By: John Knebels
PHILADELPHIA – Mike Siani will always bleed loyalty for all Philadelphia sports teams, including the Phillies. In fact, Siani wears the color red every single day.
Only, that has nothing to do with the first-place Fightin’ Phils.
A young man who draws rave reviews as an extraordinary example of integrity and maturity, the 2018 Penn Charter graduate has already played six games for the Cincinnati Reds’ rookie-league affiliate squad in Greeneville, TN, a brand-new franchise and member of the Appalachian League.
Chosen in the fourth round of June’s Major League Baseball annual draft, Siani signed a contract on July 3 at Cincinnati’s Great American Ballpark. Four days later, he was batting second and playing center field for Greenville. Despite not having played organized ball for more than a month, Siani belted two singles in a 2-1 loss to the host Burlington Royals.
2018 Penn Charter graduate, Mike Siani, signs contract to play for the Cincinnati Reds - PSD Photo by Zamani Feelings
“A dream come true,” said Siani. “Really excited. I’ve always dreamed of being a pro player and for sure, that’s one of the reasons why I play.”
Siani had verbally committed to play at the University of Virginia as a freshman before even playing a game. His baseball skills quickly went from impressive to eye-popping. A 6-foot left-hander who played a flawless centerfield for the Quakers, Siani’s scholastic career included three consecutive honors as a first-team All-Inter-Ac outfielder (he was a second-team All-Inter-Ac outfielder/pitcher as a freshman) and culminated this past season in his being named Pennsylvania’s Gatorade Player of the Year after hitting .361 with 25 runs scored, 11 runs batted in, 19 stolen bases, and a .495 on-base percentage.
Leaving behind his desires to play at Virginia was difficult, he said.
“Hardest decision I’ve had to make,” said Siani. “I was really looking forward to going to Virginia but decided that this route was something I wanted to pursue now and to go follow my dream.”
When the Reds stepped up with a reported two million dollar signing offer, Siani’s plans were secured. So far, early dividends are encouraging. Through six games heading into Friday, Siani has hit .261, with six singles, two runs scored, two walks, and one stolen base.
Asked what was the best memory of his time at Penn Charter, Siani supplied an immediate response.
“Being able to play with my brothers was really amazing,” said Siani, referring to siblings Sammy and Jake, who just finished their junior and freshman seasons, respectively. “But just playing for my school and playing in every game for all four years was pretty cool.”
Legendary sportswriter and Penn Charter alum Ted Silary posted several fascinating “tedbits” in his wildly popular website tedsilary.com. Among them: All three brothers bat and throw left-handed . . . In a home game as a freshman, Siani “hit a deep homer a shade to the left of dead right field. The ball cleared the hill beyond the fence and the driveway beyond the hill and landed on the brick wall that's part of the softball field's third base dugout.”
In an Inter-Ac contest against Haverford School as a sophomore on April 19, 2016, Penn Charter “accomplished a feat unmatched in major league baseball history.
Sammy and Mike hit homers in the same inning (seventh) and in that same game one of them (Mike) hit into a triple play (fifth inning). In that seventh, Sammy, batting in the number-one spot and playing right field, hit a three-run homer. Mike, batting third and pitching in relief (after beginning the game in center field), hit a two-run homer.”
Only nine days later in a non-league game at Archbishop Carroll, “the brothers were stationed in all three outfield positions right from the outset. From left to right – Jake, Mike and Sammy. The Quakers lost, 7-2, and the brothers combined to go 2-for-8. Mike led off and went 1-for-2 with a single, walk, and two runs scored. Sammy hit third and went 0-for-3. Jake hit seventh and went 1-for-3 with a single.” In a PAISAA quarterfinal game against Chestnut Hill Academy on May 24, Sammy slammed a grand slam and his two brothers were on base. Mike was on second; Jake, as a courtesy runner for pitcher Will Samuel, was on first.
Sammy Siani is already missing his older brother.
“I'm very proud of how hard he worked to get where he is today and am really excited for his future with the Reds,” he said. “The minor league process isn't easy, and it's going to take even more hard work, but I know his work ethic will help him succeed. It was awesome as a family to experience him getting drafted and I can't wait to see where he goes from here.”
And should the Phillies play the Reds with Mike in a big-league uniform?
“Now that’s a tough one,” said Sammy. “I’ll say this: I hope Michael has a great game, but I’m rooting for the Phillies to win the game.”
Regardless of where Siani’s career takes him, his exploits at Penn Charter will never be forgotten.
Among his many teammates, 2017 Quaker graduate Matt Gorman lauded Siani for his diligence and humility.
“Playing alongside Michael was a pleasure,” said Gorman. “He’s a silent leader who primarily leads by example but is not afraid to speak his mind when he feels the time is appropriate.
“On the field Michael is the best center fielder I have ever played with, or watched play, and I’ve seen a lot of baseball. He is a gifted player that is not afraid of the spotlight. He is humbled by his own success while others feed off of it. I have nothing but faith and confidence that Michael will be successful in his minor and major league careers.”
Siani was asked what advice he would offer a young, enthusiastic athlete who possesses a similar pursuit of parlaying a sport into a professional career.
“You have to really love what you are doing, whatever that is,” said Siani. “Just work hard and everything will play out for itself.”
His father Ralph and mother Kristen, said Siani, instilled those fundamentals in their three sons.
“My parents have always been there for me throughout and supported me through everything,” he said. “They raised my brothers and I right. We all just work hard and good things will come.”
Siani was also raised with a deep sense of loyalty.
“Of course I’m still gonna root for all of the Philly teams, but the Reds come first right now,” said Siani. “I got all my Eagles gear with me though . . .”
(John Knebels can be reached at Jknebels@gmail.com or on Twitter @johnknebels.)