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  1. 1. by Stephanie Pendrys Ann Meyer Petrovic signing her AAGPBL contract: Fred Meyer (father, standing behind Ann), Marty McManus (Kenosha Comets manager, sitting with contract in hand), Ann is in the center; man at the left is unidentified. Above: Mary Lou Graham Douglas (center, sitting and being tended to by the South Bend Blue Sox chaperone) Chicago Bluebirds team photo (Ann Petrovic is in bottom row, third from left) PhotocourtesyofAnnPetrovic PhotocourtesyofMaryLouDouglas
  2. 2. October 2009 • The DesertLeaf 15 Shortstop Ann Meyer (now Petrovic) grew up in Aurora, Ind., and learned the game from her five older brothers. “My brother, Tugs, gave me his old ball glove, and they put me up against the side of the barn,” Petrovic recalls. “I guess I had to learn to catch or be killed.” Baseball was as much a part of everyday life for the Meyer clan as chores or Sunday dinner. In fact, the nine Meyer siblings had their own baseball team and one evening beat the local All-Stars as the whole town of Aurora watched from the bleachers, shoul- der to shoulder as though the rural ballpark were a vast living room. “I loved the game and would have played anyone, anywhere and anytime, as long as someone would give me a shirt with a number on the back,” says Petrovic. “Pee-Wee” Meyer, nick- named as such for her 5’3”, 110-pound frame, was only 15 and a freshman in high school when she signed a contract and became a member of the AAGPBL. “The train ride I took with my father to my tryout, that was the first time I’d been outside of Aurora,” she recalls. Petrovic spent six years in profes- sional baseball, one with the Kenosha Comets/Minneapolis Millerettes of the AAGPBL (1944) and five with the Chicago Bluebirds/Queens of the National Girls Baseball League (1945–50). When she was playing for the Bluebirds, the team’s batboy was none other than Bill Bidwill, owner of the Arizona Cardinals. Playing professional baseball wasn’t all fun and games. The AAGPBL uniform, a one-piece dress that many movie-goers might recall seeing in the 1992 film A League of Their Own, “was not exactly the best outfit to play ball in,” according to Petrovic. A leadoff hitter and speedy base runner, she accumulated many bruises and strawberries from sliding into bases and avoiding tags. “I still have scars on my knees,” she says. There were also long dusty road trips on buses and trains, as the All- Americans toured the Midwest from mid-May through Labor Day, playing six days a week, with doubleheaders on Sundays. Ann recalled boarding a troop train once with her teammates. The ser- vicemen wanted to buy the ballplayers drinks, but other than one beer with dinner, drinking was forbidden for the All-Americans. They were also not allowed to smoke, gamble or wear shorts or pants in public. When chew- As the days grow shorter and the shadows grow longer, mil- lions of sports fans are tuned in to that autumn staple: postseason baseball. Two local women have more than a keen interest in the World Series. Back in the 1940s and 1950s, when cars came with run- ning boards and Coca-Cola was served in glass bottles, Ann Petrovic and Mary Lou Douglas barreled down base paths, smacked line drives and hurled fastballs as members of the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League (AAGPBL) — the only women’s profes- sional baseball league this country has ever had. “Pee-Wee” Meyer, nicknamed as such for her 5’3”, 110-pound frame, was only 15 and a freshman in high school when she signed a contract and became a member of the AAGPBL. Main Office 440 N. Alvernon, #101 5th Street & Alvernon 327-6211 Sunrise & Swan 4747 E. Sunrise Dr. Sunrise & Swan 299-4000 Tanque Verde & Sabino Canyon 7123 E. Tanque Verde Northeast Corner 296-4157 Casas Adobes Optical 6987 N. Oracle Rd. Oracle & Giaconda Way 297-2501 Campbell Plaza 2820 N. Campbell Campbell & Glenn 323-3937 Green Valley Green Valley Mall 101-69 S. La Canada Dr. 625-5657 $ 10 off eye exam May be used with vision insurance. This coupon must be presented at the time of purchase. Eye exam by independent doctors of optometry. Certain limitations apply. Not valid for cash redemption. Offer expires 10/31/09 We service most vision plans. We Accept ALL Doctor's Prescription. Complete family vision care. $ 25 off any frame & lens May be used with vision insurance. This coupon must be presented at the time of purchase. Not valid with sale items, promotional offers, or non-prescrip- tion sunglasses. Certain limitations apply. Not valid for cash redemption.Offer expires 10/31/09 Use your vision insurance/ flex dollars before they expire! Use your vision insurance/ flex dollars before they expire! Featuring eyewear by Coach, Nike, Armani, Gucci, Dior and more. PhotocourtesyofAnnPetrovic
  3. 3. The DesertLeaf • October 200916 ing-gum magnate Phillip Wrigley found- ed the league in 1943, he was adamant that each player be a wholesome, femi- nine, All-American girl. It also wasn’t easy being a female athlete. “If you were a girl who could play ball, your name was Mud,” says Petrovic, who along with many All- Americans felt like an outcast because of her athletic ability and competitive- ness between the lines. “There just weren’t many girls like us, and we came across someone in every town who thought that there was something wrong with us because we could play baseball. I’m glad that times have changed, and it’s not unusual to see female athletes on the ESPN high- light reel.” After hanging up her spikes, Petrovic moved to Ohio, where she raised her family and played competitive volleyball for more than 25 years. She got a job at a leather-apparel company and played baseball for the company team — for one game. Petrovic was playing third base and threw the ball so hard to her