Matt Buschmann: Professional Baseball Player

EUGENE- Matt Buschmann started his professional career with the Eugene Emeralds by earning a win in his first appearance. It was two innings of work against the Boise Hawks, riding the success he's had in high school, at Vanderbilt University, and into the start of a blossoming professional career.

Now, he is using his athletic ability and knowledge of the game to learn all he can from his new, experienced coaching staff to work his way up to the next level and fulfill the dream of any young ball player: the Major Leagues.

A natural born athlete and a student of the game, he has enjoyed success at all levels and is determined to learn how to become a better pitcher. In high school, he was a first team All-Conference selection for pitching and second team All-Conference for his efforts in the batter's box with a .412 batting average in his hometown of Wildwood, Missouri. He received All-State honorable mention for his 1.68 ERA with three complete games during his senior year, finishing with a 5-1 record.

A crucial part to his growth in baseball is the confidence that Buschmann exhibits, which is shown in his willingness to go out and use what the coaching staff tells him in the games.

Wally Whitehurst, the Emeralds pitching coach, has been impressed with Buschmann's attitude toward improving his game and enthusiasm for trying new adjustments to his style.

"The first thing that impresses me is that he wants to learn," said Whitehurst, who pitched for seven years in the Major Leagues with the Mets, Yankees, and Padres. "He came from Vanderbilt University, and he had a good career down there. But he knows that everything he learned in college isn't necessarily going to take him to the Major Leagues.

"He asks a lot of questions, he wants to learn, but more importantly, when you show him something, he tries it," Whitehurst continued.

His sophomore campaign at Vanderbilt was his most successful, when he helped lead the Commodores to a school record 45 win season. He posted an 8-1 record, striking out 61 batters in 82.1 innings pitched. Beginning the season primarily as a middle relief man, he moved to a starting role where he was 7-0.

This past season, the Commodores won 38 games, second most in school history, and were ranked fifth nationally with 8.9 strikeouts per nine innings, but struggled in the SEC, finishing sixth overall. Buschmann was named to the NCAA Atlanta Regional All-Tournament team, as he finished his senior season at Vanderbilt with a 6-4 record and a 3.95 ERA. He struck out 88 batters to only 29 walks in 95.2 innings.

Buschmann credits much of his success at Vanderbilt to his coach Tim Corbin, who he says is one of the greatest coaches in college baseball, and pitching coach Derek Johnson.

"[Corbin] helped me so much mentally. How to approach the game and with living life as a baseball player," said Buschmann. "He showed me the ropes.

"[Johnson] is now one of my closest friends. I could sit down and talk with him and pick his brain. I asked him so many questions he probably hated me," continued Buschmann with a smile. "If I don't go to Vanderbilt, I'm not where I am today. I loved it there, and I'll always go back. They have some great people there and they know how to run some baseball."

It's that respect for his coaches, hard work and love for the game of baseball that has shown through in his time in Eugene. Whenever Buschmann is on the field, he is working to get better. And when he isn't, he's ‘picking the brain' of his veteran coaches to learn more.

Since coming to Eugene, Whitehurst has been working with slowing down Buschmann's delivery.

"Getting him to slow down allows him to get his arm going, get his body in sync with his arm and that allows himself to catch up to throw the ball properly," said Whitehurst. "Especially for Matt, that helps him to stay on top of the ball, and allows him to stay in the zone and have that good sink, which is a major plus for him."

"I think in college, when things would get up I'd get excited and everything would speed up and my arm would drop," said Buschmann. With his low three-quarters arm slot, Buschmann needs to keep his elbow up for his slider to break well and keep his pitches down in the zone. "It took me a couple of weeks, but especially in my last three outings I've felt more comfortable, and it's helped me out."

Recent success has been evidence of the improvement he's had because of the adjustments he's made with his new coach. Over a recent stretch, Buschmann struck out 21 batters, did not surrender a run, while allowing only six hits in 16 innings.

When asked about the adjustment from college to professional ball, Buschmann said it was being able to pitch every few days, rather than just on the weekends. Instead of throwing around a hundred pitches per game, and being able to work out and run in between games, pitchers are throwing fewer pitches.

"Being able to pitch when you're not at your strongest," said Buschmann about the biggest adjustment. "Getting your arm in shape and throwing everyday. It took me about two weeks, but I like it because as a pitcher I like to be on the mound. And being able to do it every four days, I like it much better."

His 43 strikeouts, fourth-best in the Northwest League, and only nine walks is a ratio that any team would love to have in a pitcher. With a record of 2-2, probably one of the more impressive numbers is how Buschmann improves with runners in scoring position. Batters are hitting .241 with runners on base against him, but only .129 with runners in scoring position. Even better, he has not allowed a hit with runners in scoring position with two outs this season.

Grady Fuson, the Padres' vice president of scouting and player development, described Buschmann as "a workhorse, with three pitches he can locate." After watching his young prospect through the first half of the season, Whitehurst has seen a lot of potential in him. Whitehurst compared Buschmann to Neil Jamison, another pitcher in the Padres' organization. Jamison played for the Emeralds last season, where he posted a 1.32 ERA and 31 strikeouts in 27.1 innings, when he was drafted and has since moved up and is currently closing for the Lake Elsinore Storm. He has been enjoying success at the next level also, where he has become the leader in the Padres' minor leagues with 25 saves.

"Neil is a little more savvy as far as his command, but I think Matt has a little bit better stuff," said Whitehurst, who coached Jamison last season. "[Buschmann is] a lot similar to what Neil is, the same way you give Neil the ball. Nine out of ten times you sit back and enjoy it."

Last summer, Buschmann decided to stay in Nashville so he could work with his pitching coach on his mechanics. To stay busy, he joined a wood bat league, where he was given the opportunity to use his bat some more.

"My coach said, ‘it's your senior year, you go have fun,'" said Buschmann, when asked if hitting was okay with his coaches. Buschmann ended up leading the league in two categories: ERA (0.50) and batting average (.500); Further proof of Matt Buschmann's abilities as a true baseball player.

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