If you would have asked Sam Moll a few years ago, he would have told you he wasn't counting on a career as a professional baseball player. Tri-City's southpaw didn't garner much interest from Major League clubs during his high school years, outside of an occasional call or questionnaire.
Moll went to the University of Memphis to pursue a degree in accounting while also honing his baseball skills further. Then came the payoff -- the Rockies selected him in the third round of this year's Draft, No. 77 overall.
Just like that, the 21-year-old took a giant leap into making his lifelong dream a reality.
"It's definitely a weird thought, that you're finally here," Moll said. "Now that I am here, I just want to keep working hard and respect the game."
He gradually improved throughout his collegiate career, posting a 2.77 ERA in his junior year, and has remained consistent since being drafted, compiling a 3.07 ERA while striking out 14 over four starts this season in the Minors. He notched his first professional win Wednesday, pitching five solid innings against Hillsboro in the Dust Devils' 4-1 victory.
In Memphis, Moll was just three semesters away from receiving his accounting degree -- he had plans to earn a Master's and become a certified public accountant. But his competitive spirit has driven him to this point, and the decision to pursue his baseball career was an easy one.
Tri-City pitching coach Frank Gonzales said Moll's drive to compete is part of what helps make him a promising young pitcher.
"He works hard, he's very intuitive, he's a learner and he's competitive, maybe even to the point where he can be overly competitive," Gonzales said. "We want to use those skills and attributes to help him become the best pitcher he can be."
Moll's intensity has helped contribute to his success, but he is also mindful of possible negative effects it could have on his game. Admittedly, when the pressure is on, he can sometimes feel himself rushing through the heat of the moment. He speeds himself up, rather than slowing things down.
That's where he takes a step back to calm his nerves.
"A breathing technique actually helps me slow the game down," Moll said. "I collect my thoughts, and then just deliver the next pitch. I'm never worried out there because at the end of the day, it's the game I love."
Recently the lefty has been working on the location and consistency of his changeup, and when added to a pitching arsenal that already includes a strong fastball and curveball, he'll be that much tougher to hit. His velocity isn't the highest, but his focus on keeping the ball low accounts for that, especially as a southpaw.
Everything he's done to this point has really opened some eyes.
"Intangibles are the ability to compete, have confidence, maybe a swagger, and understand what your job is and who you are as a player," Gonzales said. "As soon as you grasp those things, the more success you'll have earlier in your career, and Sam has shown he can do that."
Moll doesn't want to get too far ahead of himself, though, and hopes to continue his success by doing all of the little things right.
"One of my attributes on the mound is having a bulldog mentality," he said. "If something bad happens, I channel it, because obviously I can't control what already happened. I'm never going to give up, and I'm never going to give in."
He said it: "He is the great one, I try to do my own thing. I am out here grinding like all the other guys. He tells me, 'work hard and be mentally stronger than anyone else.' He has helped me with the mental side of the game, being a baseball player himself. He grew up playing, he loves the game and he gets out here as much as he can. So it is pretty cool." -- Boise outfielder Trevor Gretzky, son of NHL legend and Hockey Hall of Famer Wayne Gretzky, to the Vancouver Sun regarding the bond he shares with his father.
Who's hot, who's not: Everett SS Jack Reinheimer has hit .444 and recorded seven RBIs in his last nine games … Salem-Keizer RHP Chris Johnson remains hot, having struck out 11 batters in his last five innings … Eugene IF Fernando Perez has recorded just seven hits in his last 38 at-bats, a span of 10 games … Spokane RHP Kyle Castro is 0-1 with eight earned runs in his last five innings pitched.
Welcome to the bigs: San Diego Padres first-round pick Hunter Renfroe was assigned to the Eugene Emeralds earlier this week. Renfroe stood out in college, having hit .352 with 15 home runs and 58 RBIs with Mississippi State.
For the kids: The Hillsboro Hops are giving away free jerseys to children 12 and under at their July 16 game against Boise. The first 1,000 kids to enter the stadium will receive one.