While Major League Baseball, Minor League Baseball and Independent Baseball teams across the nation have yet to take the field amid the expanding coronavirus pandemic, many of their rosters include players from Southern Maryland.
Notably, the Southern Maryland Blue Crabs have been the area’s most localized professional team since 2008 and now the squad is still waiting for the green light to begin the 2020 season. Southern Maryland second-year manager Stan Cliburn is not a local product, but pitching coach and pitcher Daryl Thompson is a La Plata High School graduate and former major leaguer.
“I don’t think a lot of people understand or appreciate what it takes to get the major leagues and be able to stay there,” said Cliburn, who played with the California Angels in 1980, his lone season in the majors. “For any local kid to be able to get drafted and make it to the major leagues is quite an accomplishment. Getting there is tough and being able to stay there is even tougher.”
Thompson went 0-3 with an 8.31 ERA during a brief career with the Cincinnati Reds, yielding 12 walks and three home runs while fanning six batters. His Major League debut was a no-decision against the New York Yankees at Yankee Stadium where he did not allow a run over five innings against a Yankees’ lineup that included Alex Rodriguez, Jorge Posada, Robinson Cano and Melky Cabrera.
Thompson has enjoyed a career renaissance during his tenure with the Blue Crabs and last year he led the Atlantic League in wins and strikeouts en route to being named its top pitcher.
“I can’t just go out there and throw my fastball by hitters anymore,” Thompson said. “I have to rely on movement and set up hitters and then hope they ground out or fly out or chase something. I knew that I always wanted to get into coaching, but I’ve always thought of myself as a player now and a coach later.”
Among the most notable recent local products to earn a spot on a major league roster is St. Louis Cardinals’ left-handed relief pitcher Brett Cecil. A Dunkirk native and DeMatha High School and University of Maryland graduate, Cecil has endured his share of peaks and valleys during 10 seasons with the Toronto Blue Jays and Cardinals.
Overall, Cecil is 44-47 with a 4.29 ERA, 670 strikeouts and 269 walks. He missed all of last season after having carpal tunnel surgery on his left hand and then during spring training he suffered a right hamstring injury covering first base. Cecil is also in the final year of a four-year, $30.5 million contract he signed with the Cardinals prior to the 2017 season.
Cecil went 2-4 with a 3.88 ERA and 66 strikeouts and 16 walks in 2017, but in 2018 he allowed 25 runs, walked 25 batters and fanned just 19 hitters in 32 2/3 innings. His performance really dipped after the All-Star break when he allowed 16 runs, walked 17 batters and fanned only seven in 9 2/3 innings.
After finding a spot on a major league roster with the Blue Jays in 2009, Cecil was primarily a starter during his first three seasons in Toronto. He went 7-4 as a rookie, then was 15-7 in 2010 before dipping to 4-11 the following season. But Cecil enjoyed several very good seasons as a reliever, going 12-9 with a 2.69 ERA from 2013-15 after being sent to the bullpen.
Northern High School and Radford University (Va.) graduate Ryan Meisinger made his Major League debut two years ago with the Baltimore Orioles when he went 2-1 with a 6.43 ERA, 21 strikeouts and 10 walks and is now looking to earn a spot on the Cardinals’ roster. Meisinger is 12-11 with a 2.49 ERA in the minors, sporting 294 strikeouts and allowing only 72 walks.
“To think, from where he was five years ago making his Single-A debut after being drafted by the Orioles to making his Major League debut was incredible,” said former Northern baseball coach Bobby Gibbons. “It’s unbelievable to think that a local kid from Calvert County could get an opportunity to pitch in the major leagues.”
Chopticon High School graduate Ljay Newsome is still looking to make his Major League debut while currently in the Seattle Mariners fall system. Newsome owns a 30-32 record, 4.11 ERA and fanned 473 batters while yielding only 62 walks in nearly 500 innings on the mound. Last year he was 9-10 while splitting time between Single-A Modesto and Double-A Arkansas.
Last spring, Marcus Lee Sang was among the key cogs in Northern High School’s Class 3A South Region title and berth in the state semifinals. Sang was promptly drafted by the Philadelphia Phillies in the 11th round of the MLB draft and spent last winter in the Gulf Coast Rookie league where he batted .224 with two doubles and two homers, collecting 16 RBIs and scoring eight runs.