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Stevie Delabar was taught early in his professional baseball career it’s best to keep an even keel especially being a pitcher. Whether his team had a lead or he had a bad inning, Delabar never allowed himself to get too high or too low.
No matter how much he tried to keep his emotions in check Monday, Delabar allowed himself a moment to celebrate. Delabar, a former Central Hardin standout and John Hardin assistant, is expected to sign with the Seattle Mariners today.
“I’m a little excited,” Delabar said Monday night. “I called my wife, Jamie, and she told me she had so many emotions. I called my dad (Steve) and he was pretty excited. I called my mom (Debbe) and she let out a big scream. That put a big smile on my face.
“I’ve been trying to stay low-key about it,” he added. “Someone asked me before I left how happy I was. I said I want to jump up and down, but I’ve got to keep a level head about it. But it is pretty exciting.”
Delabar worked out for a Seattle scout at The Players’ Dugout. After watching the video of the workout, the Mariners decided they wanted to see Delabar in person. Delabar flew Wednesday to Peoria, Ariz. He went through a workout Thursday and threw Friday.
The Mariners asked Delabar to stay in Arizona and he threw again Monday. After the session, the Mariners told Delabar they wanted to sign him. Delabar said he will stay at the team’s spring training complex for a couple of weeks before being assigned to a team.
“Once they told me that, I started to get all the butterflies,” Delabar said. “I had a good feeling after I threw today.”
Delabar spent six years in professional baseball – four in the minors and two in independent leagues – chasing the Major League dream. A devastating injury – a broken right elbow – ended his career. Or at least Delabar thought.
“I asked them about throwing again and they kind of just gave me this look,” Delabar said. “They never really gave me a straight answer, but you could tell what they thought. I said, ‘I’m going to get back.’ It’s a tough road where I was.”
During this offseason, Joe Newton, the owner of The Players’ Dugout, offered a new program called Velocity. The program offers a specialized program designed to increase throwing velocity for players. This program focuses on increasing players’ arm strength, flexibility and overall improvement of core strength.
Since Delabar was going to be teaching it, he wanted to not only learn as much as he could, but he did the program himself. The results were staggering. His speed on his fastball jumped from the 92-96 mph range after topping at 92 earlier in his career.
“I wanted to understand the program so if the players had any questions,” Delabar said. “It really worked out in my favor. I have to give Joe Newton a lot of credit. I was kind of like his guinea pig, but it worked for me.”
After increasing his velocity, Delabar wanted to give it another shot. He didn’t want to have any regrets when he walked away.
“My wife has always been there and been supportive,” Delabar said. “I asked how she felt about it and she said it’s your decision. She didn’t want me to have any regrets. My dad said basically the same thing when I signed with the Padres.
“It’s crazy how things have worked out,” he added. “When I first started it, I said I wouldn’t attempt to go back unless I was throwing 100 miles per hour. I felt like I needed significant velocity or a number to jump out there.”
Delabar pitched nearly five seasons in the San Diego Padres organization. After being released in May 2008, Delabar signed with the Florence Freedom of the Frontier League, an independent baseball league. Five days later, he was traded to the Brockton Rox of the Canadian-American Association of Professional Baseball, another independent league.
After his broken elbow, Delabar focused on coaching and college. Now, he’s Hardin County’s version of Jim Morris, the high school baseball coach in Texas who had a brief but famous Major League Baseball career. The movie “The Rookie” was based on Morris’ story.
“It’s funny you mentioned that, because someone else said that,” Delabar said. “I told them I’m not teaching.
“I’m very, very grateful,” he added. “Most people don’t get one chance and I’m working on my second chance. I know the window is very small, but I’m going to jump through it. The goal is to get to the big leagues.”
Chuck Jones can be reached at (270) 505-1759