inexpe- rienced catcher that she put the catcher in the hospital. “I quit after that inning; I thought that I killed her!” Petrovic recalls. “Once a pro, always a pro.” She can no longer leg out a bunt sin- gle, but Petrovic is still a huge sports fan and watches the Diamondbacks, golf and college and professional basketball. She was recently inducted into the Aurora High School Sports Hall of Fame and is very proud of the AAGPBL’s induc- tion into the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown. “Hey, it says Baseball Hall of Fame, not Men’s Baseball Hall of Fame, right?” Petrovic says emphatically. Former AAGPBL pitcher and Oro Valley resident Mary Lou Graham (now Douglas) grew up in a baseball family in South Bend, Ind. Her first glove came from Tom, one of her five brothers, who was playing in a league in South Bend. “When he was done with it, I hemmed, hawed and hinted and have been playing with it ever since,” she says. In 1952, Douglas, then 15, was play- ing in a parks and recreation youth league, and her coach took the players to see the AAGPBL’s South Bend Blue Sox. “We were playing catch in the park- ing lot before the game and Karl Winsch (Blue Sox manager) put his hands on my shoulders and asked me to go down- stairs onto the field to throw some pitches,” Douglas recalls. She remembers walking out and looking across the playing surface, tan and white and green and huge. She was Ann Meyer Petrovic with her Aurora High School Sports Hall of Fame plaque Ann Meyer Petrovic’s baseball card PhotobyStephaniePendrys PhotobyStephaniePendrys Mary Lou Douglas outside of her Oro Valley home Mary Lou Graham Douglas’s baseball card
  4. 4. October 2009 • The DesertLeaf 17 nervous, but not afraid. “I knew that I could pitch pretty well. I didn’t fear anyone. I played with my whole heart and threw the ball as hard as I could,” she says. Douglas spent the 1952 season as the batgirl for the Blue Sox, who were League Champions after defeating the Rockford Peaches 6–3 in the final. She broke into the Blue Sox lineup when she was 17 and hurled eight innings with a no-decision. The right-hander pitched for the Blue Sox until the league disband- ed after the 1954 season. The AAGPBL suffered with the emergence of televised baseball and a loss of sponsorships; but the called third strike was the end of the era of Rosie the Riveter. When the men returned to civil- ian life after WWII, the AAGPBL player was expected to put away her glove and bat and re-assume the exclusive role of wife, mother and baseball spectator. “I just barely got my feet wet and it was all over,” Douglas remembers wistfully. In 1955, Douglas and a number of other AAGPBL girls played semi-pro softball and basketball. Douglas also went to work in Los Angeles as a girl Friday, married and had a son. When A League of Their Own came out, Douglas drove 16 hours from Bend, Ore. to see the premiere of the Penny Marshall film in Los Angeles. “I’ve seen it dozens of times and Penny Marshall did a fantas- tic job showing what it was like to play in the league,” she says. “We really did have team chaperones and had to go to charm school.” Douglas, now 73, still has her broth- er’s glove and plays catch with the neigh- borhood kids when they are home from college. But for the most part, baseball has been replaced by golf, which she has played on and off since childhood. “I focus on making a putt the same way I used to focus on striking out a bat- ter,” she says. Douglas won three club championships while living in California and took the Oro Valley Country Club title in 1998. Her handicap is in the 10–15 range and she’s made five holes-in-one, which she swears “are just as good as pitching a one-hitter.” An avid Diamondbacks fan, Douglas loves attending spring-training games. She also enjoys the response she gets when she tells people that she played baseball. “You mean softball.” “No, baseball.” “But, women didn’t play baseball.” “Yes, we did!” Yes, they did, and in doing so, the All-Americans blazed a path for future female athletes, became part of sports history and showed the country that gals could play hardball. Stephanie Pendrys is a local freelance writer. Comments for publication should be addressed to DL
  5. 5. Golfology People - A Season to Remember Jack London, writer, amateur boxer, oyster pirate and prospector during the 1897 Klondike Gold Rush, was not a man to sit and wait for opportunity to come knocking. Revered for classic novels like “Call of the Wild” and “White Fang” as well as for his passion for adventure, London’s brief-yet-prolific life was best defined by the man’s own words: “You can’t wait for inspiration. You have to go after it with a club.” The phrase describes the way Carolinas PGA professional Kelly Mitchum approached the 2006 CPGA tournament season. Mitchum entered the year as the two- time defending Carolinas PGA Player of the Year. The last player to accomplish this feat was Bob Boyd, who earned back-to-back honors in 1998 and 1999. Mitchum, a former four-time All- American at North Carolina State University, was not content to sit on his laurels or the four Carolinas PGA major titles he already won. Instead, he had thoughts of matching Tim Collins (1982-84) as the only professional to win three consecutive player-of-the- year awards. As if heeding London’s words, Mitchum picked up his clubs and plunged into what would become one of the most impressive seasons in Carolinas PGA history. Mitchum, the lead teaching professional at Pinehurst Resort, started his season by qualifying for the PGA Tour Wachovia Championship with a medalist round of 4- under 67. Mitchum then turned his gaze toward the first CPGA major of the year: the 82nd Coastal Federal Bank Carolinas Open. He led from wire to wire and his 10- under par 67-66-70 won by five.
