Some baseball prospects explode upon the scene. Their arrival is trumpeted to faithful fans awaiting the next great hope for the franchise. They streak across the organizations horizon like blazing comets.
Throughout his college career he got bigger and better, and threw harder, culminating with his junior year, when, despite contracting mononucleosis early in the season, Maroth came back and pitched well. His last start was the conference championship and he carried a perfect game into the 8th inning.
Drafted in the 3rd round by the Boston Red Sox following his junior year at UCF, Maroth went through the Red Sox system until he was traded to the Tigers for Bryce Florie.
In 2000, Maroth was pitching for the Tigers AA team. He started the year 0-9. I knew I was getting ready to be sent to the bullpen, or even sent down, he states. I had a co
uple good outings, but when youre 0-9, those good outings get lost in your record.
Then his season turned around.
My 12th start I pitched a nine inning shutout. And there really wasnt that much difference between my 11th start and my 12th. I knew what was going on. But I told myself Im just going to go out there and pitch. Instead of pressing, I just pitched.
The next year, he pitched at Toledo, the Tigers AAA farm club. I didnt do bad. I didnt do well. I was 7-10, with a 4.65 ERA.
I knew that in the offseason Id continue to work hard. I didnt want to press, but I wanted to keep working. I knew I was close. I worked on strengthening my shoulder.
I started out the year (2002) good. I continued to do well. And then I got the call in June.
The call, as Mike refers to it, brought him to Detroit to face the Philadelphia Phillies in front of 33,000 fans at Comerica Park in Detroit. That day was so long, he says.
I was praying for the peace only God can give. I asked God to help me focus on pitching. I had been pitching all my life. I was just going to be doing the same thing Id always done, only the surroundings were different. I didnt want to get caught up in who I was facing.
The first inning was rough. I threw a lot of balls. I definitely had a little case of the jitters. I threw a double play ball with the bases loaded to get me out of that first inning.
I got through the second inning, still with a little of the jitters, and then the next five innings were fine.
Fine, indeed. Mike came out of his first major league game after seven innings with a 1-0 lead. Not bad for his first start.
His next game was perhaps even better. Facing the World Champion Arizona Diamondbacks and Curt Schilling, one of the premier pitchers in the league, at Arizona, Mike outpitched Schilling, carrying a perfect game into the fifth inning, won his first major league game, and got his first major league hit.
The Diamondbacks acknowledged his performance. He pitched a great game, said Schilling. I got outpitched that was the long and short of it. And manager Bob Brenly added, He kept the ball from the middle of the plate all night long, had terrific command, and didnt make any mistakes.
That is Maroths strength. He throws an average major league fastball, and relies on changing speeds. He uses movement on his pitches to get batters to hit the ball into the dirt, often coming up with ground ball outs at just the right time. I cant rely on velocity, I have to rely on location. I know what pitches will result in a ground ball.
I also know when Ive made a mistake. I can usually tell when Ive made a bad pitch. I can tell by the release point.
With his first major league season under his belt, Mike looks forward to next year. This is a dream come true a dream Ive had since I was a kid. Im satisfied with the year Ive had. It wasnt a great year, but I know I can pitch at this level. Im not satisfied with the numbers. I want to do better.
Steady progress. Continual development. Mike Maroths career has been a rise to the top. That includes his spiritual growth. I look to God for answers, guidance. Im continuing to learn about God and His love and forgiveness. The more I learn, the more I grow, and the more I grow, the more I want to learn.
Steady growth. In baseball. And in faith.