Former UM pitcher hits the big leagues

NL notebook

Baseball Week

April 24, 2005|By DAN CONNOLLY | DAN CONNOLLY,SUN STAFF

When Steve Schmoll failed to make the Maryland baseball team as a walk-on freshman catcher in 1999, he rebuilt his career from the ground up by using pilfered dirt.

Schmoll, who pitched "about 10 innings" during his prep years at Rockville's Magruder High, thought his best chance to play at Maryland was if he were a pitcher. He received instruction from the Terps' staff, then went home and practiced.

"I was working for an air conditioning company at the time, and I brought dirt home from new house jobs and built a mound in my backyard," he said.

Throwing into a net - he was afraid he'd hurt his dad if he pitched to him - Schmoll refined his technique, eventually making the team as a walk-on in 2000. Now, he's pitching for the Los Angeles Dodgers.

"Has it sunk in? Probably not," said Schmoll, 25. "I may not let it sink in until next year."

Not even two years removed from his senior season at Maryland, Schmoll has made the jump from Double-A to the majors. The right-handed reliever already has a big-league win and a save - not bad for someone who wanted to be a doctor.

Schmoll's career path changed in 2002, when he was messing around with a sidearm delivery after practice and coach Terry Rupp liked what he saw. The next season Schmoll threw sidearm about 60 percent of the time and tied for the Atlantic Coast Conference lead in strikeouts.

He was a fifth-year senior who didn't have to enter the draft, and the Dodgers gave him a $75,000 bonus to sign early. He excelled at rookie Single-A ball in 2003 and at two levels and the Arizona Fall League last year.

Despite not having a big-league camp invitation, the full-time sidearmer impressed during a B-squad game, then in a few A-squad innings this spring. He was taken to Los Angeles to be an extra arm for the Freeway exhibition series against the Angels and was placed on the 25-man roster when closer Eric Gagne was hurt.

Schmoll grew up as an Orioles fan, watching Scott Erickson, now his Dodgers teammate, pitch at Camden Yards. Although Schmoll won't play in Baltimore this season, he hopes to still be with the Dodgers in August when they visit RFK Stadium. He'll be a 25-minute Metro ride away from his home and a world away from his old mound.

"It definitely would be nice to be out there [at RFK]," he said. "If not, no biggie. I'll go wherever and will try to get better."

Alderson's move

Sandy Alderson, baseball's executive vice president since 1998, accepted the chief executive officer's job with the San Diego Padres last week. Alderson, who also received a minority stake in the team, said there wouldn't be an organizational shake-up, meaning the jobs of Bruce Bochy, who has managed the team since 1995, and general manager Kevin Towers, whose contract runs through 2007, are safe.

Quick hits

A group of Cincinnati Reds, including Adam Dunn, Ken Griffey and Sean Casey, bought $1,000 in Ohio lottery tickets for last week's $168 million Mega Millions drawing. They didn't hit the jackpot. ... The Mets' seven homers Tuesday against Philadelphia were the most they've ever hit in one game. ... The Pirates' 4-11 start was their worst 15-game beginning since 1974.

Compiled from interviews, wire services and reports from other newspapers.

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