Usually I don’t talk about myself in the articles I write, but this particular story turned out to be very special. I have been living in Oradell, New Jersey pretty much my entire life. Last Thursday, as I was about to make a left turn from Oradell Avenue on to Kinderkamack Road, I noticed the billboard sign on the corner that usually lists town events. This time around it plainly stated, “Jared Finkel, drafted by Minnesota Twins.”
Oradell has produced many famous professional athletes/coaches/sportswriters such as; Bill Parcells, Vince Lombardi, Jim McGovern, Darren Rizzi, Bill Madden, Rich Scanlon, Ginny Capicchioni, and now, Jared Finkel.
The next day I called the Minnesota Twins organization and mentioned that I was a sports writer from Oradell, New Jersey and wanted to do a feature article on Finkel. Hours later the phone rang and it was Jared Finkel himself, who was drafted in the 23rd round of the 2017 MLB Draft and already donning the number 40 jersey, preparing to play in his first professional minor league game for the Appalachian League’s Elizabethton Twins.
“A dream come true and loved baseball from the time I could I walk to playing at Grant Field,” Finkel told me over the phone. “Just surreal and lucky to be here and excited to make the most out of this opportunity and means so much to my family and friends. My family supported me and never put pressure on me and allowed me to do what I wanted. The second I got drafted my entire family cried, all the people from Oradell came to my house and celebrated all night. Seeing how many people care, loved and supported me. I can’t wait to put the uniform on professionally and want to keep going and make it to the big show.”
Finkel attended Oradell Public School and River Middle School. Living close to Bergen Catholic High School, Finkel got the opportunity to attend the school where he went 16-4 as a pitcher for the varsity baseball team and earned All-League and Honorable Mention for Group 4 Non-Public A. He also played wide receiver on the football team.
“Bergen (Catholic) was a great experience and played football there as well and an amazing brotherhood,” explained Finkel. “Wish I could go back and spend a weekend with all my best friends who supported me through this and awesome playing against Don Bosco, St. Joe’s (Montvale) and Paramus Catholic. All the rivalries made me the competitor I am today.”
After graduating from Bergen Catholic, Finkel’s next stop was Iona College. Frustrated by a sophomore season and tired of being unable to contribute to the team, Finkel said he dedicated his off-season to working and running drills with coaches. Another key to changing his fortunes around, Finkel stated, was changing his arm delivery to more of a side arm style and everything clicked afterwards.
In his final season at Iona, Finkel had a breakout year, shattering the Gaels record books for most saves in a season (11) and earned conference Relief Pitcher of the Year honors. He went 1-0 with a 1.41 E.R.A. and 23 strikeouts in 32 innings on the mound.
Finkel was named to the 2017 ABCA/Rawlings NCAA Division I Northeast All-Regional Second Team after helping Iona secure their first MAAC Championship since 2000. The Gaels reached the MAAC Championship Game by winning three elimination games in two days and Finkel was responsible for notching two saves in that stretch.
Finkel is the 26th player in the program’s history to be selected in the MLB Draft and first Iona player to be drafted since Mariano Rivera was selected by the Washington Nationals in the fourth round in 2015.
“We played three doubleheaders in four days and everyone contributed and people pitching on back-to-back days,” said Finkel. “Every starter did their job, young kids grew up and veterans pitching multiple innings and saving games left and right. We lost on the first day and ended up beating after that.”
“An awesome ride and special way to finish my college career,” he continued. “Neck and neck with another pitcher in the conference for Relief Pitcher of the Year and when I got the award I was ecstatic and almost cried right there on the spot.”
“I was never recognized up to that point and won an award in high school or college,” said Finkel. “I had to make a list my freshman/sophomore year on how we wanted to leave and said I wanted to leave where people would remember my name at Iona, a good teammate, hard worker and key component to making a run in the conference playoffs.”
Finkel’s message to baseball players in Oradell with aspirations of playing for a professional baseball team one day, “Don’t quit, keep playing hard and never know who is watching. Keep working and good things will happen and every day matters. Do the right thing on the weekends, spend time with family and most important be a good person. Put the work in, be honest and will be rewarded in the end.”