Nothing Blah About Rohrbaugh

EVERETT, Wash. - There aren't many pro athletes that will attribute all of their success to raw talent. Most all of them will tell you that 90 percent of what they're capable of is the result of hard work and toil. There is that small contingent, however, that simply have what it takes from the first day they set foot on the field of competition. The Everett AquaSox have been fortunate enough to employ one of these few with starting pitcher Robert Rohrbaugh.

The Mariners' seventh round pick of the 2005 draft hails from across the country in Littlestown, Pennsylvania, where he grew to love the game of baseball. Like any other kid, Rohrbaugh dreamed of one day becoming a pro baseball player. Unlike most other kids, however, the 6-foot-2, 190-pound lefty actually had a shot at seeing that dream come to fruition. He started to become fully aware of his natural athletic abilities during his sophomore year of high school.

"It's always been a dream of mine to become a professional baseball player, but I guess it really started to become a reality my sophomore year," said Rohrbaugh. "I joined a traveling team called ‘The Rookies.' We traveled up and down the east coast in the fall and played in front of different college coaches and professional scouts and I guess it pretty much all took off then."

The experience Rohrbaugh gained proved invaluable as he turned his game up during his junior year at Littlestown High School. Rohrbaugh threw not one, but two no-hitters that year, cruising to a 7-0 record and 0.15 ERA. His senior year was equally impressive, as he improved to 8-0 with a 0.35 ERA and a Littlestown High-record 122 strikeouts. By then, he had also managed to set the school record for career victories with 22.

Rohrbaugh, though young, had emerged from high school as a potential diamond in the rough. The best part was he had never had any professional help as a pitcher, crediting most of his early success to the help he received from his father.

"We would always go out in the yard and play catch, work on curveballs and changeups," said Rohrbaugh.

The work Mr. Rohrbaugh put in with his son didn't go unnoticed. The now defunct Montreal Expos were ready to take the young hurler straight out of high school, selecting him in the 30th round of the 2002 draft. Rohrbaugh balked at the offer, however, seeing greater potential for himself at the college level.

"I was drafted in the 30th round, so the money really wasn't there," Rohrbaugh says. "I was better off going to college and getting some of my education."

He attended Clemson where, in his first year, he was taken out of his element as a starter and took on the role of a reliever for the first time in his career. The move didn't stick, though, and Rohrbaugh was one again in the starting rotation early on in his sophomore season with the Tigers.

"I worked as a starter all throughout high school, then when I went to college my first year, I think I had like 25 relief appearances and one start," he said. "Sophomore year I think I had maybe five or six relief appearances, then I went into the starting rotation in about March and I pretty much stayed a starter throughout the rest of my career at Clemson."

He was a solid arm on Clemson's roster and was happy with the decision he'd made to pass up the Expos' offer.

"I was kind of glad I went to Clemson because I feel that if I would have [played minor league ball] out of high school, I wouldn't have been prepared for the pro game," said Rohrbaugh. "I learned pretty much how to play the game. In high school, you can pretty much just sit back and rely on the strikeout. Whereas in college, you try to work that double play and you've got to use your fielders a little bit more."

The resume he built there was enough to garner him serious attention from major league clubs, as evidenced by his place in the draft. Prior to being drafted in June, he put up a 2-1 record with the Tigers in eight games and a 5.23 ERA in 31 innings of work. He also had an impressive strikeout-to-walk ratio, fanning 29 while giving out only seven trips to first. Rohrbaugh wasted no time when the offer from the Mariners came.

"I pretty much had my mind set that I was going to go out [into the minors] after my junior year," he said. "I talked it over with my parents and it was pretty much a no-brainer."

The move has worked out well for both Rohrbaugh and the Mariners. Through his last start on August 6th, Rohrbaugh is 3-1 with a 4.38 ERA in nine games. He's logged in 37 innings of work and is leading the team in strikeouts with 36.

"He played at a major college and has very good command," said Pat Rice, the Mariners minor league pitching coordinator, of Rohrbaugh. "He throws his changeup well for strikes and uses both sides of the plate real well."

In his last start—Sunday against the Eugene Emeralds—Rohrbaugh threw six shutout innings, struck out seven, and allowed only two hits and two walks. It was one of Rohrbaugh's personal highlights of the season.

"How about [Sunday]—six shutout innings. I'll take that," he said. "Plus my parents are in town, so it was really nice to be able to do that in front of them."

Overall, Rohrbaugh says he's enjoying the experience and feels comfortable and confident with the work he's put in so far, though he continues to hone his craft and make adjustments when needed.

"I feel like I'm throwing the ball really well," he said. "Marcos [Garcia], the pitching coach, has been working with me and we've changed a couple little things, like working on getting a little more drive out of my legs. We've been working on that third pitch—the changeup—working on getting it out in front."

With the last month of the season looming and a race for the Northwest League West title in full swing, the Sox are looking to Rohrbaugh to continue to step up as one of the main cogs in their rotation. If he can find the same success in these waning days of the summer that he did in the first half, he may find himself wearing a different jersey this time next year.

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