CLEARWATER, FL — Steven Susdorf is not your prototypical baseball player.
Not only was the Philadelphia Phillies outfield prospect in the batting cages every day as a kid working on his swing, but he was also putting in countless hours in class studying.
At Fresno State University, Susdorf accomplished something rare among college athletes. In 2008 he was voted to the Academic All-American team for maintaing a high GPA, while keeping strong numbers on the diamond.
“They combine how you did in your classroom with your GPA and your major, to how you play statistically on the field,” he said. “Then they will make a couple teams out of it and I made one of them.”
Susdorf’s excellent 2008 season was capped in the most unlikely fashion. His team, the Fresno State Bulldogs, was not looked upon by many as a championships team, let alone a playoff contender.
But the Bulldogs made the post-season and defeated the favourite Georgia Bulldogs to win an unlikely College World Series. It was an experience Susdorf said that he will never forget.
“It was definitely the most fun I have ever had playing baseball,” he said. “That year we had a team that did not consist of any high draft picks. But right around playoff time everyone started to play their best, we had a lot of very selfless players that just wanted to help the team win.
“There was a new guy contributing every day and getting a clutch hit or making the big play. It was really a special thing to be apart of.”
Susdorf grew up in beautiful Valencia, Calif., with his three siblings and credits his dad for giving him such a strong mental approach, both on and off the field.
“Where we group up, my dad would takes us every day out in the batting cage in our backyard and when I say we, I am talking about my three other siblings, older and young brother and younger sister.
“My dad would work with us as kids every day rain or shine, the only day we took off was Christmas, so I credit all my work ethic from all the hard work my dad put in helping us.”
In 2007 he was drafted by the Detroit Tigers in the 27th round, and chose to go back to school instead of signing. A year later, he moved up nine rounds and was selected by the Philadelphia Phillies.
Since then the outfielder/1st baseman has jumped around in the Phillies organization from single-A ball all the way to triple-A, playing for five different teams in three different leagues.
“It doesn’t matter who you are playing with or for,” he said. “Early on when you’re moving up a level, you think that you can’t play with the guys in the next level but that is not the case. You are just playing the game and you have to keep reminding yourself in mind that you belong in what every level you move up, too.
“If I wind up at Lehigh Valley, I am going to be out their trying to win ball games and have quality at bats and let the pieces fall wherever they may.”
In 2012 Susdorf made the jump from Double-A to Triple-A, where he had one of his strongest seasons of his career. In 300 at bats, Susdorf carried a .282 average a .350 on base percentage and struck out just 42 times.
While Susdorf will likely going to start the season with the Triple-A affiliate Lehigh Valley Iron Pigs, he has the right mindset as he prepares for another minor-league year.
“I definitely feel very lucky and fortunate to be here, whether it’s in Triple-A or in the majors,” he said.