Spencer Medick is a journeyman.
He isn’t old enough to legally drink, but he’s already lived in six states, gone to three colleges, had a major surgery and flirted with lacrosse before completing his junior year.
But – for now anyway – he’s found a home at Elon University.
The 6-foot-3 southpaw is standing against the fence along the first base foul line, slumped over but wearing a smile while talking with friends and family after a Phoenix victory.
He didn’t pitch in Monday’s series finale. But that’s the life of a starting pitcher. Take the hill. Wait five-to-seven days. Repeat.
Medick pitched Sunday. He gave up five runs and allowed 10 men to reach in 4.1 innings against Western Carolina, his first subpar outing in nearly a month.
“Yesterday I just wasn’t executing pitches, wasn’t getting my breaking stuff early like I was last week,” Medick said. “They’ll make you pay if you make mistakes. I was just splitting the middle of the plate too much with my fastball.”
“His numbers are great,” said Elon coach Mike Kennedy. “He’s near the top of the league in ERA. He just had a bad outing.”
Medick hasn’t always been solely focused on baseball – well, perhaps this is only technically true. Medick played lacrosse for a brief period in Baltimore. But he lived in Baltimore. It would have been atypical in that city not to at least experiment the sport. Aside from that quick escape, baseball’s been constant in Medick’s life.
He would play during the school year with his high school team at Woodberry Forest School, a boarding school in Woodberry Forest, Va., and then go home and play summer ball.
But soon after his senior year, he tore his ulnar collateral ligament and had to get Tommy John surgery, meaning his long tradition of summer ball would have to take a one-year break.
“It pretty much killed me not to play,” Medick said.
Medick decided to enroll in Hampden-Sydney College, a small Division III school in Virginia. But instead of being able to jump right into college baseball, he had to wait. While his new teammates took the field, Medick took his spot on the bench, eager but unable to step on the mound and throw.
By the time the year was over, Medick logged just 2.2 innings for Hampden-Sydney. He was healthy, though, and once again summer ball came calling, this time in the Florida Collegiate Summer League and the Sanford River Rats.
Medick found his groove in Florida. He put up a 1.24 ERA for Sanford, striking out 29 collegiate hitters in 29 innings pitched.
He performed so well in the Sunshine State that he decided to stick around for a year and transfer to Polk State Community College in Winter Haven.
But first he had to give the news to the coaching staff at Hampden-Sydney.
“They weren’t happy for obvious reasons,” he said. “They never want to lose a player but I felt that this was the best decision for me. I wanted to take my game to a whole ‘nother level. I thought that juco was the way to go.”
There was no secret about his intentions once he got to Polk State. Medick wanted to play Division I baseball and he started looking for future options immediately upon arrival.
But as a sophomore, Medick wasn’t looked at too highly during the fall, when most coaches target various freshman players with an extra year of eligibility. Instead, Medick would have to perform during the season to get a deal done.
And perform he did. Medick posted a 3.21 ERA in 18 appearances for Polk State while striking out 60 hitters in 81.1 innings. His efforts earned him a first-team All-Suncoast Conference honors.
Suddenly Division I schools came calling. Programs like Elon, Duke, Liberty and Coastal Carolina wanted him on their roster.
Having gone to two colleges already, Medick had a dilemma. He needed to make sure his credits transferred over to whichever college he chose to attend. When Medick picked Elon, this wasn’t a problem.
“Luckily I went to a liberal arts school my freshman year (at Hampden-Sydney),” he said. “I got a bunch of core credits out of the way. I got my AA (associates of arts degree) last year in liberal arts as well. Knowing that I would have to enter a new school, I kind of wanted to make sure that all my credits would transfer.”
The better competition Division I provides hasn’t been a roadblock for Medick. His five-pitch arsenal has helped him maintain a 3.05 ERA, fourth best in the Southern Conference. He uses his slider as his out pitch, and thus far it’s worked. He’s struck out 64 hitters, including a career-high 13 April 29 against UNC Greensboro, good for sixth in the SoCon.
Medick’s success means the business management major will likely soon be facing a business decision. The 2012 MLB First-Year Player Draft starts June 4.
If he’s drafted, Spencer Medick may choose to pack his bags once again and go someplace else. But perhaps he’ll stay put for a year and give the journeyman title a break.
“I’ve got some new levels I want to get to with my game before I leave Elon,” he said.