One bullpen session. That's all he had to prove he could pitch. That's all he needed to steer his life toward professional baseball.

Clinton LumberKings reliever Brandon Josselyn began his collegiate career at Yale University as an outfielder. But after he struggled at the plate as a freshman, turning the strong-armed Josselyn into a pitcher became an enticing idea for Yale coaches.

So head coach John Stuper gave him a chance.

One session. One shot.

Josselyn toed the rubber, wound and fired a low-90s heater into the catcher's mitt.

“The rest is history,” Stuper said.

Josselyn's tale has plenty of plot twists. The 6-foot-3, 200-pounder began as a prep outfield prospect in Massachusetts. He became a starting pitcher at Yale his sophomore year, posted the Ivy League's worst ERA his junior season, earned the league's Pitcher of the Year award his senior year and slipped to the 25th round in the 2009 amateur draft.

Now the right-hander owns a 0.83 ERA in 12 Midwest League appearances.

“I'm focused,” Josselyn said. “I try to worry about what's happening right now. Maybe some day after I'm done playing I'll look back on everything it took for me to get here.”

'HE HIT BETTER THAN HE PITCHED'

Josselyn pitched and played outfield for Whitman-Hanson Regional High School, located 40 minutes south of Boston.

A three-sport star, Josselyn helped the Panthers finish 19-4 on the diamond his senior season. He hit .429 and went 9-0 on the mound with a 1.10 ERA.

“He was one of the best players in Massachusetts,” said LumberKings utility man Scott Savastano, who attended nearby Plymouth North High School. “He was a good athlete. He was their quarterback in football, too. They were our rivals, so I saw him a lot, and we had some battles.”

Seattle Mariners scout Brian Nichols watched Josselyn during his senior season. He saw a kid with potential.

“He had some ability, and he played the outfield well,” said Nichols, who surveys areas in New England. “His best tool was arm strength. He wasn't too bad swinging the bat, either. A nice line-drive hitter.”

Stuper agreed.

The Yale skipper attended two Whitman-Hanson games that senior season, and the longtime coach saw Josselyn bat nine times.

He went 7-for-7 with two walks.

“Can't do much better than that,” Stuper said. “He pitched pretty good, too, but he hit better than he pitched.”

Despite gaudy numbers, Josselyn drew little attention from NCAA Division I powerhouse programs. Yale was the only Division I program that called, and he eventually picked the Bulldogs over Division III Wheaton College (Mass.).

At Yale, Josselyn became a reserve outfielder, but he struggled in limited action. He played in just 18 games as a freshman and had two hits in 12 at-bats.

That's when the idea of converting Josselyn into a full-time pitcher gained momentum.

“Clearly, he didn't swing it like we had hoped,” Stuper said. “It got to the point where we didn't think his bat speed was good enough for our level on a consistent basis, so we thought his future was on the mound.”

A PITCHING PROSPECT IS BORN

Josselyn pitched – and pitched well – during summer ball after his freshman year. His strong performances earned him the bullpen tryout with Stuper the following fall.

“He told me, ‘You have just one bullpen. Let’s see what you got,’” Josselyn said. “I just tried to do my best.”

Stuper, a former major-league pitcher, came away impressed.

“He has great stuff,” Stuper said. “He threw hard and with nice, late movement. I thought he could be a real asset to our pitching staff.”

Josselyn earned a spot in the starting rotation. But before pitching in a game, he threw for pro scouts at Yale's annual showcase. Nichols attended and noticed a tall right-hander throwing with intimidating velocity.

One by one, the fastballs zipped into the catcher’s glove.

Whap!

Whap!

Whap!

Nichols checked his radar gun. It read 94 mph. He dug for his Yale roster to identify this potential prospect. Who was this kid?

Brandon Josselyn.

Wait, Nichols thought, the Brandon Josselyn from Whitman-Hanson? The outfielder?

“I said to myself, 'Is this the same kid?' When I saw that live arm, I said, 'Oh, boy. This is the same kid,'” Nichols said. “I thought that he needed some more time to develop, and then he could become something special.”

Josselyn went 3-4 with a 4.83 ERA in his first season in Yale’s rotation. Then his junior year struck. He finished that campaign 2-7 with a 7.28 ERA.

“It felt like home plate was 100 feet away,” Josselyn said. “It was hard for me to hit spots. I didn't have an off-speed pitch. It was a struggle. It was a confidence killer.”

