ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Returning to school after being drafted twice benefits ex-Lobo
The first month as a professional baseball player couldn’t possibly have gone much better for Sam Wolff.
The 6-foot-1 former University of New Mexico pitcher allowed one run in two innings July 14, which snapped an 11â…” scoreless-innings streak for the Class A Spokane (Wash.) Indians of the Northwest League. Wolff, who was drafted in the sixth round of the 2013 MLB Draft by the Texas Rangers, followed that outing by striking out the side Thursday to lower his ERA to a sparkling 0.63 to go along with 18 strikeouts in nine games.
“I had confidence going in to the season,” Wolff said. “I knew that if I got in and threw strikes and pounded the zone good things would happen.”
Those good things are happening in a place that holds special meaning to the Wolff family. Sam’s father, Steve, also began his career playing for Spokane as a second baseman in the San Diego Padres system in 1983.
“It’s kind of a funny coincidence that I get to start my professional career the same exact way my dad did,” Wolff said. “He’s always been a huge support for me. It’s always been nice to have a coach off the field who I can call and get advice when I need it.”
While his father has been able to help him off the field, Wolff said UNM pitching coach Dan Spencer and head coach Ray Birmingham were responsible for his success on the mound.
Wolff, a Rapid City, S.D., native, began his college career at the University of San Diego then transferred to College of Southern Nevada for a season and played his last two years with the Lobos. Wolff posted a 5.52 ERA in 45 â…” innings as a junior but transformed into the Lobos’ ace last season, going 7-3 with a 2.90 ERA and striking out 75 batters in 93 innings.
“I have to give full credit to coach Spencer and coach Birmingham,” Wolff said. “Coach Spencer came in this year as the new pitching coach, and me and him just clicked very well. I feel like I have a good work ethic and coach Spencer expects you to work hard. He just got me locked in and he really helped me.”
Wolff was drafted in the 42nd round of the 2009 draft by the Angels and in the 47th round in 2011 by the Red Sox but decided to pass up a chance to go pro and focus on school.
“It wasn’t a difficult decision,” Wolff said. “My parents and I had always said that it’s more important to get an education and get as close to a degree as possible. So it was a pretty easy decision to go to school the first couple times.”
Wolff, who is a semester away from earning an accounting degree, had no decision to make this year. And he didn’t have to wait nearly as long to be selected as the Rangers pegged him with the 190th overall selection.
“It was exciting. I was sitting watching every pick go by and finally I saw my name flash on the screen,” Wolff said. “There was talk of me possibly being picked in the top 10 (rounds) but the draft is a crazy process and anything can happen. Once your name is called it’s a huge weight lifted off your shoulders.”
Wolff signed with Texas on June 9 and received a $65,000 signing bonus. He made his professional debut June 17, striking out one in a scoreless inning, and has thrived since.
“The University of New Mexico prepared me very well, it’s a great program,” Wolff said. “I felt very prepared going into this season. There wasn’t too many physical adjustments, it was more about learning the game mentally and slowing it down at this level.”