Miles away from his home in warm, sunny California, Anthony Slama of the Rochester
Red Wings has become one of the team's most reliable relief pitchers. Standing
at six-foot-three-inches, it's easy to understand why the righty saw himself
playing basketball in his early years. However, with the way the 2010 season
went for him, it is probably safe to assume he doesn't regret his switch to
With the advantageous weather of California, Anthony was able to benefit for
the sake of his baseball career.
"We can play all year round in California," Anthony said regarding
the baseball scene in California. "I played Little League and Pony Baseball.
You know, like any kid, my dad was the coach."
Baseball wasn't Slama's first choice, however.
"I wanted to play basketball in high school," Slama said while sitting
on a couch in the family area of the Red Wings clubhouse. "I was six-foot-two-inches
as a freshman, tall and skinny. I went out for basketball and played as a freshman.
Our [varsity] team was really good, number one in the country my sophomore year."
Realizing that cracking the roster of a nationally recognized basketball team
at Mater Dei High School in Santa Ana, CA, would be difficult, Slama put his
focus on baseball. With standout performances in his sophomore, junior and senior
seasons at Mater Dei, he knew baseball was the right choice.
"I ended up going to Santa Ana College for two years," commented Slama
on his college baseball career. "I did really well my second year there
and got a scholarship to the University of San Diego where I finished my college
career and got a degree in sociology."
In 2006, Slama was selected by the Minnesota Twins in the 39th round of the
Major League Baseball first year player draft, but opted to go back to school.
Slama admitted that being just a 39th round pick wasn't as appealing financially
and decided to continue to pursue a degree. In 2007, Slama pitched to the tune
of a 3.18 earned run average for the Toreros at San Diego before taking up the
Twins on their offer.
After only six games at the Short Season-A level for the Elizabethton Twins,
Slama was promoted to the Beloit Snappers at Class-A. In 21 games, Slama posted
a 1.48 ERA, opening many eyes in the Twins organization, earning himself a spot
on the Fort Myers Miracle at the Class-A Advanced level in the Florida State
Slama did not disappoint in his 2008 season with the Miracle. He held hitters
to a .173 batting average, had a 1.01 ERA and struck out 110 batters in 71 innings.
His impressive numbers earned him a spot, along with fellow Miracle teammates
Wilson Ramos, Brian Dinkelman, Danny Valencia, Jeff Manship and Rob Delaney,
in the FSL All-Star game. This would not be Slama's last All-Star game.
After impressing in 51 games with the Double-A New Britain Rock Cats in the
2009 season (4-2, 2.48, 93 SO, 65.1 IP), Slama was promoted to Triple-A Rochester
for the remainder of the season.
Little did Slama know in 2009, the 2010 season at Rochester would produce some
of his most cherished moments as a professional baseball player.
Compiling a 1.28 ERA at the midway point of this season, Slama earned spots
in the MLB Futures Game in his home of Anaheim, CA, as well as the Triple-A
All-Star Game in Lehigh Valley. Both were moments that Slama will never forget.
"My parents have only seen me one time in professional baseball and that
(the MLB Futures Game in Anaheim) was the second time," Slama said. "The
opportunity to pitch so close to home was a dream come true. Anaheim Stadium
was five minutes away from my house and is a place I've been going to since
I was a child. It was pretty awesome. My extended family also got to see me
for the first time. Aunts and uncles came out. It was pretty cool. It was a
familiar situation and a good time."
Slama pitched an
inning of scoreless relief
in the game on July 11 before traveling from
the West Coast to the East Coast to pitch in Lehigh Valley, PA, where he also
a scoreless frame
on July 14.
"I had to go back to Lehigh Valley and pitch in the Triple-A All-Star Game,
which was a blast," said Slama. "They did it really well over there.
The whole atmosphere was very cool. I got the win in that game."
While most players in Rochester were coming back from their midseason break,
Slama had traveled across the country and pitched in consecutive days on both
coasts, giving him anything but a break. But that didn't stop manager Tom Nieto
from pitching Slama on his first game back on July 15 against Indianapolis.
Though Slama did give up a run in that game, he didn't admit to being tired,
saying "I'd like to be out there every night if I could."
Though both the Futures Game and the Triple-A All-Star game were memorable for
Anthony, they didn't compare to his next milestone. On July 20, The Minnesota
Twins announced that they had demoted pitcher Alex Burnett to Rochester and
purchased Slama's contract. Just one day later against the Cleveland Indians
at the new Target Field in Minnesota, Slama lived his dream of being a Major
In his first outing, Slama pitched a scoreless inning, giving up one hit and
striking out two, and slamming the door on a 6-0 Twins victory.
"I had a great time when I went up [to Minnesota]," said Slama. "My
first outing went really well, after that I struggled a little bit. I couldn't
find my release point and started walking guys."
Those struggles were highlighted in Slama's game in Baltimore against the Orioles
two days later.
"The guy who got me was Luke Scott," remarked Slama when referring
the most difficult batter he faced in his time in the Majors. "I made a
couple real good pitches on the outside half and I tried to go back in on him
and he got to it and crushed it. It was a two-run homer. He put a real good
swing on it. He was so quick to the ball."
Even though the last few games didn't go as well as the first game, Slama is
still pretty pleased with the opportunity.
"I still had fun," Slama noted. "It was a learning experience
being up there and being around the guys. It was a dream come true to come out
of the bullpen in Minnesota and see all the fans. My first big league outing
was definitely the highlight of my career, so far."
As the Red Wings season has ended, Anthony Slama can look back and say he learned
a lot on the eventful year. From lessons he learned in Little League, to his
playing days at San Diego, he still admits he is learning, even as a Red Wing.
"I picked up a slider in Rochester," Slama said. "Me and Bobby
were working on one pretty much all year and when I got back from the big leagues
it kind of clicked what he was talking about. So I credit my time here in Rochester
with learning a new pitch."
Slama knows the importance of having an additional pitch in his arsenal, but
also the ability to throw it with assurance.
"You've got to have confidence in a pitch and be able to throw it in any
count," Slama pointed out. "Against righties and lefties. It's still
a project but I definitely have a better feel for it."
Aside from the slider, a full year at the Triple-A level and time at the Major
League level has also taught Slama to pitch to better, more accomplished hitters.
"Learning to be patient with hitters [is something I have learned],"
Slama accounted. "They have experience and a lot of them have big league
time. You can't pitch a guy the same way over and over again. You have to mix
it up. They will wait, get their pitch and put a good swing on it."
After another long season in the minors, Slama will go into the off-season with
even more knowledge than in seasons past, making him a much better and more
poised professional pitcher. Though Slama won't be playing in any fall or winter
leagues, he will find other ways to stay busy.
"I'm going to do some refereeing for the basketball league right around
my house to get a little cash," commented Slama. "I'll probably take
the rest of September off and just kind of relax and in October I'll start training."
From his All-Star games in Anaheim and Lehigh Valley, to his Major League debut
in Minnesota, Anthony Slama made the most of his 2010 season and understands
there is still work to be done to get to the next level in his career. So until
pitchers and catchers report for yet another spring training in February, Anthony
Slama will be soaking up the California sun while training to have an even more
eventful 2011 season with the Wings, and hopefully the Twins.
player page at TwinsBaseball.com with stats and video clips.
player page at RedWingsBaseball.com with his Red Wings stats.
photo gallery at RedWingsBaseball.com
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.