The Smolin Watch: Former Golden Bear Pitcher Concludes His First Minor League Season
Posted August 10, 2007
His first season of professional baseball is now in the books, and Eric Smolin is looking forward to spring training with the Philadelphia Phillies. The former Western New England College standout appeared in nine games as a relief pitcher for the Rookie Gulf Coast League (GCL) Phillies this summer after signing as a free agent in June.
Smolin compiled a 1-1 record with a 7.59 earned-run-average in 10 2/3 innings. The rookie team, located in Clearwater, Florida, finished with a 28-32 record competing in the North Division of the GCL. His collegiate career ended in May after he helped the Golden Bears to a 28-12 record, which included winning the Great Northeast Athletic Conference (GNAC) Tournament title and participating in the NCAA Division III New England Regional Championship.
The 6’3”, 175-lb. right-hander was the ace of the pitching staff posting an 8-1 record and 1.85 ERA in 68 innings. He capped his career in a Golden Bears uniform by making the 2007 Rawlings American Baseball Coaches Association (ABCA) Division III All-American Second Team.
Smolin made his pro debut on June 28 against the GCL Braves allowing a run in one inning. He gave up two hits and no runs in his second appearance against the Tigers two days later. The next three appearances didn’t go well as Smolin gave up seven runs in two-and-two third innings that sent his ERA soaring. After that, he rounded into top form giving up only two hits and a run in four showings covering six innings.
The highlight was his first pro win with two innings of scoreless relief (one hit) against the Blue Jays on August 9.
Smolin, a Sport Management major, is now back at Western New England College where he will graduate in December. He also is fulfilling his practicum by working in the athletics department.
Reflecting on the past three months, Smolin said, “It was an unbelievable experience. It was exciting knowing that some of my best friends on the team have a legitimate shot at becoming impact players at the highest levels.”
Smolin noted there are only 6,000 people playing in the minor leagues and he was happy to be among them.
“I’ve traveled a tough road in my baseball career,” he stated. “It’s nice to know that all the hard work paid off. Waking up every day was the biggest challenge. Setting the alarm for 7:00 a.m. every morning was grueling. The throwing program also was challenging since I hadn’t pitched for weeks before being signed. My arm hurt for a month, but eventually got to the point where I could throw about 40 pitches off a mound and not feel sore the next day.”
Overall, Smolin was pleased with his performance after overcoming the daily 90-degree heat and living in a new area. The team played all of its games either at noon or at night.
“The first half of the season I was just trying to get acclimated to the surroundings and figuring out my mechanics again,” he commented. “I got hit around and had the four worst outings of my life. After I slowed my delivery and fine-tuned my mechanics, I wasn’t walking guys and starting to get soft groundouts.”
Smolin also had a chance to meet several former and present major leaguers this summer, including Philadelphia Phillies relief star Tom “Flash” Gordon who made two appearances with the GCL squad while on a rehabilitation assignment.
As for next spring, Smolin hopes to make the jump to the full season Single A level.
“I’m aiming to start in Lakewood (N.J.) and take things from there,” Smolin said. “Being a college guy out of the bullpen, I have a good shot at getting moved through quicker than other pitchers. If the baseball thing doesn’t pan out, I’ll have my degree and can pursue normal job opportunities.”
Although now a professional, Smolin hasn’t lost sight of those who helped him.
“Much of my success wouldn’t have been possible without Coach Matt LaBranche and the support he gave throughout my college career. Also, my college battery mate, Stephen Hanjack, had a lot to do with my success at Western New England College. He never lost faith in me and called a lot of brilliant games," said Smolin.
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