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Minor league baseball: SW Minn. native heads west

Jordan Milbrath (center) signs his contract with the Cleveland Indians, with (from left) Area Scouting Supervisor Les Pajari, mother Lori Miblrath and father David Milbrath.

GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- Springfield native Jordan Milbrath, a six-foot, six-inch right-handed pitcher, reported to his first day of Rookie League baseball in Goodyear, Ariz., Tuesday after signing a contract with the Cleveland Indians on Monday. And he couldn't be happier that his baseball career is finally taking off.

"I'm excited to say the least," Milbrath, son of southwest Minnesota natives Lori and David Milbrath, said. "This is an opportunity I have really wanted to have for a long time. Every kid dreams of playing professional baseball."

The major league baseball draft was held on June 15, but Milbrath didn't even know he was drafted until one of his friends happened across his name on the draft board.

"I didn't get a call or anything, so I didn't know I was drafted until my friend told me I was taken by the Indians in the draft," Milbrath, who was selected in the 35th round and 1,041st overall by the Indians, said. "I was like, 'No way.' I knew there was a chance I would get drafted because the scouts I had been talking to said it was possible, but I still couldn't believe it."

Milbrath, a junior at Augustana College, went 7-2 in 12 starts for the Vikings in his sophomore campaign while posting a 4.57 ERA on the season. He threw two complete games and pitched a team-high 67.0 innings for the Vikings in 2013. Milbrath also struck out at least two batters in all 12 starts this season and fanned a team-high 60 batters this season.

For the last two summers, Milbrath has been pitching for the Rochester Honkers of the Northwoods League. He will finish out the summer playing in the Arizona Rookie League for the Indians.

"The league is more like a developmental league for the rookies," Milbrath said. "You try to move your way up as soon as possible by working hard."

With a fastball the tops out at 95 mph, Milbrath knows that he has the stuff to compete in the Rookie League, but he also realizes that he will need to get better if he wants the chance to move up in the Indians organization.

"At this level, you have to have everything and use everything you have to in order to get somebody out," Milbrath said. "The fastball is my best pitch, but I still have to work on my location if I want to move up in the ranks.

"You have to be able to locate your pitches so that can get guys out. Location is huge once you make it to the pros, if you make a mistake or leave something up in the strike-zone they will hit the ball a long way."

The AZL Indians face the AZL Rangers tonight and then host the AZL Cubs on Sunday.

"It is really exciting to be here," Milbrath said. "I am really looking forward to making the most of this opportunity by working as hard as I can."

David and Lori Milbrath live in Springfield. Lori grew up in Wilmont and David in Okabena.