Szuminski Makes Padres Team, Is First MIT Graduate in MLBBy Brian Loux
EDITOR IN CHIEF
Thanks to a successful show during the San Diego Padres’ spring training season, Jason E. Szuminski ’01 has become the first MIT graduate to play Major League Baseball. While he was originally a starting pitcher with the MIT club, Szuminski will serve the Padres in a relief pitcher role.
“It’s exciting. I’m really glad to be here,” Szuminski said.
Though the Padres went to their bullpen frequently after the sixth inning of yesterday’s game, Szuminski was not called upon to pitch. The Padres defeated the Los Angeles Dodgers 8-2. “I’m sure I’ll get in soon enough. I’m looking forward to getting in a game,” he said.
Szuminski is one of only three rookies to join the Padres roster this year. Other rookies are pitcher Akinori Otsuka and shortstop Khalil Greene. The average years of major league experience for the 12 Padre pitchers is approximate- ly 5.92, with veteran David Wells leading the bullpen with 17 years.
Szuminski described interacting with the veteran players as “helpful,” saying that he gets along well with the team and is able to learn from them. “I just watch how they go about their business ... because at one time they were in my shoes,” he said.
When asked about how he will face Barry Bonds, a power hitter for the San Francisco Giants, Szuminski replied, “Throw him strikes ... Sinking fastballs are my specialty, if a left handed hitter comes up, I’ll throw it to him, maybe mix it up late in the count. We’ll see what happens.”
MIT excited with new celebrity
News of MIT’s first major leaguer has created a small amount of excitement and pride on campus.
The Padres’ new draftee has headlined the MIT Web site since early Sunday morning. The homepage links to an alumni Web site which has kept track of Szuminski’s progress since the beginning of spring training. Additionally, Szuminski headlined the Padres’ homepage on Sunday as well.
MIT Men’s Baseball coach Andrew Barlow said that Szuminski has generated such a response because “you don’t have a lot of pro athletes coming out of MIT and other such schools.” Barlow also called Szuminski’s accomplishment “a testament to his work.”
“It’s a story of the underdog coming through,” said John J. Kogel G, an assistant coach for the MIT baseball team. “It gives everyone a bit more hope.”
Kogel, who served as Szuminski’s catcher on the MIT baseball team in 2001, said he was happy to see him make it. “I hope he will get some chances [to pitch] in the next few weeks,” he said.
Szuminski criticizes MIT athletics
During interviews with national media outlets, Szuminski was not often kind to MIT’s sports programs. In an interview with Jim Caple for an ESPN Page 2 column, Szuminski criticized the quality of the athletic facilities and coaching of MIT. “I didn’t go to practice much. It was always the ones who went to practice who got worse,” he said in the column.
Barlow, who joined the MIT program in the fall of 2003, said he could not comment on the program before his time. “In his defense, I think it was a bit sarcastic,” said Barlow. ESPN’s Page 2 is a humor column, though it often includes somewhat serious interviews relevant to the column’s topic.
However, Szuminski said that his comments to Caple were sincere, and also said that, “The school didn’t do anything” to alleviate the situation. “The coach we had was pretty bad and they left him there for five years. It was a pretty frustrating experience,” he said.
Barlow, who became the team coach in the fall of 2003, said that “now, expectations are far different than how [Szuminski] described them.”
Kogel declined to comment on the validity of Szuminski’s comments, but did say “it is definitely not true now. It’s in very good hands.”
“We all have things we wish we had more of,” Barlow said in regards to MIT’s baseball facilities. Barlow also mentioned that the installation of a more durable fence and a new bullpen are signs that things are progression. However, Barlow did hold some reservations. “Forty sports, that’s a lot. Maybe they are spread too thin too often,” he said.
“I’m disappointed by the fewer scheduled games due to funding, etc., but I don’t want to say whose fault it is.” Kogel said. “It’s just disappointing from our side.”