Dawgs workhorse finds the right pitch
Baseball: Hayden Cleveland leads Dawgs in wins, innings pitched
By: Bruce Campbell
| Posted: Wednesday, Aug 07, 2013 09:58 am
An Okotoks Dawg has gone to summer school, but his classroom was the bullpen and his instructor, was Professor Gaustad.
Hayden Cleveland tied an Okotoks Dawgs record with seven wins to go with his solid 2.94 ERA. The southpaw credited learning a slider as a contributor to his success this season.
“I was in the bullpen before the game and I told Pete (Dawgs pitcher Peter Gaustad) that I wanted to work on a slider and he showed me this grip,” Cleveland said. “I tried it in a game and have used it ever since… I have added that to my arsenal.”
A slider looks like a fastball, but as it approaches the plate, the ball drops like it was rolling off a table. The result is batters are like windmills — hitting nothing but air.
Cleveland came to Okotoks with enough weapons in his bag to win a round of The Hunger Games. His new slider complements his curveball, change-up and his out-pitch, a two-seam fastball, which he throws in the mid-80s. He learned to pitch while growing up in hoops-mad Indiana.
“I have been playing baseball since t-ball when I was three or four and there has never been a year since then when I haven’t played,” Cleveland said.
His pitching ability landed him a spot with the Franklin College Grizzlies in Indiana.
It was through Grizzlies pitching coach Mike Farrell that Cleveland wound up in Okotoks. Farrell knows Dawgs Academy coach Allen Cox, who seems to have baseball connections in the American Midwest and Appalachian states from batboys to general managers.
“They were friends and Farrell told me this is where I have to come,” Cleveland said. “I had heard of Calgary and Toronto, but that was pretty well what I knew about Canada.
“I love how the community (Okotoks) has come together for everyone,” he said.
Cleveland was 4-4 in Franklin with four complete games. He set a team record with 15 strikeouts on April 20.
He also credited his record with Okotoks to the firemen in the Dawgs’ bullpen.
“The difference maker here is I know I have a bullpen that is strong,” Cleveland said. “At Franklin, I pretty much had to throw a complete game. Here I can go 100 per cent from the get-go and know there are guys behind me will pick up where I left off.”
He added it’s also easy to rack up the wins thanks to the team’s offence.
He’s been a workhorse for the Dawgs leading the team in innings pitched with 55 as well as strikeouts with 43 in the regular season. Plenty of work, but not to the point of exhaustion.
Dawgs head coach AJ Fystro said the team tried to give Cleveland some rest after arriving from Franklin in June.
“He struggled when he first got here, but I think that is because he pitched a lot at school,” Fystro said. “We got him some rest and he has been one of our best guys.”
The coach has noticed the slider.
“It has been huge for him,” Fystro said. “It gives him the opportunity to work with lefthanders more and get them out. He has an aggressive style with sort of wild mechanics. The ball seems to come out of nowhere and all of a sudden the ball is cutting across the plate and moving a lot.”
He said he has plenty left in the tank for what he hopes is a Western Major Baseball League championship run.
“I have accomplished most of my goals, now I want to win the championship,” Cleveland said.
Cleveland got the start in the Dawgs’ critical Game 2 against the Lethbridge Bulls on Thursday a 7-5 win for the Okotoks to tie the series at 1-1. Four days later, he was the pitcher of record when the Dawgs’ ousted the Bulls on Monday night.
He said he is hoping the Dawgs’ playoff run will be a long one, leading not only to a championship, but an invite back to Okotoks.