At this time last year, Ducks reliever Tommy Organ was in college, taking in his final semester as a sports management major at the University of North Florida in Jacksonville.
The major leagues seemed far away. He had never entered the draft, told he didn't weigh enough or throw hard enough. And then a call came from an old college roommate who was playing for the River City Rascals of the Independent Frontier League. They were in need of a pitcher. Would he be interested? "Of course," was the reply, and one month before his December graduation, Organ was signed. He made his professional debut on June 22.
The start was a beauty as Organ came within one out of a seven-inning no-hitter. In nine appearances with River City, including five starts, he had a 4.97 ERA with 26 strikeouts in 29 innings.
He was traded to the Ducks on Aug. 2 in a deal that brought him, the since-deactivated Evan Crawford and a player to be named to Long Island in exchange for outfielder Jon Myers. In his first 16 appearances with the Ducks, all in relief, Organ was 0-1 with a 1.84 ERA and 14 strikeouts in 142/3 innings.
The Ducks entered Saturday night's game against the York Revolution losers of six of seven games, four games behind the Somerset Patriots in the Liberty Division and three games behind the Sugar Land Skeeters in the wild-card race with eight games left.
Do you think that, even though this team has stumbled in the last few days, you can sneak into the playoffs, either as the wild card or division champs?
One or the other should happen. As long as we keep pitching well and swinging the bats well like we were during the first four games in Sugar Land (last week), we should have a good shot.
What is the biggest difference between college and pro ball?
They don't chase pitches that bounce right behind the plate like college hitters do. They're a lot more disciplined. They're looking for one pitch in one spot. You're not going to beat them with off-speed. You have to work both sides of the plate.
You were one out away from a no-hitter in your first pro start. Was it shocking to come in and shut a team down like that right out of the gate?
To be honest, it really didn't hit me. I didn't look at the scoreboard once. I didn't even know. I was in a different zone. It was a little shocking, but I had a similar outing in college, so it felt like the same thing.
When did you realize you had the no-hitter going?
When I gave up the hit and looked up at the scoreboard (laughs).
What was it like to be traded so early in your career?
It was a little bit of a shock at first. (The Atlantic League) is one of the best independent leagues in the country. I had decent numbers in River City, so I was kind of surprised and a little nervous. But I was excited to come to a new place.
What's been the key to your success with the Ducks?
Keeping the ball down in the zone, working both sides of the plate, throwing every single pitch to left and righthanded hitters. Just trying to keep the ball in the ballpark. That's the main thing right now . . . and not walking a ton of guys.
Next up: Ducks @ York, 2 p.m., today.