Just when it looked like the Militello family of Howell would have three siblings playing college ball in Michigan, the plan changed.
Nobody is upset about it, because Justin Militello received an offer that was too good to refuse.
Instead of playing baseball at Eastern Michigan University with twin brother Jackson, his long-time catcher, Justin has signed a minor league contract with the Atlanta Braves’ organization.
He is the first Livingston County player to sign a pro contract right out of high school since 1998 Brighton graduate Drew Henson, who played minor league baseball in the New York Yankees' system while also being a quarterback at the University of Michigan.
“It was 100% the hardest part holding me back was not getting to play with my brother,” Militello said. “We had a talk about it. He’s one of the best catchers I’ve seen defensively. He’ll have a chance to increase his stock. I’ll see him in pro ball in a few years. It’s an opportunity he felt I should take and not miss it just because of him.”
Militello’s decision came shortly after his sister, AJ, transferred from the University of Utah to Michigan State University to continue her softball career.
Militello fully expected to head to EMU after pitching his final game for Howell in the district championship game against Brighton on June 4. But his profile rose quickly in a short amount of time based on performances in the East-West All-Star Baseball Classic at Comerica Park and for his summer team.
The Braves, Detroit Tigers and Miami Marlins were the teams that showed the most interest in Militello.
“(Turning pro) was definitely a longshot,” he said. “I had popped a few really good numbers in the Brighton game, hit 94 (miles per hour) or something like that. I ended up going to the All-Star Game, threw a little bit harder than that. After that district final game, some teams were interested.”
He wasn’t selected in the MLB Draft, which was held July 17-19, but the Braves saw enough from him to offer him a contract as an undrafted free agent. If he didn’t sign, he would have to wait until after his third year in college to turn pro.
“There was definitely a chance I could have gone to college and increased my draft stock, but also a chance you could decrease your draft stock, depending on how they like your development,” Militello said.
“Going to the draft as a high schooler and college player, there are completely different expectations. I figured if I went right now, I could get development from the best of the best, which is an MLB organization, especially the Braves. I felt I would get the best development and have those resources to become the best pitcher I could be.”
Militello will leave soon to play for the Braves’ rookie league team in Florida. If he performs well enough, he could be assigned to a Class A squad.
“One of the biggest things when I talked to my advisor is the Braves have a great minor league system,” Militello said. “They are really good at player development. They have their own facility in Florida. There’s a lot of plusses being in an organization like Atlanta.”
Militello was a two-time first-team all-county selection. Over the last two seasons, Militello went 10-3 with 137 strikeouts in 97 innings. He led the county with a 0.76 earned run average as a junior and had a 1.97 ERA as a senior.
He played shortstop as a junior and third base as a senior when he wasn’t pitching, hitting seven home runs over those two seasons.
Contact Bill Khan at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @BillKhan.
This article originally appeared on Livingston Daily: Howell's Justin Militello signs with Atlanta Braves