Thursday, March 31, 2005

Who is St. Thomas?

As we await the outcome of tonight’s game against St. Thomas, I’m reminded of a game we played against them in 2000.

Let me preface it by saying the Class of 2002 faced some very good pitchers during our time, among them Washington Nationals spring training invitee Josh Karp, Rob Henkel – a lefty out of UCLA now in the Tigers farm system, David Gil – an All-American pitcher out of Miami, a trio of Rice Owls pitchers who could deal – including current San Francisco Giant David Aardsma, former Princeton Tiger and Texas Rangers spring training invitee Chris Young.

But I think one pitcher who was just as good, if not better, than all of those guys was the one who may be least known because he pitched for a little known NAIA school in Florida called St. Thomas (it actually is quite well known in South Florida because they’ve appeared twice in the NAIA World Series). Vinny Chulk certainly took us by surprise. We faced him on a hot evening on the main Homestead diamond inside the stadium with just a few faces in the audience. The low attendance only helped amplify the pop on Chulk’s low to mid-90s fastball that would echo throughout the park when it hit the catcher's mitt. I distinctly remember him going through our order once without a problem, throwing only a fastball. So we all assumed that the second time around, this tall and lanky right-hander would be easier to hit given that he had one pitch. Until we saw his Smoltz-like slider. He was tough. Here’s how the Ft. Lauderdale Sun Sentinel described it:

The St. Thomas University baseball team defeated Division I Harvard 5-2 late Wednesday at the Homestead Challenge behind the strong performance of pitcher Vincent Chulk.

Chulk, a senior, struck out 18 to set a school record, a personal record and a Challenge record.

There you have it. Congratulations Vinny. For those wondering what Vinny’s doing now, he’s made it big time. Last season he made 47 appearances for the Toronto Blue Jays out of the bullpen. He went 1-3 with 2 saves, with 44 Ks in 56 innings. Keep him on your fantasy baseball radar – he could end up being a closer. Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said, “Guys tease Vinny a lot, I think because they like him so much.” You gotta have a guy like that around.

The lesson of this story is don’t underestimate St. Thomas.

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