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Pair of Rams taking their hacks in Chillicothe

June 26, 2004|by TIM KOELBLE

koelble@herald-mail.com

Mike Spry and Charlie Drummond were teammates and roommates for three years at Shepherd University, each becoming an integral part of the Rams' baseball program.

Both garnered Player of the Year honors in the West Virginia Intercollegiate Athletic Conference - Spry in 2003, Drummond this season.

After a year apart, the two are back together as teammates, playing minor-league ball for the Chillicothe Paints, members of the independent Frontier League.

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Following graduation in 2003, Spry played with the Hagerstown Braves before hooking on with the River City Rascals to close the year. During the off-season, Spry was traded to Chillicothe at the urging of Ryan Sawyers, the former Shepherd pitching coach.

Following his standout senior season at Shepherd - and after being bypassed in the major league draft - Drummond signed with Chillicothe on June 10.

"It would have been hard coming here, but knowing Mike made it a lot easier," Drummond said.

"Charlie is a great guy and it was so nice to see his smile. ... I remember how that smile felt when we were together at Shepherd," said Spry.

Spry, a 6-foot-1, 215-pound outfielder, is hoping to bounce back from a wrist injury two weeks ago which has limited his playing time.

"I couldn't swing a bat at all after the injury," said Spry. "It is still bothering me every now and then."

Drummond, built similar to Spry, signed fully aware he was about to accept a totally different role than he had at Shepherd. He was brought in as a third-string catcher and spends most of his time in the bullpen.

"They wanted a guy that had potential but understood his role at this time," Drummond said. "They made no guarantees to me and I don't mind the position right now. It affords me time to work on my game.

"I'm taking so much in like a sponge. Last year here the No. 2 catcher this year was doing what I am doing now."

Spry and Drummond still have visions of major league baseball, but both recognize being in a setup with a team devoid of major league affiliation makes it tough.

"You just want to hope that somewhere along the line you catch the eye of someone," Spry said. "You still have to produce here or you'll get released. This is a business, too, not just an activity.

"You have a vision for the future and at some time you start understanding that reality will set in because there are guys in this league with great talent. That doesn't lessen the hope and I just want to continue to be as competitive as I can."

Both players said hitting consistently is the biggest difference between college and professional baseball.

"I keep learning more about hitting," Drummond said. "I'm working on mechanics, trying to get more carry on the ball."

Spry says it's a different approach in the batters box because "the pitching is different and better. Guys will locate pitches differently on any count."

Chillicothe - a small town located at the foothills of the Appalachian Mountain chain in southeast Ohio - and the Paints are the lone-standing original member of the Frontier League, which opened for business 10 years ago. Former major league pitcher Bill "Spaceman" Lee serves as commissioner and former major leaguers Joe Charboneau, Jack Clark, Tom Browning and Danny Cox are involved as managers or coaches. Current major leaguer Jason Simontacchi, a pitcher for the St. Louis Cardinals, played in the league.

Spry and Drummond have been taken in by Chillicothe families - a tradition of Paints baseball as well as many minor-league teams.

"I love it out here," Drummond said. "My family is taking care of me and they even get mad at me when I try to help them with chores."

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