Advertisement

Titan Relief Pitcher Packs Up His Pitches and Takes to the Road : Baseball: Ted Silva’s busy schedule finds him playing ball in eight states, three countries and two continents.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Ted Silva had just flown in from Millington, Tenn., and boy was he tired.

From early May, when his Cal State Fullerton baseball team qualified for the NCAA regional playoffs, until last week, when the U.S. national team was eliminated from the World Baseball Championships here, Silva visited eight states, three countries, two continents and crossed the international dateline twice.

The experience hasn’t quickened his fastball or improved his slider, but it has taught Silva how to handle the suitcase, something he says will make him a better pitcher next season.

“That’s going to be the key for all of us,” Silva says of himself and his Team USA teammates. “It’s just the experience of traveling, playing international ball. When we get back to school, those little get-away weekend trips you’re going to have during the season are going to be nothing compared to (this).”

Advertisement

Silva’s odyssey began in November, when he was invited--along with 63 other top college players--to Homestead, Fla., to try out for the U.S. team. Silva earned the honor by going 4-2 with seven saves as a freshman relief pitcher at Fullerton.

His stock improved last spring during a sophomore season in which he saved 13 games in 33 appearances and had a 2.29 earned-run average. But in his final game, after matching a career high with four shutout innings in relief, Silva gave up a game-winning, 12th-inning home run against Georgia Tech that eliminated the Titans from the College World Series in Omaha.

He continued to struggle this summer, primarily from a lack of work. In Team USA’s 29-game warm-up for the world amateur championships, Silva pitched only 10 innings, giving up five runs. In Nicaragua he got in three games, the most memorable appearance coming against South Korea in a game the United States had to win to advance to the medal round.

Silva came on with one out in the eighth inning to protect a 5-3 lead but gave up a two-run home run to the first batter he faced. His teammates rallied in the ninth inning, however, and Silva retired the Koreans in order in their final at-bat to pick up his second victory of the summer.

Advertisement

The United States was eliminated a game later when it fell in the quarterfinals to eventual champion Cuba, 15-2, to conclude its long summer with a 24-13 record.

“I just haven’t been all in it this summer,” said Silva, who struck out 14 in 13 innings with Team USA but finished with a 5.54 ERA. “I’m not bearing down as much. I don’t think my mind’s been here all the way either.

“I’m used to throwing at least two times a week in games. (With Team USA) I maybe pitched once every three, four games. It’s not like I’m getting a lot of work in. My arm’s been pretty much resting all summer.

“But that’s been with all the relievers.”

Advertisement

Silva’s roommate, USC sophomore Randy Flores, saw a little more action this summer, thanks largely to three spot starts. Including relief appearances against Canada, Puerto Rico and Panama in Nicaragua, Flores pitched 27 2/3 innings in 11 games, winning his only decision of the summer and compiling an ERA of 3.25.

A three-sport star at Redondo Beach Redondo Union High, Silva actually won more varsity letters in basketball than he did in baseball. In fact, that was the sport he wanted to pursue at El Camino College. But a standout senior baseball season--in which he went 9-3 with a 0.64 ERA and 100 strikeouts--changed all that.

After Silva was named to the Southern Section’s first team, the four-year schools that had previously ignored him suddenly began offering scholarships.

“I never got recruited until after my senior season,” Silva says. “That’s mid-June. I didn’t sign until mid-July. That’s pretty late.”

Advertisement

Among the late bidders were USC, UCLA and Cal State Los Angeles, but Silva says: “Fullerton came in with a real fair deal. I guess I got pretty lucky.”

Titan Coach Augie Garrido was undoubtedly saying the same thing a few months later. In the team’s first game of the 1993 season, Garrido brought the 18-year-old freshman in to face highly regarded Stanford. Showing his age and lack of experience, Silva walked the only two hitters he faced before being pulled.

Two days later, Garrido gave Silva the ball again against the same team and he responded by striking out four in 3 1/3 innings of no-hit relief, earning his first college victory. That effort established Silva as the Titans’ bullpen stopper, and he went on to appear in 32 games, the second-highest total in school history.

He raised that number by one last season, when he was named a second-team All-American. But he really proved his worth in the NCAA regional tournament, pitching in four consecutive games and earning the victory in the regional final against Oklahoma State.

Advertisement

Despite those successes, the 6-foot, 165-pound right-hander would like to try his hand--and arm--at starting this season.

“I’d like to try something different,” he says. “Relieving. . . . I’ve gotten used to it. It’s no big deal now. But two years of late relief is enough. I’d like to start.”

Wherever he winds up, Silva’s goal will remain the same--a national title. It’s the only thing that’s eluded him in his first two years at Fullerton.

“Coming off the College World Series, that was a major high,” Silva says. “I want to get back there again. Everybody wants to get there, and when you get there, you set a new goal of winning it.

Advertisement

“We all have steps. First, winning league. Next, making it to regionals, and then winning regionals and going to Omaha. And the next step, then, is winning in Omaha.”

But first, he was going home. In the past four months, he’s spent a total of 2 1/2 days there, so he has a lot of catching up to do with his parents. And one of the things they’re sure to talk about is Silva’s experience in Nicaragua, the second-poorest country in the Western Hemisphere.

“It’s real different here,” said Silva, who celebrated his 20th birthday in Central America. “It just makes you respect what you have more. Everybody says, you know, that we take that for granted. But then you come out here and it’s just a whole different atmosphere.

“I haven’t met one mean person or one negative person. Everyone tries to talk to you, you know, communicate with you anyway they can.

Advertisement

“Just trying to communicate with them and get a few laughs here and there. That’s probably the funniest thing to do.”

The poverty he saw apparently weighed on Silva the way his suitcase did when he landed here more than two weeks ago. Because of that, his luggage--and his conscience--were both a little lighter on the return trip.

After Team USA’s final game, Silva gave away baseballs, sweatbands and whatever else he could legally take off in public before returning to the hotel.

“You know, it makes you feel good just to give a person a ball,” he said.

Advertisement

That might be another lesson Silva learned about traveling: Sometimes just packing the memories is enough.


Advertisement