An "underdog makes good" story

I sometimes feel like I don’t take enough advantage of the capability that the blog gives you to be your own publisher. So here’s a story of mine that I think deserves to see the light of day, but hasn’t yet found a venue. (In the interest of full disclosure, a much-truncated version did appear in the Charlotte Observer about two weeks ago.)

It’s about 26-year-old Ehren Wasserman, a relief pitcher for the Charlotte Knights who has an “underdog” story in the mold of “Rocky” and “Rudy.” Undrafted four years ago after a good college career at Samford University of the mid-major Atlantic Sun conference, he signed a pro contract out of an open tryout camp with about 150 other players.

And he became a major leaguer when the Chicago White Sox called him up. Few players make the big leagues from that kind of start and there’s not much of an analog for it in other professional sports — for example, not many undrafted Division I-AA or Division II players will make an NFL or NBA roster this fall, period.

Anyway, here’s the story:

FORT MILL — Ehren Wasserman didn’t take the usual route to a professional baseball career.
Signed four years ago out of an open tryout camp, the 26-year-old Charlotte Knights relief pitcher is climbing the minor league ladder one step at a time. And this week he adds another line to his resume as the Knights’ only representative at the Triple A All-Star game Wednesday in Albuquerque, N.M.
It’s Wasserman’s third All-Star game selection at three different levels of the minor leagues. He earned All-Star status at Class A Winston-Salem in 2004 and at Class AA Birmingham last summer.
“It says I’ve had good pitching coaches and I’ve had good defenses play behind me,” he said. “When I’m done with baseball I can look back and say it was a great honor. You can have great numbers and never get to be selected for an All-Star Game, so I’m thrilled to go again.”
His numbers this season are a 2-3 record with a 1.99 earned run average and a team-leading five saves. Knights manager Marc Bombard says his value to the team has been in his ability to fill a lot of roles.
“It wasn’t really the plan to use him as a stopper, but out of necessity we’ve used him that way,” Bombard said. “He’s saved some games, held some leads, whatever we’ve needed him to do.”
He was named to the All-Star team last week to replace Gavin Floyd, who was called up from Charlotte to the Chicago White Sox.
Wasserman, a Sylacauga, Ala., native was undrafted at the end of his senior season in 2003 at Samford University in Birmingham, where he played for two years after transferring from an Alabama junior college. The White Sox tryout was the third of four in which he participated at the stadium in suburban Birmingham where the Barons play their home games. He also tried out with the Braves, Phillies and Padres.
“There’s a scout and then a couple of other people right beside you watching, so it’s a little pressure,” he said. “A pitcher has eight pitches to hit 90 mph or they won’t even turn your name in to the team (for more consideration).”
Three weeks later, as he was moving from one apartment to another, he received a call from the White Sox about a spot on the pitching staff of their Rookie League team in Bristol, Va. He signed a contract and joined the team the next day.
Wasserman downplays the unconventional beginning, but admits that it’s been some motivation for the rest of his career. “It’s just a different way to get somewhere,” he said.
Bombard puts it in perspective.
“How many people even sign a pro contract from a tryout camp? Not many,” he said. “And then the percentage goes down as you go higher up the ladder. It’s good to see somebody like that succeed.”


About theoldperfessor

I'm a college professor, teaching journalism and public relations classes at a small private university, and a freelance writer.
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