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Detroit Tigers’ Pitcher Jeremy Bonderman Got His First Taste of Postseason Success as a Little League All-Star
The Tigers make their first World Series appearance in 22 years when they open the 2006 World Series, Saturday night in Detroit against the National League Champion St. Louis Cardinals. Mr. Bonderman is scheduled to start Game 4 in St. Louis.
“Jeremy was a standout pitcher in our league,” Mr. Reddinger, who managed in the Pasco National Little League for six years, said. “He also played shortstop and was one of the best hitters in our league. You could have put him at any position and been fine because even back then he was a great all-around baseball player.”
Mr. Bonderman, 24, was selected 26th overall in the 2001 amateur draft by the Oakland Athletics, making him the first U.S.-born player to be drafted after his junior year in high school. Jeremy elected to bypass college and signed with the A’s organization. In July of 2002 he was “the player to be named later” in a three-team trade that sent him to the Tigers.
Fast-tracked to the Majors, Jeremy was 20-years-old when he debuted with the Tigers on April 2, 2003. That season the Tigers struggled, and he finished with a 6-19 record.
“When Jeremy was called up, I remember thinking that he was too young and not experienced enough to play in the majors yet,” Mr. Reddinger said. “But, he is such a competitor, and the Tigers were struggling at the time, they needed to make some changes. On any other team, he probably would have been playing Double A ball at his age.”
Self-confidence has never been a problem for Jeremy, Mr. Reddinger said.
“I remember wondering how much (the 2003 season) would mess with his head,” he said. “When I watched him pitch (on television) he looked like he was maturing a little bit with each outing and that’s when I knew he would be fine. Being called up early has helped him become a solid Major League pitcher at a very young age.”
During the 1995 Little League all-star season, Jeremy and Mr. Reddinger’s son, Brandon (a former catcher who spent three years in the Pittsburgh Pirates minor league system), shared time on the mound and behind the plate as one caught when the other pitched. Jeremy was also the clean-up hitter for The Pasco National Little Leaguers, who went on to win the Washington District 5 championship and play in the state tournament.
“I think that year, we were the first Pasco Little League team to make it to the state playoffs,” Mr. Reddinger said. “It was quite an accomplishment for those kids.”
In recent years, district lines have been re-drawn. Pasco, located in southern Washington state about 80 miles from Yakima, and the rest of the former District 5 territory is now part of District 12 with Mel Haas as its district administrator.
Jeremy was coached by his father, Gene, during the regular season, and Mr. Reddinger, who in 1995 was in his last year as a local league volunteer admitted, there was no doubt he was going to make the all-star team.
“He really wasn't a cheerleader type of player,” Mr. Reddinger said. “Jeremy was, and is, very intense and very much a competitor. He would routinely get upset with himself if he thought he wasn't doing well, but he was always coachable, and you could count on him to give 100 percent.”
The Pasco National Little League team was quickly eliminated for the state tournament in 1995, but Jeremy continued to excel on the mound. The right-hander pitched for Team USA in the 2000 World Junior Championships, going 2-0 with a 3.07 earned run average. During his junior year at Pasco High School he amassed a 3-1 record with a 3.60 ERA and 54 strikeouts in 35.0 innings.
Fast forward to 2006, his fourth season with the Tigers, Jeremy started 34 games, was 14-8 with a 4.08 ERA, 202 strikeouts and only 64 walks in 214 innings. Through the American League Division and Championship Series, he has posted an ERA of 3.00 in 15 innings, allowing five runs on 11 hits, with three walks and seven strikeouts.
“Jeremy has always been able to throw hard,” Mr. Reddinger said. “He has had to learn to pitch the last couple of years and not just rely on his fast ball. Even in all-stars we used to tell him, ‘you have to be able to mix it up.’”
Born in nearby Kennewick, Wash., in 1982, Jeremy and his family (wife, Amber, and a young daughter), and parents still call Pasco home.
Mr. Reddinger attributes much of Jeremy’s big league success to his down-home attitude.
“Jeremy didn’t forget where he came from,” Mr. Reddinger said. “If he wasn’t playing baseball, he’d be working a 9-to-5 job and be happy with that. He doesn’t walk around like a Major League pitcher; he’s just an everyday guy.”
|Jeremy Bonderman, pictured third from left in second row, is a graduate of Pasco (Wash.) National Little League. Mr. Bonderman is in his fourth season with the reigning American League Champion Detroit Tigers, and is scheduled to be the starting pitcher in Game 4 of the 2006 Major League Baseball World Series. The team’s manager, Russ Reddinger, is pictured on left in the back row.|