  6. 6. In June, Mitchum had a strong showing at the RBC Centura North Carolina Open (the second CPGA major) where he finished in a tie for fifth place. He then hit the trail for Turning Stone Resort & Casino in Verona, New York, to play in the 39th PGA Professional Championship where his 5-under 283 earned him a tie for sixth but more importantly a berth in the 88th PGA Championship at renowned Medinah Country Club in August. Less than a week after playing in the PGA Championship, Mitchum was back on the CPGA trail at the 55th South Carolina Open. Mitchum led the tournament by two strokes after the second round but was nipped in the final round by 21-year-old amateur Jordan Pomeranz, and finished in a tie for second place. By the end of August, Mitchum had finished in the top five of the first three CPGA majors and competed in a PGA Tour event and a PGA Tour major championship. The final CPGA major was in October at the Club at Longview, which challenged competitors on every hole and left PGA professional Tag Wylie referring to the 18th as “a monster, perhaps the scariest hole I’ve ever played.” It was on that hole that Mitchum won the title in a come-from-behind fashion with a par on the first hole of a playoff, ensuring his status as player of the year for the third consecutive year. Mitchum now has six CPGA majors to his name. In addition, he is now exempt into the three 2007 PGA Tour stops in the Carolinas: the Verizon Heritage, Wachovia Championship and the Wyndham Championship (formerly the Chrysler Classic of Greensboro). “I’m very excited to have the opportunity to play in such prestigious tournaments,” Mitchum says. “I’m looking forward to representing the Carolinas PGA section in these PGA Tour events to the best of my ability.” Mitchum now has his sights set on becoming the first player to be named player of the year for four consecutive years. – Stephanie Pendrys ©2007 GolfStyles
  7. 7. News News Home News Archives News RSS Feed Comments(0) Tweet 1 Facebook Print Email Related Content Chris Nichols Player Page Shop the Cutters Holiday Sale! Save with a Cutters Bonus Book By Stephanie Pendrys 12/07/20122:39PMET ChrisNicholswas3-0 with a 3.54 ERAfor Williamsport in 2012. Back on Campus: Chris Nichols It would be easyto saythat Chris Nichols' life has always revolved around baseball. The son of former major league pitcher and current Philadelphia Phillies bullpen coach Rod Nichols, Nichols grew up in the dugout and learned firsthand the dailymental and physical grind of professional baseball. He would also follow his dad's footsteps to the mound. The tall (6-2), lankyright-hander's life story on the hill has been written with the nastiness of his change-up, coupled with a ground-ball inducing cutter, which tugged him through three years of college baseball at the Universityof SiouxFalls and led to two summer stints with the Lehigh ValleyCatzof theACBL, a prestigious collegiate summer baseball league. Last May, Nichols was in Lehigh Valleyand working at his summer job at a cable companywhen his father called to inform him that the Phillies were drafting him in the 31st round (968th overall) of the 2012 MLBDraft. It was a dream come true for Nichols, 21, who signed with the Phillies on June 15 and pointed his car south for Clearwater (Fla.), which has served as the Phillies' spring training site since 1948. After making seven appearances in rookie ball with the GCL Phillies, Nichols finished the summer bygetting his first taste of minor league baseball at the Short-SeasonA level and lowAlevel. He pitched for the Williamsport Crosscutters, posting a 3-0 record and 3.54 earned run average in 20.1 innings pitched. In late July, Nichols was promoted to the Lakewood BlueClaws, the Phillies' low Class-A affiliate. He posted an ERAof 3.00 with a nifty4.00 GO/AOin three appearances with the BlueClaws. "I had the opportunityto be moved around to three different teams during the summer, which was a good wayto experience first-hand how much travel actuallygoes on in the minor leagues," Nichols said. "It seemed like I was constantlyon the move, but that's just the nature of the beast, and you learn to adapt as you go." Astarting pitcher for most of his collegiate career, Nichols also had to adjust to becoming a reliever. "I'm happyto finallyhave gotten that first summer under mybelt," Nichols said. "Growing up and traveling around with mydad, I had a good idea of what to expect, but it's different when you actuallystart playing." "I got to go on through-the-night bus rides and to playwith a bunch of reallygood guys," You Might Also Like This Is What Jay Cutler Gets to Come Home to Every Night TheFumble SNEAKER ALERT: Reebok Retro Runner, the GL6000 STACK Strike up the band, put the snow shovels away, baseball is back in town Allvoices Secure App Platform Threatens to Shatter Your Company’s Lackluster Intranet MobileEnterprise Top 10 MLB Prospects Ready to Make a Big League Impact Wall St. Cheat Street Rain-Harvesting School Tackles Water Scarcity Txchnologist SearchCROSSCUTTERS.COM THE OFFICIAL SITE OF THE WILLIAMSPORT CROSSCUTTERS MORE CLASS A SHORT SEASON AFFILIATE TICKETS & PROMOTIONS SCHEDULE STATS & SCORES ROSTER MULTIMEDIA NEWS BALLPARK COMMUNITY FAN ZONE ABOUT SHOP Latest Crosscutters News Williams named new Cutters Manager Cutters Banquet raises over $5,000 for Special Olympics Annual Hot Stove Event Sold Out NL MVP McCutchen Started Pro Career in Williamsport MORE » Top Stories on Fans' guide has Opening Day covered Where are top prospects on Opening Day? Promos: Wanna catch a Nolan Ryan heater? Unheralded prospects ready to make noise A message from MiLB President O'Conner Cal League Preview: JetHawks take off Prospect Primers for all 30 organizations Download First Pitch,'s iPhone app MORE » converted by
