PORT CHARLOTTE — Tampa Bay Rays manager Joe Maddon said during spring training that Drew Vettleson’s path to the majors would follow his bat.
When he was selected with the 42nd pick in the 2010 MLB draft, front office personnel were equally impressed by his strong arm from the outfield.
But it was with both arms back home in Bremerton, Wash., that a teenage Vettleson initially started to make a name for himself.
Vettleson was part of a rare breed, able to throw a baseball fast with either arm. That led to coaches, teammates and scouts watching him pitch wherever he went. Read More…
From the July 5 issue of the Charlotte Sun
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By GREG ZECK
About once every minute, baseball scout Thomas Peters can see the odometer on his 2013 Honda go up by one. In an almost maniacal way, the steady ascension is less of a way to measure distance and more of a way to track time.
In a given 12-month span, Peters estimates that car will put on about 30,000 miles as he travels across Florida. Read More…
From the June 8, 2013 edition of the Charlotte Sun
Ricky Knapp, in Arizona to visit his dad, Rick, spent most of the Friday huddled around the computer.
Name after name — 235 in all — were recited as players selected in the MLB first-year player draft.
Finally in the eighth round, it was his turn, the last of three Florida Gulf Coast University players drafted on the day.
“The Mets select Knapp, Ricky, right-handed pitcher and the son of former Detroit Tigers pitching coach and current Dodgers minor league pitching coordinator,” the omniscient voice said.
At that moment, Ricky Knapp became a member of the New York Mets. Read More…
From the June 6, 2013 edition of the Charlotte Sun
All it takes is for one team to like you.
More than 1,200 of the country’s top high school and college baseball players will keep repeating that to themselves, hoping that one of 30 teams in this week’s MLB draft will show them some love.
The players drafted tonight will see their lives change in a heartbeat, potentially become millionaires and gain a world’s weight of expectations. Those drafted near the 40th round Saturday are essentially long shots with little risk — just like Toledo quarterback Terrance Owens, who was picked in the final round of the 2012 edition.
And as much as the draft means to major league organizations in their quest to find the next superstar, the draft is arguably just as important for the schools the athletes will depart from. Read More…
From the May 22 edition of the Charlotte Sun.
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FORT MYERS — Working all the angles, civil engineers have a keen eye for even the slightest details in what they design. Every square inch is accounted for and has its own purpose, playing a small but efficient part in the greater body of work.
That’s the approach Ricky Knapp takes to the mound and has excelled in doing for Florida Gulf Coast University’s baseball team.
The civil engineering student has become the staff’s ace not in overpowering opponents — he doesn’t have velocity on his pitches to do so — but in paying attention to subtleties such as how hitters grip the bat and forcing them to make their own mistakes.
“I’m a contact guy, I’m not going to try and throw it by guys,” Knapp said. “That’s how I was taught to think of the game … I’m trying to go out there and throw nine innings every time I pitch, and I can’t do that going full-bore.” Read More…
PORT CHARLOTTE — A different kind of fraternity exists at Marietta College.
The service it does is more than helping the community, though there is plenty of that.
There are no Greek letters associated with it, and it’s about the exact opposite of the stereotypical fraternity from the movie “Animal House.”
This is a tight-knit group of current and former Pioneer players, coaches and staff that keeps its members involved.
“Once you’re in, you’re in for life,” Pittsburgh Pirates broadcaster and former Pioneer Kent Tekulve said. “They don’t just send letters out to you when they ask for money. They always keep you posted on what’s going on … 95 percent of what you get is keeping you informed and how they’re playing on the field.”
“The fraternity” was a product of former coach Don Schaly, who coached the team for 40 seasons. During his tenure, the team dominated with a .814 winning percentage and three Division III national titles.
Off the field, the Pioneers were equally impressive in serving the local community, which was equally invested in them.
One of the members is former Colorado Rockies manager, the 2009 National League manager of the year, Jim Tracy, who was on hand Saturday at the Snowbird Baseball Classic.
Tracy, who was relieved of his duties with the Rockies after the 2012 season, is a resident of Lakewood Ranch. He said he will spend much of his free time watching Marietta play.
“You never lose touch with this school,” Tracy said. “(Schaly) saw to it that it would be that way and remain that way. It’s as unique a fraternity at a school that you’d ever want to see.”
Though Schaly passed away in Venice in March 2005, Tracy said he and the rest of the fraternity are still very close with the Schaly family, including Don’s wife, Sue.
“We always try to see what Sue’s up to, and all of their sons are very successful in the game,” Tracy said. “He’d be very, very proud. I guarantee he’s looking down today and is extremely proud of the legacy this school has maintained and continues to maintain.”
Tekulve said that when he was at Marietta, the Schalys became his second family after the coach took a chance on him.
“So much of who I am and what I’ve done is tied to the Schaly family,” Tekulve, the closer for the 1979 World Series champion Pirates said. “The recruiting letter I got in high school was the only letter I got. I had a lot of growing to do before I was ever going to be in the big leagues. … They were teaching you how to play baseball, but the real lessons were larger than that.”
The fraternity torch has been passed on to Brian Brewer, the coach for the last 10 seasons. A former Pioneer himself, Brewer has won back-to-back Division III championships.
“For him to have played for (Schaly) and understand what he was all about and how to represent the school, he filled a very big pair of shoes,” Tracy said. “He’s picked up from where Don Schaly left off so he deserves a heck of a lot of credit to replace an icon. That’s probably one of the more difficult things to do in coaching.”
As seen in Monday’s edition of the Charlotte Sun
PORT CHARLOTTE — Purdue baseball coach Doug Schreiber made headlines this week when the Big Ten conference voted to continue studying an idea he outlined in January.
The idea would allow northern schools, which are unable to play home games in mid-February when the NCAA season begins, to play up to 14 games in the fall that would count toward the team’s overall record.
The rationale is simple. Enabling northern teams to play more home dates, 60 percent of which are won by the host home team according to the NCAA, would increase those teams’ chances of qualifying for the NCAA tournament. Read More…