Klusman is Both Pitcher & Designer

Aaron Klusman is exactly like every other player toiling in the minor leagues -- his ambition is to make it up to the bigs. He's almost unique in another fashion, though, for he has a second occupation that may well turn out to be very lucrative.

Klusman is currently employed as a middle innings-set-up pitcher at Ogden when he's on the field. Off the diamond, he's the founder and president of AK Sportswear, a thriving enterprise. He even employs another Dodger minor leaguer as a sales representative.

It started, he says, when he was a business major at Arizona State. "I would sit in class and sketch ideas for sports wear," he relates. The designs he came up with so appealing that he's developed a line that includes hats, sweat shirts, accessories, you name it.

"I decided to invest $1,000 and see what happens," he continues. "It's doing pretty well. We have apparel in stores in Texas and California as well as other places." Infielder David Nicholson, a teammate at Ogden last year and now at Columbus, has joined the firm to represent it in pitches to stores.

Now, though, Klusman is very much concentrating on his pitching which at one time seemed to be getting off track. Oh, he had a promising enough beginning at ASU being named honorable mention freshman All-American and All-Pac 10 after going 1-0, 3.31 with 49 strikeouts in 35 innings as a red-shirt.

He didn't duplicate that success as a sophomore, however, but felt he threw the ball well as a junior. Coach Pat Murphy obviously didn't agree because he called Klusman in and invited him to become a student assistant coach the next season.

"I was surprised," Klusman remembers. "I knew I didn't want to give up playing so I turned him down." He wound up transferring to Dallas Baptist, partly because he was good friends with the brother of the head coach there and partly because it was going Division I with a tough schedule that included all the Big 12 schools.

He became the closer there and while his season didn't satisfy him, Logan White, the Dodgers director of amateur scouting had been following him since that freshman season, so offered him a free agent contract after he was passed over in the draft.

He didn't exactly sparkle at Ogden, either, for his 2-1 record in relief is belied by a 5.71 ERA. This year, though, he's throwing much better as a 2-1, 1.69 mark indicates.

A righthander, Klusman features a fast ball that sits in the 88-91 range, a slider and a change-up. In the past he feels there were times he lost his focus but now he's reacquiring that.

And that means the world of sportswear will be kept on the side. Not dismissed, just held back from full scale production. Still, you can search his wears on line at akclothing.com and enough people have to be encouraging.

In the meantime, he'll keep trying to be the next Steve Schmoll, a free agent signee who's made it up. There's still plenty of time to be the next Ralph Laurin.

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