Matt Koperniak signs free agent contract with St. Louis Cardinals organization

Adams' Matt Koperniak is getting a shot at the majors. Koperniak, pictured here playing for Trinity College, has signed a free agent deal with the St. Louis Cardinals organization.

ADAMS — Six weeks ago, Adams' Matt Koperniak was ready to play Division I baseball. Today, he'll be getting ready to play professionally.

"I don't think it's really kicked in in yet. It's kind of a cliche, but it really hasn't kicked in yet," Koperniak said. "It's still a good feeling today. I've been kind of high on adrenaline all day."

Koperniak signed a free agent contract with the St. Louis Cardinals organization on Sunday afternoon. With the signature comes a $20,000 bonus, and a trip to the Cardinals' minor league camp in Jupiter, Fla. The former Hoosac Valley Hurricane and Trinity College Bantam said he wasn't certain exactly when he would be heading south.

He did say that that signing on came quickly.

"I was getting a couple of calls, interest here and there," Koperniak said, in a phone interview Sunday with The Eagle. "I actually had two other teams up in the air. Nothing was for certain. We were sort of waiting to get a contract.

"It came up quick [Sunday], and I just went for it."

Six weeks ago Koperniak had committed to playing at Division I Kansas State. Now, he'll commit to trying to climb the minor league ladder in the Cardinals organization.

"I was talking over with my advisor [Jim Masteralexis]. I respect him a lot. He's been in the game for a long time," Koperniak said. "His thoughts were just get into the league as quickly as possible. Next year wasn't certain, and take what I could get this year."

Instead of playing for Pete Hughes in Little Manhattan, Koperniak could be playing this summer for the State College (Pa.) Spikes of the New York-Penn League, or the Johnson City Cardinals of the rookie-level Appalachian League.

"I think it would almost be like another spring training" in Jupiter, Koperniak said. "Just the way everything's happening this year. There's no guarantee there'll be a minor league season this year."

There were only five rounds of the MLB First Year Player Draft in 2020, and then MLB teams could sign as many free agents as a team would want. None of the free agents would get more than a $20,000 bonus.

"It's kind of scary, hearing everything in the news and just knowing what's happening to baseball," Koperniak said. "Everything is changing pretty much every day. The Majors can't even agree on a date yet. I just think going to the Cardinals, it's a trust-worthy organization. I think I've just got to trust what's going on and see what happens."

Koperniak was a two-time, All-NESCAC first teamer at Trinity. Last year, he hit .394 with six home runs and 31 runs batted in. As a junior, he hit .388 with five homers and 20 RBI.

Koperniak was a first-team, All-NECBL pick at designated hitter for the North Adams SteepleCats in 2019. He was third in the league with a .376 batting average and seventh overall with 37 RBI. He hit five home runs and had 15 doubles. In 2018, he hit .318 with a home run and 24 RBI.

Koperniak is the first Cardinals farm hand to come off a SteepleCats roster since Cody Stanley. Stanley played for the SteepleCats back in 2008, and did make his way for one game with the Cardinals in 2015.

If everything goes right, Koperniak would become the first Berkshire County baseball player to earn a spot in Major League Baseball since Jonah Bayliss joined the Kansas City Royals in 2005.

Koperniak is looking to become the first Adams high schooler to make the majors since Dale Long came up in the early 1950s. Long had a 10-year MLB career that included four years with the Pittsburgh Pirates and three years each with the Chicago Cubs and New York Yankees.

But coincidentally, the Adams High School graduate spent part of his first season in the bigs in St. Louis, but with the St. Louis Browns in 1951.

Long was, however, born in Springfield, Mo.

Two other Adams natives played Major League Baseball at the turn of the 20th century. Pete McBride played for the Cleveland Spiders in 1898, while Dave Murphy spent part of 1905 with the Boston Beaneaters.

Howard Herman can be reached at hherman@berkshireeagle.com, at @howardherman on Twitter, or 413-496-6253.