Athletics Alumni Spotlight

James Pugliese, Baseball


James Pugliese was an All-American pitcher for Mercer baseball in 2011.  That same year Pugliese was named the Region 19 Player of the Year and was drafted by the Chicago Cubs in the 18 th Round of the MLB Draft.  Pugliese went 6-1 for the Vikings with a 1.27 ERA and had 71 strikeouts in 56.2 innings pitched.  Pugliese spent 2011-2021 in the Minor Leagues.


During his time in the Minor Leagues, Pugliese spent time with the Boise Hawks, Kane County Cougars, Myrtle Beach Pelicans, Tennessee Smokies, York Revolution, Somerset Patriots and Lincoln Saltdogs. Pugliese also played Winter Ball in Puerto Rico and Venezuela.   Pugliese enjoyed his time in the Minor League, though it also had some challenges.  “The Minor Leagues are like nothing else. The travel, the people, the experiences are second to none, and the competition is the best in the world. I am thankful for the lifelong friendships that I had made while in the Minor Leagues. Some of the challenges that came with playing in the Minor Leagues were leaving family for long periods of time, extensive travel and time on the road, and the level and pressure of the elite competition.”


Pugliese finished his career in the Minor Leagues with a 3.42 ERA, 29-24 record, 10 saves and 391 strikeouts in 462.2 innings pitched.  Pugliese began his MILB career in Rookie Ball, went to Short A, Fall A, Advanced A and reached Double A.  Pugliese’s best season came in 2014 with the Kane County Cougars, when he had a 1.66 ERA, went 4-0 and won a Fall Season Championship.  Pugliese earned multiple honors throughout his time in the Minor Leagues.  In 2013, he was the Northwest League (NWL) Pitcher of the Week and named a NWL Mid-Season All Star.  In 2017, he was a Southern League Mid-Season All Star and in 2019, he was named An Atlantic League Mid-Season All-Star, this time with the Somerset Patriots.


In 2019, Pugliese was selected to represent Team Puerto Rico in the Caribbean Series in Panama in February. Team Puerto Rico was comprised of players from the four Puerto Rican Winter League teams and played against teams from Mexico, Venezuela, Cuba, Panama and the US.   Pugliese’s Puerto Rican team, Congrejeros de Santarce won the Puerto Rican Winter League Championship that year.  Pugliese posted a 1.48 ERA and had 12 strikeouts in 15 innings pitched.


Pugliese ended his career in the summer of 2021 with the Lincoln Salt Dogs.  He led the league with 25 saves.  Pugliese said he realized when the end was coming. “Coming off one of the best seasons of my career in 2021, I chose to step away from baseball after obtaining my college degree. The degree would lead to having an opportunity to become a full time Health & Physical Education teacher. I played baseball for 11 years at this point and decided that I gave it my best shot at making the Major Leagues.”


Pugliese graduated from Kean University in May 2022 with a Physical Education degree.  When asked if it was hard to return to classes, Pulgiese explained that he was able to take classes almost every off season.  “I took classes almost every off season while in the Minor Leagues. When I was done playing in the Minor Leagues, I was able to commit to a bigger class load and attend nearly full time. I was fortunate enough to have coaches in the Independent Ball leagues that I played in that were flexible with my collegiate classes and playing time.” 

The years between college and playing didn’t stop Pugliese who remained focused on completing his degree, no matter how long it took.  “I always wanted to obtain my college degree. Furthering my professional career was always very important to me and something I wanted to do.”


This fall, Pugliese was hired as a Physical Education teacher and Baseball Coach at Hightstown High School.  “I love my job. As a Health and Physical Education teacher, my favorite part about my job is being able to teach students the importance of a healthy and active lifestyle. I have always loved playing sports, all types of sports. Now, I have the privilege to teach some of those sports that I grew up playing, and instill a love for playing, learning, and maintaining a healthy lifestyle to the students I teach.”

Pugliese became interested in teaching and coaching when he began giving pitching instructions.  “I really developed an interest in becoming a teacher and coach in 2013 when I started pitching instruction. I enjoyed connecting with youth baseball players and teaching them how to pitch with proper mechanics.”  Pugliese mentioned that he was “always a pitcher. I did play other positions but only until my junior year in High School. I do miss hitting, but sadly, I have six professional at bats with five strikeouts and a ground ball out.”

Pugliese is grateful for his time at Mercer and the opportunity to play for the successful baseball program at MCCC.  “I wouldn't be where I am today without MCCC. MCCC is where I started (and eventually finished my associates degree), and was ultimately a springboard for me into the Minor Leagues. I honestly don’t know if I would have had the same opportunity (baseball or classes) if I was anywhere else. The baseball program at MCCC has always been top notch and continues to improve year over year.”

His favorite memory from playing at Mercer was “traveling to Myrtle Beach for a tournament. It was a memorable trip and I am thankful to have had that time with my teammates and coaches.”

Ironically Myrtle Beach was one of Pugliese’s favorite places he ended up with in the Minor Leagues.  “One of my favorite memories in Minor Leagues is playing for the Myrtle Beach Pelicans. Living in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina during the summer months and playing baseball for a living was quite amazing. One of the best life experiences I have ever had was playing in Venezuela or Puerto Rico. Those were most likely once in a lifetime experiences that I truly enjoyed and cherished.”


Pugliese stuck with the Minor Leagues and college classes to reach his goals and find success.  Pugliese was able to travel across the country and world thanks to baseball.  Pugliese’s story show the commitment needed to find success, in his case on and off the field.  Pugliese is now settling into a career that allows him to put both his baseball and degree to use and share what he loves with high school students.



Pugliese on the mound for Mercer


Pugliese in Rookie Ball for the Chicago Cubs


Pugliese with the Mrytle Beach Pelicans


Pugliese receiving the Sparky Lyle Pitching Award in 2020 while with the Somerset Patriots


 Pugliese finished his MILB career with the Lincoln Saltdogs