In Ivy League play, he went 0-5 with an 11.32 ERA, both of which ranked as the league's worst. Opponents batted .345 against him. Josselyn, despite maintaining his velocity and movement, allowed 71 hits and struck out 33 batters in 47 innings.

“He couldn't throw much other than a fastball across the plate,” Stuper said. “At the Division I level, if you're a one-pitch guy — no matter how hard you throw —they'll hit you.”

Josselyn played the following summer in the New England Collegiate Baseball League for the Holyoke Blue Sox.

Holyoke coach Darryl Morhardt, a former assistant at Division I George Washington University, worked often with Josselyn. Drill after drill after drill helped repair an arsenal that would soon dominate the Ivy League.

Josselyn's slider became a consistent swing-and-miss pitch. He added an effective changeup. He grew bigger and stronger, which resulted in better velocity.

“I think he was determined to show that his junior year was a fluke,” Stuper said. “Maybe he was a little embarrassed and said, 'I'm better than this, and I'm going to prove it. That was a fluke, and now they're going to see the real me.'”

The real Brandon Josselyn went 5-3 with a 4.29 ERA that spring.

In league contests, he finished 3-1 with a 3.41 ERA, which enabled him to win the Ivy League Pitcher of the Year award.

Meanwhile, scouts flocked to watch him. He had become one of New England’s must-see arms.

His draft stock soared, but, the question became, how high?

Stuper, who pitched three seasons for the St. Louis Cardinals and another for the Cincinnati Reds, had a hypothesis. He experienced the process himself and with the six other Yale players drafted since 2005.

“He told me probably between (rounds) 15 and 20,” Josselyn said. “Maybe even 10 to 15.”

DRAFT DAY DRAMA

Josselyn began watching the 2009 draft’s live feed at the start of Round 10. He sat patiently at first. But then right-handed pitcher after right-handed pitcher came off the board before him. Confusion hit. So did a pinch of panic.

“When it got to the 15th I said, 'What happened?'” Josselyn said. “The 20th round came along, and I still hadn't received even a phone call from any teams.

“I thought, ‘Oh, my God. I’m not even going to go on the first day.’”

He had to do something else. Go somewhere else. Anywhere else. Just to simmer his boiling thoughts. He took his dog for a long walk, but when he returned home, his younger brother burst through the front door, looking elated.

“They called your name!” his brother said. “They called your name!”

“Who took me?” Josselyn replied.

“I don’t know,” his brother said. “They said it was early in the round.”

Josselyn bolted inside and flipped on his computer to check the Internet. But the computer froze. Still no idea who had just drafted him.

Suddenly, thankfully, he received a text message from a college friend:

“Seattle! Here we go!”

The Seattle Mariners made him their 25th-round selection.

“We take every round in the draft very seriously,” Mariners director of amateur scouting Tom McNamara wrote in an email. “(Nichols) kept pushing Brandon on us, and we were happy to give him an opportunity in professional baseball.”

Stuper couldn’t believe Josselyn dropped that far in the draft.

“Brandon's a steal in the 25th round,” he said. “We've had a lot of pitchers drafted here, and other than Craig Breslow, who's pitching in the big leagues right now (for the Minnesota Twins), Brandon's the best prospect I've had here in 17 years.”

Josselyn began his professional career in rookie ball at Pulaski, where he allowed six earned runs in 17 innings.

Soon he became the first pitcher promoted from Pulaski. Josselyn skipped short-season Class A Everett and landed in Clinton, where his new club had just promoted Midwest League All-Star closer Ruben Flores.

After throwing five shutout innings in last weekend’s series against Quad Cities, Josselyn holds the Clinton bullpen’s lowest ERA.

Opponents have batted just .155 against him.

“Having guys like that in the bullpen turns the game into a seven-inning game,” Savastano said. “We get ahead and a guy like Brandon comes in and shuts the door. Having guys like that on your team gives you a big boost in confidence.”

The former Ivy Leaguer has thrived in Clinton after acing several tests.

Josselyn converted from outfielder to pitcher, from the Ivy League's worst pitcher to its best, from a 25th-round draft pick to one of the hottest relievers in the Midwest League.

One bullpen session opened the door for it all.

“The fact that I am here and doing well is a good start,” Josselyn said. “It kind of lets me know I've been on the right track.”

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