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Hazleton Area grad drafted to Major League Baseball team

 Two baseball players high-five on a field
Dave Kennedy
Williamsport Sun-Gazette
Jatnk Diaz, a Hazleton Area graduate, playing with the Williamsport Crosscutters.

Jantk Diaz’s friends knew he’d been drafted to a Major League Baseball team a few seconds before he did.

The Hazleton Area graduate was at home, watching the draft on his TV, which he thinks must have been on a delay.

“They were texting me, and I was like ‘what? I don’t see my name,’” Diaz said. “Then I see it on the TV and I just start going crazy.”

Diaz, a 2023 graduate of Hazleton Area High School, was chosen by the Detroit Tigers in the eighth round of the MLB Draft. His coach, Russ Canzler, said he saw major league potential in Diaz when he started as a freshman.

“The bat speed was there, the arm speed, the athletic ability,” he said. “You never know how a player is going to develop but…the God-given natural talent was definitely there.”

Canzler also coached Diaz on the travel team Baseball U Anthracite. Prior to this past year, Canzler said Diaz hadn’t done a lot of pitching.

College scouts started coming to Hazleton’s games to look at another player, but they saw Diaz throwing pitches in the bullpen after the games and the buzz started.

He started pitching in the MLB Draft League with the Williamsport Crosscutters when Canzler realized Diaz had become a contender for the draft.

“In a two month span… he really went from a virtually unknown player on every major league team,” Canzler said. “They had no idea who he was, what he was capable of doing, to be drafted in the top 10 rounds.”

Diaz hopes his success brings major league scouts back to Hazleton.

“So the scouts can come to Hazleton and say ‘Jatnk Diaz is from there, let’s get more players like him,’” he said.

Sarah Scinto is the local host of All Things Considered on WVIA. She is a Connecticut native and graduate of King’s College in Wilkes-Barre, and has previously covered Northeastern Pennsylvania for The Scranton Times-Tribune, The Citizens’ Voice and Greater Pittston Progress.