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Durham’s Geltz returns home

LOCKPORT - Steve Geltz smiled he was asked exactly how many tickets would he have to set aside for family and friends that were coming to watch him pitch at Coca-Cola Field.

“Oh man, I’ve got about 65-70 for each night,” Geltz said. “It’s gonna be fun.”

Geltz, a 25-year-old Ransomville native, lived out a childhood dream when he came into Buffalo and pitched for the opposing Durham Bulls during the teams four-game series June 21-24.

A star pitcher for the Wilson High School, Geltz went 15-6 with a 0.78 ERA while with the Lakemen. Throwing four no hitters, six shutouts, a program-best 237 strikeouts, Geltz earned a team MVP his junior year and was recruited by UB.

Losing track of how many times he came to the downtown ballpark as a fan, coming to the park now, as a player, was very surreal for Geltz.

“Not five minutes ago I was talking to my parents and my girlfriend, they dropped me off and I said this is so weird. Everytime I’ve taken that exit it’s because I’m coming to watch a game,” Geltz said as he stood by his locker in the visiting club house,”now I’m coming to play. It’s weird. But it’s cool. Really cool.”

Originally signed by the L.A. Angels as an undrafted free agent, Geltz knew his journey through the pro’s, never mind a having a shot at the Big Leagues. would be challenging.

But Geltz is used to facing obstacles. At 5-foot-9, 185 pounds Geltz doesn’t possess the prototypical size that most pitchers have. But Geltz has excellent mechanics and knows how to get the most out of himself. He routinely hits 93-95 on the radar gun and isn’t afraid to challenge any hitter.

“He has good command and mound presence,” UB coach Ron Torgalski said of Geltz when he signed on with the Bulls.

With good command a reliable off-speed pitches Geltz knows that staying with his strengths is the key to success.

“You just want to kind of take a breath, relax and do what you always done to get you to this point,” he said.

Making his mark with the Angels Triple-A club in Salt Lake City, Geltz had no idea what the future had in store for him when he walked into his managers office during a road trip to Nashville last August.

Fearing the worst, Geltz was sure he would be packing his bags for Double-A. He was half right. he did pack his suitcase, but was headed for the West Coast.

A couple days later he made his MLB debut as he came on in the ninth inning when the Angels were trailing Tampa Bay, 7-0.

Geltz took the ball from Angels catcher Chris Iannetta told Geltz, “Take whatever time you need but don’t look up.”

Buts Geltz wanted to savor this moment.

“I said,’Hey man, I might never get to do this again. I’m gonna look up.’ I look up and it was just a feeling of pride, joy, tears. All that hard work and accomplishments. It was a great feeling. I wish it upon anybody that plays this game. I wish they could experience that.”

What Geltz saw when he looked up was his photo and the words:Making his Major League debut, on the jumbotron.

Playing for a small Class B team in the Niagara/Orleans League a job in pro ball, never mind standing on a MLB hill was the farthest thing for Steve Geltz mind.

“It seemed light years away,” said Geltz. “It seemed like a myth, almost. Like oh hey maybe one day I can play in pro ball. That was the first step, getting into pro ball. Then I get signed as an undrafted free agent and I’m like, hey, here’s my shot. I started out in Rookie ball, now I’ve got to go to advance rookie,Low-A, high-A, Double-A, Triple-A. That’s a big leap.

This is not a very heavily scouted area.

“It’s not and everybody knows it. It’s cold year-round pretty much and there’s not a lot of baseball up here. But it’s cool having the ability to say I am from (WNY) and I can play, like (Bison Jim) Negrych over there on their side. He’s from this area and he’s been through the same predicaments as I have. It’s kind of an interesting little chip we have on our shoulders to say hey we can do this too.”

Keeping tabs on Clarence’s Mark Armstrong and Amherst’s Jonah Heim who went in the third and fourth rounds respectively of the MLB First-Year Plays draft a couple weeks ago, Geltz was proud to see other WNY kids making their mark on the game.

“That’s awesome for them,” he said.

Dealt to Tampa Bay in March of this year, Geltz has a 3-2 record, three saves and a 3.35 ERA.

Geltz took the hill on a sold out Saturday night, giving up two runs on two hits in 1.2 innings of work.

He struck out two and walked none.

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