  8. 8. said Nichols. "I definitelygot a good minor league experience, and I'm excited to have the opportunityto experience it again." Added Nichols, "Once you get the taste of it, you want to keep heading back." You could saythat Chris Nichols' life still revolves around baseball. You would be wrong. What makes Nichols different is that his ambitions are not confined to the 60-feet, 6- inches between the edge of the pitching rubber and the tip of home plate. This is whyhe has spent the offseason behind a desk, perfecting rhetorical skills in advanced composition and discussing linear regression models with classmates. He's now back at the Universityof SiouxFalls to finish his college degree. "I decided to come back to USFbecause it made the most sense," said Nichols, a business administration major and English/management science double minor who boasted a 3.75 GPAafter his junior year. "I have always taken myacademics seriously and being so close to graduating, finishing mydegree is something that I reallywanted." It also made sense because USFprovides Nichols with the shortest track to his college degree. "If I would have gone home to Montana, for example, I would have had to worryabout transferring credits and all that paperwork that goes with it," he explained. "At USFI knew what I needed, and I would be able to get mydegree quicker." "Aside from that, I just reallywant to graduate from USF," Nichols added. "This is where I have invested myeducation and built relationships with friends and professors." Nichols experienced a unique twinbill on September 5, 2012-the last game of the Crosscutters' season along with the first dayof classes at USF. After the final out of the Crosscutters' 8-4 victoryover theAuburn Doubledays, Nichols hit the road for what would be a 1,200-mile trek from Williamsport to SiouxFalls. "I was on the baseball field one night finishing the season and saying goodbye to my teammates and coaches and in mymanagerial economics class the next afternoon," Nichols said. He arrived on campus in time to begin his senior year. Nichols put together a solid pitching resume in three seasons with the Universityof SiouxFalls, notching a career mark of 15-7 with 90 total strikeouts. He was an honorable mentionAll-GPAC selection as a freshman and owns the school record for most pitching wins in a season (9). Nichols is also known as a Vikings slayer. In 2010, the freshman was on the mound for both of USF's victories against crosstown rivalAugustana College-the first time USF posted consecutive wins againstAugustana in a series historythat dates back to 1915. Nichols posted an ERAof 1.93 and WHIPof 1.19 in the two wins. As a junior, Nichols was shuttled back and forth between the rotation and the bullpen and posted a lights-out performance against No. 15 Minnesota State, Mankato. Nichols took the mound in relief where he scattered one hit in the final 1.2 innings to pick up the save in the Cougars' 4-2 victoryagainst a Maverick squad that went on to finish third at the 2012 NCAADivision II College Baseball World Series. Nichols' second tenure at USFhas been markedlydifferent for obvious reasons. It's the first time he has not had to balance academics with athletics. "It's been weird not actuallybeing a baseball player on campus anymore," Nichols admitted. "Especiallyin the afternoons when I would see some of the guys packing up to go to fall ball practice, and I'm going to the libraryto get myhomework done in the afternoon and ahead of time for once." Afall without fall ball doesn't mean that Nichols has been bored this semester. In fact, it's possible that he has never been bored as a college student. "Between classes, working out, and just enjoying mytime as a college student, I have been staying prettybusy," he added. "I've been taking this time to reallyjust to relax, focus on classes and start preparing for spring training." Since his freshman year (2009), Nichols has found a wayto be involved in just about everything USFhas to offer to its student body. He has been active in theater productions, the Fellowship of ChristianAthletes, chapel and is a staple on the USF intramural scene. He was even crowned the 2012 USFMonster Golf (yes, giant golf clubs are involved) Invitational champion. As a junior, he served as the president of the StudentAthleteAdvisoryCommittee, a committee made up of USFstudent-athletes assembled to provide insight into the student-athlete experience. He was even hired as a residence hall assistant this school year-a position Nichols had to turn down after being drafted. Nichols is also a member of the Cougar Crazies, the USFstudent section that provides spirit and noise for home athletic contests. He, along with a group of fellow Crazies, drove to Laramie, Wyo., last December to cheer on the USFmen's basketball team against NCAAD-I Universityof Wyoming. Nichols was also in attendance this October for the first-ever Keyto the Citygame (the USF/Augustana College football rivalrywas renewed after a 26-year absence). "Having the opportunityto be a college student for one last semester has been fun, especiallywith the school now being a fullyfledged member of NCAADII," Nichols said. "Getting to see theAugie football game was great-who would want to pass up on that converted by
