ultimately, Mikulski made the decision to stick it out and try to get his name out there. And for Mikulski, that’s been the story of his career.
“In high school, I was not a highly touted prospect”, Mikulski said, “I was 5’8, maybe 5’9, and my biggest offers were St. Johns and Stony Brook”. However, Mikulski got a late offer from Fordham, and after seeing the campus, the Mohegan Lake product opted for the Rams – “I felt I would get a lot of opportunities to pitch early”. As the only left-handed pitcher on the roster, that much proved to be true, and Mikulski made 17 appearances in his initial collegiate campaign. He flashed a little of what was to come in his debut, striking out seven in 3 ⅔ innings against Wofford, earning Atlantic 10 Rookie of the Week honors. He became Fordham’s midweek starter, and fired a seven-inning gem against Yale in late April. Despite the varied roles, Mikulski’s mentality was the same: “For me, I just want to throw. I just want to get in the game”.
Mikulski slotted into Fordham’s weekend rotation in his sophomore year, and he even got the ball in the season opener on the road versus Texas A&M, a crazy environment that he considers one of the best he ever pitched in. Over the course of 18 starts and 14 appearances his sophomore season, Mikulski had quite a few standout performances, shutting out Rhode Island over seven innings, posting a career high ten strikeouts over St. Bonaventures, and tossing a career-high eight shutout innings against St. Josephs. In the A-10 championships, Mikulski tossed 2 ⅓ innings of relief in the opener, and then sealed the deal with 5 ⅓ shutout frames in the title game. Mikulski would also come out of the pen against #15 West Virginia in the NCAA Tournament opener, entering in the bottom of the third inning, with the Mountaineers leading 3-1 and the bases jammed with two outs. The power-throwing southpaw recorded a K to end the frame and keep Fordham within striking distance. “I love those environments” Mikulski said, referring to the loud and hostile West Virginia crowd, “I love going into someone’s backyard and just sucking the air out of them. I love that feeling – having that chip on your shoulder, that swagger”. Mikulski fired another two scoreless innings before finally giving up a RBI double in the sixth.
His strong sophomore campaign earned Mikulski a spot in the Cape Cod League, but after two days he was released by Wareham, and Brewster picked him up. Despite the less than auspicious beginning, Mikulski fired some of the best innings of his career with Brewster, putting up a sparkling 1.86 ERA and making the All-Star Game. That justified his decision to stay in the Cape, as Mikulski began to shoot up on the draft boards, and entering his junior season, he was fielding a lot of interest from various scouts. But Mikulski’s pending draft eligibility wasn’t on the front of his mind “It wasn’t going to matter if I didn’t pitch well in the spring”.
But Mikulski didn’t slow down in the spring, allowing just three earned runs in 21 innings before the season was cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic. Mikulski crept onto the MLB Top 200 draft board, and even with the draft shortened to five rounds, the Fordham product is definitely a contender to hear his name called. Mikulsi said however, that he is keeping his options open: “We’ll see what happens. I still have two years of eligibility. I would obviously love to go in the draft. It’s been a dream of mine since I was little, and then to take it to the next level, play 10, 20 years in the majors”.
10 or 20 years may seem a lofty goal, but Mikulski pitches his best in adverse conditions; he threw some of his best innings after being cut once and sleeping on the floor in the Cape Cod League. He shined in the NCAA Tournament, and he developed from a small lefty with three offers into the Fordham ace and a high-level MLB draft-prospect with a fastball that touches 94 mph. Don’t count him out.
Q: Favorite MLB Team?
A: “I’m a diehard Yankees fan”
Q: Favorite pitchers?
A: “Andy Pettite – He was a power lefty early in his career. I also really liked C.C [Sabathia], being a Yankees fan. If I’m picking non-Yankees guys, I love Blake Snell, but it sucks that he’s a Ray. I also really liked Barry Zito – he has one of my all-time favorite curveballs.”
Q: Regular Socks or Stirrups?
A: “I’m a big stirrups guy. I was upset because my freshman year, we had the real stirrups, but my sophomore year, we got these regular socks that were supposed to look like stirrups, and I didn’t like them. So I rolled my pants down that year. But I like to go high-pants though, show off the calves”
Q: Favorite Seeds?
A: I’m a big Spitz guy. It sucks, because it’s really not a Northeast thing. Crackpepper is my favorite”
Q: If you were to hit a home run, are you a bat-flip guy, or an all-business trot type?
A: “I’m usually an all-business guy, but I’m fiery, on the mound too. If I get a big out, I’m going to fist pump, because I know there are guys that, if they hit a big home run off me, they’re gonna fist bump, they’re gonna yell. So don’t get mad if I get fired up, because you would too”.