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Ex-WCSU Baseball Star Takes First Step Toward Majors

Conor Bierfeldt is leading the Aberdeen IronBirds in home runs (6) and ranks third in runs batted (17) so far this season. Photo Credit: Contributed
“The biggest difference between college and pro ball has been getting used to the grind of playing every day,” Conor Bierfeldt said. Photo Credit: Contributed
Conor Bierfeldt had a batting average of .412 and also drove in 148 runs during his four-year career at Western Connecticut State University from 2010-13 Photo Credit: Contributed

DANBURY, CONN. — Former Western Connecticut State University Colonials star Conor Bierfeldt is enjoying his first year of professional baseball in Maryland.

Bierfeldt is an outfielder with the short season Class-A affiliate of the Baltimore Orioles, the Aberdeen IronBirds.

After graduating in May with a bachelor's degree in business administration, Bierfeldt was picked in the 29th round of the June draft by the Orioles and sent to Aberdeen, a franchise owner by legendary Orioles shortstop and Hall of Famer Cal Ripken Jr. and his brother Billy, also a former Orioles infielder.

In the first six weeks of the season, through Aug. 4, Bierfeldt has been a mainstay in the outfield and a reliable power hitter batting in the cleanup position, leading the team in home runs (7) and ranking third in runs batted in (21) and runs scored (19). He's also stolen three bases, and his batting average is .221 while playing in 36 of the team's 46 games.

His solid start with the IronBirds follows an unparalleled four-year record of success with the WCSI Colonials that shattered school records for offensive production, achieving a remarkable batting average of .412 and 148 RBI in  four seasons from 2010-13. As the recipient of the Little East Conference Baseball Player of the Year award in both 2012 and 2013, he became the first athlete in conference history to earn the honor twice.

“The biggest difference between college and pro ball has been getting used to the grind of playing every day,” Bierfeldt said in a prepared statement. “Pro ball is all baseball, all the time.”

In his more than 30 years in baseball coaching and 14 years as head coach of the Colonials, John Susi had not experienced the thrill of having one of his players chosen in the Major League Baseball draft prior to Bierfeldt’s selection in June. Susi and his assistant coaches recognized Bierfeldt’s promise when they recruited him in 2009 from nearby Torrington High School, but it was not until his emergence as an offensive force and all-conference outfielder in his sophomore year that they sensed his potential to make the leap to professional baseball.

“We call some of our best players ‘jumpers,’ kids whose skills jump from one level to the next, and that’s what Conor was,” Susi said in a prepared statement. “He made it very easy to be his coach; he just worked harder and harder, step by step each year. When he came back for his junior year, we were expecting good things, and his skills just went through the roof.”

Bierfeldt said he has remained in touch with Susi on a daily basis, “and it is incredible to have that support even after I finished my time at school. I know I wouldn't be where I am today without the tutelage and experience I received at Western. I grew to a different level from high school to now, and the constants through those four years were coach Susi and (assistant Colonials) coaches Bill Walton and Matt Perper.”

Bierfeldt now plays for first-year Aberdeen manager Matt Merullo, a former major leaguer and familiar figure in Connecticut sports. Formerly a resident of Ridgefield, Merullo played in the majors from 1989-95 as a catcher for the Chicago White Sox, Cleveland Indians and Minnesota Twins. Since his retirement, he has served as a regional scout for the Arizona Diamondbacks and has operated a baseball academy for youth in Madison, Conn., where he now resides.

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