  9. 9. rivalry?" Onlya small number of men can saytheyhave both a professional baseball contract and a four-year sheepskin. A2010 surveyshowed that only26 players in the MLBhad a college degree. That's less that 5 percent of the entire league. In May, the Yahoo! Sports ThePostGame blog reported that 4.3 percent (39 of 917) of MLBplayers this appeared in a game through the first month of the 2012 season were college graduates. The tinyfraction highlights the challenges of pursuing a college education while pursuing big-league dreams. With so manyopportunities to focus solelyon baseball - and earn money- it's not surprising that 19-, 20- and 21-year-olds give up their college eligibilityto turn pro.And once theysign a professional contract, baseball's year-round schedule makes it difficult for them to return to the classroom to make up the missed credits. In that context, Nichols' decision to return to USFas a traditional student is impressive. But what's perhaps more remarkable is that you'd be hard pressed to find someone that expected anything less. Including his former college coach. "I wasn't surprised at all," said sixth-year head baseball coach Matt Guiliano. "Chris is a guywith goals, and I know that one of the main ones is to finish up his degree." "Besides that, I know that Chris loves it here and wants to have USFas his graduating college," he added. Despite being a business major, Nichols believes that he's taken more classes with Dr. Kevin Cole, an associate professor of English at USF, than anyother instructor. "Dr. Cole has the abilityto make me think harder than I thought I would like to, but I've always enjoyed it," Nichols said. "The relationship I've built with Dr. Cole and other professors is one of the reasons I wanted to come back and finish mydegree here." Dr. Cole also did not raise an eyebrow when he saw Nichols roaming the English department this fall. "Chris is indeed an exceptional student, one of the best that I've had in my13 years, which is saying quite a bit because I've had some trulyoutstanding students," he said in an email. "I could go on for pages about what makes Chris an excellent student, so I'll tryto condense things here, as tough as that is: First, although he is terriblybright, he is humble, which makes him a delight to have in a literature class. He always shows up having read and thought about the work in a careful, deliberate manner and always has intelligent contributions to make.At the same time, he understands the give-and-take of civilized discussion, so that even when someone disagrees with him, he can be both humble and comic about the disagreement. Second, his uncommon discipline makes him a notable student. I expect this goes hand-in-hand with developing one's athletic skills. But his discipline is also evident in, as you say, how manyactivities he's involved in. I myself never could have done this in college-I did well just to get to class and studyfor exams. Third, he understands the meaning, purpose, and rewards of a liberal arts education, pure and simple. He embodies the ancient Greek ideal: he pays equal attention to his intellectual and physical well-being and is deeplyinvested in the arts." Nichols won't be graduating this December, but the onlything that stands between him and his college degree is one online class and one traditional class. "Hopefully, I will be able to take some time next offseason," Nichols said. "I'm close. OfficiallyI'll be receiving myBachelor's ofArts degree in business administration and two minors - one in management science and one in English." When asked what he'll take awayfrom his college experience, Nichols couldn't narrow it down to one or two memories. "There's been a lot of good ones," Nichols said. "From a baseball standpoint, I would probablysaybeatingAugie twice myfreshman year definitelystands out." "As for everything else, I've been involved in so manydifferent fun activities that I can't single one out," he added. "Mytime here as a whole has been a great memory-cheesyI know, but true." After final exams and the holidays, Nichols will head to Florida for Phillies' spring training in February. "I still haven't experienced one of those at all, but from everything I hear, spring training is a completelydifferent machine," Nichols said. "It's myjob right now to start getting ready to put myself in a good position from the get-go." There are several people who will be rooting for him next spring and for manyyears to follow. "He was one of our better pitchers to throw for our program and we are extremelyhappy for Chris as he continues his journeythrough the minor league system," Coach Guiliano said. While the path to Majors is uncertain for anyminor league player (onlyfive percent of drafted players make it to the major leagues), there is no doubt that Nichols will find success in all facets of life and continue to make a positive impact on those around him. converted by
