Former Skipjacks’ pitching ace keeps striving for success
Good things come to those who are patient. As long as they also have the talent, drive and dedication to reach their goals.
Allan Saathoff, a Chesapeake College alumnus, is using that success formula to reach his goal of becoming a professional baseball player. Undeterred by playing time lost to Covid-19 and minor league disappointments, Mr. Saathoff is closer to his dream this spring.
The 24-year-old Caroline County native was signed to a free-agent contract with the Seattle Mariners in February. He spent the last several weeks at spring training in Arizona for the Mariners. As the 2023 season opened this week, Mr. Saathoff was placed with the Modesto (CA) Nuts, a Single-A affiliate of the Seattle Mariners.
A 2017 graduate of North Caroline High School, Mr. Saathoff began his college baseball career with the Chesapeake Skipjacks and was part of a remarkable team that now boasts five alumni players in Major League Baseball.
The lessons learned and relationships built as a Skipjack have helped Saathoff to fight for his dream to play in majors.
“It’s great to see the results of Allan’s hard work and persistence,” said Frank Szymanski, Chesapeake’s Director of Athletics and baseball team head coach. “Allan was one of the hardest workers we’ve ever had. It was always about the team as a whole for him. He constantly worked to improve his own performance and support everyone around him.”
In Mr. Saathoff, the coach said, there was always the right balance of talent and determination. A natural leader, Mr. Saathoff quietly led the team by example, according to his former coaches.
“The best way I can describe Allan is to use Theodore Roosevelt’s quote of ‘speak softly and carry a big stick; you will go far’. Allan always made his presence on the field known through his actions, and those actions always led to positive results. Allan is a soft-spoken, humble individual who worked hard to perfect his craft which led him to an opportunity to play professional baseball,” said Director of Academic Advising Daniel Miller, who was Mr. Saathoff’s pitching coach at Chesapeake.
As a Skipjack, Mr. Saathoff said he was surrounded by encouraging coaches and supportive teammates. He credits Mr. Szymanski with fostering a culture of success at Chesapeake and fueling the dreams of student athletes.
“I think what I most appreciate about Coach Szymanski is his optimism and the effect that had on our team. He always encouraged us to look at the bright side and to keep trying, no matter what. He showed that he really believed in us as individuals and as a team,” Mr. Saathoff said.
Mr. Szymanski credits other members of the coaching staff with developing Skipjack talent and encouraging extraordinary work ethic.
“People often ask me how we ended up with five pitchers in the pros. These student athletes were certainly talented and hard working. We had great pitching coaches in Daniel Miller and Scott Miller,” said Mr. Szymanski. “It’s remarkable how well the pitching coaches worked with players in getting them to the next level. The coaches had other jobs and sacrificed a lot of their free time to coach our players.”
After earning an Associate’s degree at Chesapeake, Mr. Saathoff transferred to Erskine College in South Carolina where he also pitched for the Division II baseball team.
After a successful career with Erskine led to a summer stint last year pitching for the minor league Frederick Keys. The summer didn’t work out the way he’d hoped, but Mr. Saathoff didn’t give up on his dream. He moved to Charlotte, NC where he continued to train, which led to the free-agent contract with Seattle.
“We are very proud of where Allan and all of our other baseball alumni who are currently in their professional baseball careers,” Miller said. “We look forward to the future successes of these players and wish them the best of luck.”