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Baseball v Harvard Credit: Dan Getelman , Dan Getelman

While every little league baseball player may dream of someday playing for his favorite team, very few reach that ultimate goal. But Penn baseball alum Paul Cusick is on his way to doing just that.

In the summer of 2011, just weeks after graduating, Cusick was drafted in the 29th round (901st overall) by the Philadelphia Phillies — the very team for which he rooted growing up.

“They tell you the first day you’re down there, if you don’t think you can make it to the majors you’re wasting everyone’s time here,” Cusick said. “So you really have to believe that you have the stuff and work towards getting [to] the major leagues, which would be a phenomenal opportunity.”

Now, as he prepares for spring training, the right-handed pitcher is working his way through the Phillies farm system, one step at a time.

Cusick finished his 2011 summer season with the Gulf Coast League Phillies, the organization’s Rookie Level minor league affiliate, with a 3-2 record and a 4.14 ERA. He was one of the few players called up to the single-A Williamsport Crosscutters, where he made two appearances. He struck out three batters in 3.1 innings and did not allow a single run.

As he prepares to head down to Clearwater, Fla., at the end of the month, Cusick has been putting his experience with the Quakers to good use. Because the Wilmington, Del., native is from the Philadelphia area, he has utilized Penn’s facilities and coaching staff as he tackles his off-season workout regimen ­­— which is very similar to what was required of him during his collegiate career.

“I’ve been up here practicing with the [Penn] team,” he said. “[The Phillies] give us a book of offseason workouts,” which he described as a day-by-day breakdown of running, throwing and lifting tasks. “[I’ve been] staying busy with that.”

Like many players in his position, Cusick has found other ways to stay busy. While some attend school in the offseason, Cusick took an internship position where he worked as a business systems analyst for a fluoropolymer products company, W.L. Gore.

“I basically just sat in a cubicle just wishing I was on a baseball field,” Cusick joked. “It was a good experience though, great learning experience.”

But Cusick’s time on the field is quickly approaching. While he does not yet know what his entire schedule looks like, he is aware of 7 a.m. practices and 12 p.m. start times on gamedays.

But first, he and other players vying for roster spots will have to pass a basic fitness test upon arriving in Clearwater.

“It’s kind of survival of the fittest in the minor league,” Penn baseball coach John Cole said. “They give you the workout — if you don’t follow it, you’re going to be way behind. [Cusick’s] got to get off to a fast start, but he’s in very good shape.”

Cusick knows the competition is fierce. He and other hopefuls will be living together in a hotel for the duration of spring training. He acknowledged the difficulty of seeing his friends and teammates released.

“It’s tough. I’m sure it will be tougher in the upcoming years,” he said. “You build friendships with these guys, being on a team with them, and then not seeing them there anymore. So hopefully I’ll do my best and stick around for a little while.”

Because they are Phillies fans themselves, Cusick’s family provides a built-in support system for him, and they have already booked their spring training trip.

Cole also has confidence in his former player, emphasizing that Cusick’s work ethic and skill set could take him far in the process.

“Unless you’re an upper 90s velocity guy, [as a] right hander, you got to have good breaking stuff and [Cusick] does,” he said. “He’ll go as far as his breaking stuff takes him as long as he stays healthy.”

Ultimately, at the conclusion of spring training, Cusick would like to earn a spot on one of the Phillies’ single-A rosters, either in Williamsport or Lakewood, NJ.

“I just want to go down there and keep playing ball as long as I can, [something] not many people get to do,” he said. “I’m just trying to postpone working [in] that cubicle for a couple more years and just trying my best to keep playing ball.”

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