  10. 10. Comments(0) Tweet 1 Facebook Print Email You Might Also Like Clint Eastwood’s Wife Files For Legal Separation After Bizarre Wife Swap One Woman Wore a Corset Every Day …and This is What Happened You Beauty Netflix may have won April Fool's Day USATODAY With China looming, Japan lifts weapons exports ban NikkeiAsian Review Reaction to the Supreme Court’s Campaign Finance Decision TheNew YorkTimes We Recommend Dodgers cut top prospects Pederson, Lee MiLB Catching a legend for Opening Day MiLB Where to find the top 100 on Opening Day MiLB EL Preview: RubberDucks float into Akron MiLB MiLB Charities launches online auctions MiLB Mets Prospect Primer: Syndergaard shines MiLB Dodgers' Urias, 17, perfect in spring debut MiLB The fans' guide toMinor League OpeningDay Talent abounds inthree Class AAdvanced leagues Comingsoon:Twins' Buxtonmaybe next big star Unheraldedprospects readytomake noise in '14 Amessage fromMiLB President Pat O'Conner MiLBFirst Pitchmobile app "The onlything holding Chris back is his age," Dr. Cole said. "I myself would love to see him write about baseball sometime in the future, something along the lines of a Roger Angel." "But I can assure you that whatever endeavors he pursues, he will do so with purpose, enthusiasm and grace," he added. "I think the best compliment I can give Chris is that I hope myown two boys, now four and one, become the kind of young man Chris is." This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs. Recommended by Powered by Livefyre Today on Termsof Use | Privacy Policy (updated 07.08.2011) | About OurAds Comments Newest | Oldest Sign in 2 people listening 0 comments + Follow+ Follow Post comment as...Post comment as... converted by
  11. 11. Whether they grow up playing hardball, stickball or whiffle ball, kids cling to the same fantasy: they’re standing in the backyard or the schoolyard, and they envision themselves in the jersey of their favorite team. Jake Sabol was one of those kids. He first beat the odds as a preferred walk-on at Central Michigan University and earned a spot in the Chippewas’ weekend rotation. The Grosse Pointe (Mich.) native then had his boyhood dream realized when the Detroit Tigers drafted him in the 36th round of the 2011 Major League amateur draft. Sabol spent parts of two seasons with the Detroit Tigers organization before catching on with the Traverse City Beach Bums in August of 2012. And he made the Beach Bums look good for signing him, finishing the season as one of the better relievers in independent baseball. The ability in his right arm is the reason Sabol earned a spot in the Beach Bums’ 2013 starting rotation. He didn’t disappoint, posting a 10-6 record with a 3.18 earned run average to earn a spot on the Frontier League East Division’s All-Star team. Sabol’s competitive fire isn’t limited to the mound, as the 25-year old has always known that he wanted to coach when his playing days were done. His heart for teaching recently landed him a job as the pitching coach at Northwood University, a NCAA Division II program in Midland, Mich. CBD COLUMN, MAC FORMER CMU CHIPPEWA JAKE SABOL RISES IN COACHING RANKS APRIL 2, 2014 | STEPHANIE PENDRYS| LEAVE A COMMENT College Baseball Daily  Pri m ary M enu converted by
  12. 12. A basketball in the right, a baseball in the left Sabol first picked up a baseball when he was seven or eight and he wanted to be on the mound from the very start. The Detroit Tigers were always his team, but Sabol idolized Pedro Martinez. “Pedro’s belief that he was the best and the way he challenged hitters, that was something special to watch and it stuck with me,” Sabol said. But basketball was Sabol’s first love and his size (6’5, 225) made him a natural. It was his father, Rick, a Northern Illinois University baseball alum, that saw a future for his son on the diamond and not the hardwood. “In high school I wanted to put hoops in front of everything else and play AAU basketball during the summer instead of baseball,” Sabol said. “My dad convinced me to stick with baseball as much as possible and I’ll go ahead and say that I’m glad I took his advice.” A product of Warren De La Salle High School, Sabol stayed in-state and went on to become a four-year letterwinner at Central Michigan University. “CMU gave me the chance to play college baseball at the highest level,” Sabol said. “I wouldn’t be where I am today if not for Coach Jaksa and the rest of the Chips coaching staff.” Sabol’s trek through college was an odyssey of perseverance and self-doubt. And no one knows that better than CMU head coach Steve Jaksa, now in his 12th season with the Chippewas. “Jake went through a process in college, it didn’t all just happen for him on the first day of practice,” Jaksa said. “He was a preferred walk-on, and we thought he had great potential because of his size, but Jake has a great work ethic and that’s what really made the difference.” “Jake also had to deal with his own trials and tribulations like every other pitcher,” Jaksa added. “I’m sure there were times where perhaps he felt as though he should be pitching more than someone else, but at the end of the day Jake listened and bought into what we were doing.” Jaksa finished, “that’s when Jake started to take off and got better and better on the mound.” Sabol started 12 games as a senior and finished 5-3 with a 4.13 ERA. He notched shutouts against MAC foes Ohio and Akron and hurled a complete game against Eastern Michigan to clinch the 2011 MAC West championship. converted by
