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Steelman thankful for all he had with Terps

May 20, 2009|By BOB PARASILITI

COLLEGE PARK, Md. -- Nathan Steelman has experienced the best of both worlds on his own terms.

He got a chance to live out his fantasy while staying grounded in reality.

Steelman's short pitching career for the University of Maryland ended May 12 when the Terrapins lost to Delaware. With no hopes of postseason play in sight, the senior reliever watched from the bullpen after making only seven appearances all season. He had only pitched once since March 20.

But none of that mattered to the Smithsburg graduate.

"I was glad to be on the team," Steelman said. "It was an opportunity. I will always be able to tell my kids I played baseball for a Division I school. After what happened to Nick (Adenhart), you look at it a different way. I'm just happy to put the uniform on and to be with a bunch of guys that I enjoy spending time with."

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The tragic death of Adenhart, a friend and competitor from his high school days, reshaped Steelman's perception. Many would be upset about sitting during games, but Steelman remembers the difficult road he traveled to get to College Park.

It started by playing Division III football at Shenandoah before choosing to join the Army. Then, while serving in Iraq, he got the itch to play baseball again. He was accepted at Maryland, auditioned for the baseball team and played as a junior in 2008.

"I look at the wall in center field here and think about where I was and where I am now," Steelman said.

All the work was worth the chance to make 15 career appearances, good for a 1-0 record in nine innings. Steelman carried a 10.00 ERA while walking six and striking out eight.

He started the season as a situational pitcher, a left-hander reliever to face left-handed hitters. A fluke changed the course of the rest of his college career.

"I was pitching regularly and we came to Florida State (on March 27)," Steelman said. "I had a knot on my hip -- something popped when I was pitching in the bullpen earlier in the week -- and it took me out.

"The Florida State series (sweep) is where our season started to fall off. The coaches decided to start using younger guys who were going to be around next year instead of seniors. This was supposed to be Maryland's year in baseball and it never came together."

The Terps finished 27-27 overall and 10-20 in the Atlantic Coast Conference, but fell two games short of heading to the league tournament.

For Steelman, more changes are on the way. After graduation, he will pitch for the Hagerstown Braves and may re-enlist in the military.

"It's structure. It will help keep my nose clean," Steelman said.

And he will do it all with no regrets.

"I didn't take anything for granted," he said. "I live every day like it's my last. There are a lot of people who are dying to be in my shoes. All the stars aligned. If one thing would have gone out of line, I wouldn't be here and my baseball career would have just ended. I couldn't ask for a better script."

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