By Jim Lane
CURVE, Pa.— Southern California athletes seldom move to the East Coast to develop their sport, but Curve pitcher Beau Sulser did.
Sulser, who hails from Escondido, Calif. (near San Diego), went to Dartmouth before beginning his career in professional baseball, and he’s glad he did.
“I followed my older brother out there,” Sulser replied when asked how he arrived at Dartmouth, which is located in Hanover, N.H. Sulser’s older brother, Cole, a pitcher in the Tampa Bays organization (AAA), also pitched at Dartmouth before signing with the Cleveland Indians.
“(Cole) understood baseball is not forever and that Dartmouth was his best opportunity for an education,” Beau said recently at Peoples Natural Gas Field. “Once I got there and went through the recruiting process, I knew I wanted to go there.
“I fell in love with the idea of getting an Ivy League education,” Beau continued. “Plus, I knew if you’re good enough, they (major league scouts) will find you, so it was more important to set up your life after baseball. That’s what made me end up at Dartmouth.”
Sulser earned a degree in psychology when he stayed in college a fifth year after having Tommy John Surgery.
The 6-foot, 200-pound right-hander had a successful career at Dartmouth. He posted a 13-7 record and 3.48 ERA over four years, including 6-1 and 1.40 ERA as a senior when he was named Ivy League pitcher-of-the-year.
“I graduated (2017) and was drafted (10th round by the Pirates) the next day,” he noted. “It was a really cool couple of days. I signed quickly and headed to Morgantown to start my pro career.”
His 2017 first year with the short-season West Virginia Black Bears was disappointing, however, as he went 2-4 with a 5.31 ERA in 18 games.
The turnaround, according to Sulser, came when he hooked up with Joel Hanrahan, the pitching coach with low-A West Virginia Power in 2018.
“Hanrahan has had a huge impact on my career,” Sulser said. “I didn’t do that well in short-season and they put me in extended spring training for three weeks before going to the Power.”
“He instilled a confidence in me that has stuck with me,” Sulser said. “It was like he said ‘you deserve to be here.’ He’s a great, great coach when it comes to mentality.
“He fixes little things with mechanics, but, when it comes to bullpen mentality, you can’t have a better guy to learn from than a two-time National League all-star,” Sulser said of Hanrahan who earned those honors with the Pirates in 2011 and 2012.
Sulser was 5-8 with a 2.35 ERA in 36 games with the Power a year ago. He struck out 63 and walked only 4 in 52.1 innings – the best in the South Atlantic League.
Expected to begin 2019 with advanced-A Bradenton, Sulser opened with the Curve because of several unexpected pitching moves within the organization.
“My goal for this year was to get to Double-A as soon as possible,” he said. “Being an older guy (25), I wanted to move up as quickly as possible. I had a very good year in Charleston (W.Va.) last year and wanted to capitalize on that.
“My role is a long relief guy, and I like that,” he noted. “It gives you a different set of circumstances and I like being ready at all stages of the game. I want to be a guy who can eat those middle innings.”
As of July 18, Sulser had a 7-1 record and 1.54 ERA for Altoona. He pitched the seventh inning and retired the only two batters he faced in the Western Division’s 5-0 win in the Eastern League All-Star Game July 10.
“Three pitches, two groundouts, a ton of fun,” he said of the All-Star experience.
Hanrahan enjoys his relationship with Sulser.
“This is my second year with Beau,” the Curve pitching coach said. “With Beau, you know what you get. He’s going to come at you, throw strikes … good fastball, changeup mix. He’s incorporated a new cutter this season which has worked out for him.
“Works fast, works quick and goes after hitters so not much more you can ask for,” Hanrahan added. “He can step in and start or be a long guy. He can go for a one-inning save and handle the pressure.”