  13. 13. From a Chip to a Tiger Sabol graduated from CMU with a degree in sports management and went home to anxiously await his chance at becoming a professional baseball player. Sabol talked to eight or nine teams but the Detroit Tigers and the Texas Rangers were the frontrunners. Sabol was at his parents’ home in Shelby Township when he found out that the Detroit Tigers drafted him in the 36th round (1,097 overall) of the 2011 Major League Baseball Draft. “I was ecstatic,” Sabol said. “All I was really hoping for was to be drafted, but to be selected by Detroit, that took the excitement to a whole different level.” Sabol went through many ups and downs as he learned the national pastime as it is played outside the spotlight. His two seasons in the Detroit Tigers farm system were filled with cross-country road trips, classic dugout antics and players competing with cutthroat intensity for the ultimate prize—a call up to the majors. Sabol lived with players from different countries and learned to communicate with teammates whose first language was not English. “I met and played with a lot of great teammates, some of which I still have extremely close relationships with today,” he reflected. “It was an experience that I will always remember.” Sabol went 3-3 with a 3.43 ERA in 13 games (10 starts) with the Gulf Coast League Tigers in 2011. He began 2012 with the Connecticut Tigers (NYPL) and tossed two scoreless innings against the Lowell Spinners in his first appearance with the Tigers’ New York-Penn League outfit. But, Sabol’s slider became evasive and he finished with a 15.63 ERA in four appearances. He was firing a lot of fast balls and wondered what happened to his secondary stuff, as his WHIP in Connecticut swelled to 2.842 from 1.12 a level down the prior season in the GCL. He threw two scoreless innings versus the Mahoning Valley Scrappers in his final NYPL appearance before the Tigers informed Sabol in mid-July that he would be moving on—released, in baseball parlance—and cast into the thorny woods of free agency. A Tiger to a Beach Bum The odyssey of boredom, worry, negotiations and frustration is one many minor league players quietly go through each year when they are released (close to 90% of all minor league players will be converted by
  14. 14. released at some point in their career). Like a submarine, they disappear quickly and quietly, and then resurface days or weeks later, hundreds or thousands of miles away, in a new uniform. Sabol didn’t want to stay out of the game for long. He spent a few days going over his options with his agent and they decided to reach out to Frontier League’s Traverse City Beach Bums back home in Michigan. “We let them know that I was available and would love to work out for them in hopes of being signed for the rest of the season,” Sabol said. The workout went well and Sabol signed with Traverse City. He was thrilled. “I’m glad they took a chance on me,” he said. On August 3, 2012, Sabol saw his first action with Traverse City in the Beach Bums’ 4-1 loss to the Southern Illinois Miners. He responded by tossing two scoreless innings with two strikeouts. Sabol picked up his first win six days later, when the Beach Bums rallied from four runs down in the seventh to edge the Evansville Otters 8-7. “I just took my outings pitch by pitch and tried not to worry about the things that I couldn’t control,” Sabol said. Sabol also worked on the stuff between the ears—the mental aspect of the game—knowing that it can be the difference between being an integral part of a staff and a fringe reliever, clinging to the tail end of a roster. “I had to figure out a way to become more consistent on the mound,” Sabol said. “Sometimes in college, I could get away with making mistakes but once you get to the professional ranks, the hitters make you pay for it.” In seven appearances with the Beach Bums in 2012, Sabol went 2- 0 with a microscopic 0.71 ERA. He finished with a K/BB ratio of 4.00 and his WHIP shrunk to 0.789 from 2.842 a level up with the Connecticut Tigers. Sabol’s slider regained its bite and he kept batters off stride, holding opposing hitters to a .157 average. “My slider became somewhat of a “go to” pitch for me after working on it in Traverse City, day after day,” Sabol said. He also struck out an attention-demanding eight batters in 12.2 innings. It’s not exactly a large sample size, but it signaled to Beach Bum coaches that Sabol still had some nasty weapons in his arsenal. converted by
  15. 15. Change of Address: Bullpen to Rotation Former Traverse City manager Gregg Langbehn saw Sabol as a candidate to join the Beach Bums’ front five in 2013. “We didn’t get Jake until the summer of 2012 and we were so healthy and successful with everything that we already had in place that we decided to put him in the bullpen,” said Langbehn, who was named the Cleveland Indians’ major league replay coordinator in the offseason. “Jason Wuerfel (Director of Baseball Operations) and I talked prior to the start of the 2013 season and we felt that Jake profiled more as a starter because that it what he had been almost exclusively at CMU and with the Tigers.” “We talked a lot about it and it really was a smooth transition,” said Sabol. “I had been a full-time starter since my junior year at Central Michigan and that was where I was the most comfortable.” Sabol threw seven scoreless innings in his 2013 debut, as the Beach Bums beat the Evansville Otters 10-0 on May 21. He went on to win his first four starts, including a complete game five-hit shutout of the Lake Erie Crushers on June 5, a 1-0 Beach Bum victory. Along with the reemerged slider, Sabol’s repertoire of pitches included a dancing two-seam fastball, a four-seamer and a change-up, which he calls his best off-speed pitch. “I found a lot of success with my two-seam fastball so it became my ‘bread and butter,’ said Sabol. “I went back and looked at a few of those starts and about 85% of my pitches were fastballs.” “Number one, Jake is a control pitcher that embraces the philosophy of pitching to contact and forcing hitters