BALTIMORE -- It is the dream of lots of young boys playing Little League to college baseball to someday play in the Major Leagues.
One of the pitchers playing for the Baltimore Orioles this season is Dan Straily, who pitched for two seasons for the Marshall University Thundering Herd.
In the spring of 2009, I went to a Marshall baseball game at Appalachian Power Park in Charleston in which Straily was on the mound for the Herd, and in the stands was Dan Duquette, Baltimore’s general manager at the time, scouting the young college hurler.
Fast forward to a couple of weeks ago, when I sat down in the Orioles' dugout with Straily (Duquette is no longer with the team) and I asked him about how things have changed since his college days.
“Other than the actual act of playing the game," he said, "there is nothing similar between Major League and college baseball. When I was in college, my day usually started at 6 a.m. for weight training and then I headed to classes all day and then had practice and, after that, hit the books again. Baseball was just a part of my normal day.
"Now as a Major Leaguer, my main focus is getting ready to play baseball every day. That’s my job and I love it.”
During his two years as a Herd pitcher, Straily made 28 starts and posted a 9 and 7 record. The Oakland Athletics selected Straily in the 24th round, with the 723rd overall selection, of the 2009 Major League Baseball Draft. He began his professional career with the Vancouver Canadians of the Class A-Short Season Northwest League.
The Orioles are the sixth Major League club that Straily has pitched for. Prior to joining Baltimore in April, the California native also pitched for the Oakland Athletics, Chicago Cubs, Houston Astros, Cincinnati Reds and the Miami Marlins. That’s a bit of moving around in eight seasons, but the 30-year old hurler still loves every second of his job.
“I get to come to the ballpark every day and get to play baseball and entertain the fans in the stands. People come out here to have fun, while we are working everyone is enjoying our craft. I would never give away the cities I have been able to visit and all of the friends I have made playing the game I love. I can’t imagine ever doing anything different,” Straily said.
On April 1, 2013, Straily was named to the Opening Day roster for the Athletics as a starting pitcher, thus beginning his Major League career.
This interview came about after chatting with Marshall baseball coach Jeff Waggoner at this year’s state high school baseball championship. I told Coach Waggoner about the Straily/Duquette story, and he offered to help get in touch with his former player for me and help set up the interview.
I couldn’t resist asking Dan about what he learned from his former college coach. “The one thing that (Coach) Waggoner instilled in all of us was that you have a job to do every day and that’s when you put on your jersey and strap on your spikes, it’s to win that day. Nothing else matters and what can I do to help win the game for my team for that day. I learned from him it’s important to win as a group from day one and I have never forgotten that when I get to the ballpark every day.”
To be honest, Straily’s stint with the Orioles was a little rough, as he was demoted from his starting role to coming out of the bullpen and then, late last month, dropped from the active roster, being designated for assignment by club officials.
But you know what? As a baseball fan, I will never forget sitting in the dugout with Straily and the way he treated me as a young writer. A true class act, giving me the opportunity to step up my game a bit.