to put the ball into play,” said Langbehn. “His two-seamer resulted in a lot of ground balls and made it possible for Jake to get through his innings pretty quickly.” “Number two, he’s an efficient pitcher who maintains a low pitch count and that really made Jake an unsung innings eater for us last season,” added Langbehn. Sabol didn’t lose his first game of the regular season until June 11 and was 6-4 with a 2.44 ERA on July 12. The Beach Bums sat atop the East Division at the midway point, which gave the All Star Game manager’s job to Coach Langbehn for the second straight season. In turn, he added Traverse City first baseman Chase Burch, reliever Nick Capito and Sabol to the East Division squad. “The Frontier League All-Star Game was a great experience,” said Sabol, who pitched the eighth inning. “The entire weekend in Washington (Pa.) was a lot of fun and the Beach Bums were represented extremely well with six All-Stars and the East Division coaching staff.’ The West Division All-Stars defeated their East Division counterparts, 4-2. Sabol won his first start after the All-Star break, converted by
  16. 16. a 3-1 win against the Windy City Thunderbolts, where he scattered one run and five hits over five innings. He would go 4-2 down the stretch and finished the 2013 season at 10-6 with 65 strikeouts (to just 29 walks) in a team-high 127 innings. Traverse City finished the regular season at 96-55 to secure the No. 3 seed in the 2013 Frontier League playoffs. The Beach Bums held a 2-1 advantage in the best-of-five divisional series against the Lake Erie Crushers and had Sabol penciled in as the game four starter. Sabol tossed six solid innings and handed a 3-1 lead over to the bullpen to put Traverse City in position to clinch the series. But the Beach Bums relieving corps imploded to the tune of 10 runs en route to a stunning 13-3 defeat. “That was disappointing since we had pretty much dominated the entire game and had a 3-1 lead in the seventh, but our bullpen had been so strong all season long that it was hard to be mad about it,” said Sabol, who limited the Crushers to one run on six hits. “If it wasn’t for them doing what they had done all season long, we might not have even been in the playoffs in the first place.” The Crushers lived up to their moniker the next day when they topped Traverse City 5-4 to complete their improbable divisional series comeback and send the Beach Bums packing. “A tough way to end the year for sure, but that’s why baseball is such an amazing game; it just didn’t work out for us,” said Langbehn. “It doesn’t take anything away from what Jake did or what the team accomplished last season.” From a Beach Bum to a Coach Sabol first cut his teeth in the coaching profession two years ago, when he joined the Alma College (Mich.) baseball staff in November 2012. He worked with the Scots’ pitching staff for one year before being named the Northwood Timberwolves’ pitching coach at the start of the 2013-14 season. “I absolutely love it,” Sabol said. “It has strengthened my belief that coaching baseball is something I really want to do for the rest of my life.” Sabol works primarily with the pitching staff but also helps longtime Northwood head coach Joe Di Benedetto with recruiting and administrative duties. One of Sabol’s strongest assets as a pitching coach is that he simply knows how to pitch in the Midwest. For example, the lifelong Michigan resident knows firsthand that when it’s cold, the ball won’t carry on a cripple pitch—2-0 or 3-1—and he can teach the young Northwood arms not to be hesitant to challenge the converted by
  17. 17. Share this: batter with a fastball. “I know how to pitch in the cold and overcome the discomfort of playing in this type of climate,” said Sabol. “But more importantly, I had a tremendous student-athlete experience at CMU, and my goal is to create that same kind of atmosphere for the players.” Northwood University looks to improve upon last year’s 17-26 mark and 11th place finish in the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference. Under Sabol’s tutelage, the Timberwolves’ staff has already lowered their team earned run average from 5.51 in 2013 to 4.83 in 2014. Sabol’s desire to climb the college coaching ranks comes as no surprise to his former manager. “Jake’s coach-like traits were evident because he was always thinking about the game and trying to pay attention to everything that was going on out on the field,” said Langbehn. “We talked a lot about pitching philosophies and for me to see him already working with a Division II program, it’s far from a surprise.” Sabol, who is also working towards a master’s degree in business administration, is undecided as to whether he’ll keep playing for the Beach Bums. “I ultimately want to become a college head coach and I’m willing to do whatever it takes to get there,” he said. “And I think that being an assistant at an NCAA Division II program and working towards my MBA is a step in the right direction.” PREVIOUS POST 2014 NCAA Regional Projections (April 1) NEXT POST SoCal Roundup: SD City Rivalry AROUND THE WEB 2014 NCAA REGIONAL PROJECTIONS (FEB. 18TH) 2 comments Video of the Day: Texas Tech’s Zach Davis steals home 1 comment CBD Opinion: NCAA needs to get with the times regarding MLB … 1 comment The Clemson vs South Carolina Controversy 14 comments ALSO ONCOLLEGE BASEBALL DAILY WHAT'S THIS? Warren Buffett Issues Harsh Warning Money Morning 10 of the Hottest "Over 50" Stars Your Daily Scoop CENTRAL MICHIGAN MAC converted by