Sunday, September 21, 2014

Swimley recalls a budding star in Giants’ Susac


From page B1 | August 01, 2014 |


The liner to left put the Giants ahead on Wednesday and, finally, rookie catcher Andrew Susac was smiling.

The Jesuit High product, by way of Oregon State, had his first major league hit (and snapped an 0-for-5 weeklong introduction to The Bigs).

It’s safe to say it’s all downhill for Susac after his first MLB plate appearance Saturday, in which he pinch-hit against Los Angeles ace Clayton Kershaw.

(In a two-hit, seven-strikeout shutout by Kershaw, Susac’s ground-out to third was better than most of the Giants did that day.)

Susac — a second-round pick of San Francisco in 2011 — could be (along with Hector Sanchez) a piece of the puzzle that might send Buster Posey to first base and allow the Giants to eventually deal disappointing Brandon Belt.

At least his Sherman-like advance through minor-league San Jose, Richmond and Fresno hints that Susac sticks.

I had a chance to chat with former UC Davis baseball skipper Phil Swimley about the Talented Mr. Susac …

Swimley helped coach the backstop at Jesuit after Marauder coach Joe Potulny enlisted the former Aggie when Swim’s grandson Danny Hayes and Susac showed up in Carmichael in 2006 as ninth-graders.

“It’s hard to say I knew Andrew was a future major leaguer,” Swimley told me. “But I remember going to a freshman game. I take my chair and I go way down the left-field line. I want to watch Danny,” who is now in the White Sox organization in the South Atlantic League.

The usually affable Swimley didn’t want to be bothered this day. His grandson was breaking in.

“About the time I sit down, the catcher throws the ball through to second base and I say ‘Whoa! Who in the world is that?’

“So I walk back to the stands, wind up meeting Andrew’s uncle and his dad … and we talked and watched.”

Since then, because Hayes and Susac attended national power OSU together, Swimley has seen Susac in action more than 100 times. He’s no longer surprised.

“That same year, I’m evaluating umpires in the Big West Conference,” explains Swimley, a former University of Washington standout himself. “That weekend I’m assigned to Long Beach State playing UC Davis. I’m watching the teams take infield. If Andrew Susac — mind you, a freshman in high school then — had taken infield with that group of catchers, he would have been the starter on either team, just by the way he threw the ball.”

Susac was throwing from glove to second base in 1.8 seconds.

“His times for throwing the ball are as good as anybody ever,” Swimley promises — and remember that Swim, as a player and coach, has been around baseball for more than 60 years. “Andrew can do 1.8 seconds consistently and can be in the 1.7s. That’s really throwing the ball.”

Specifically, it is Yadier Molina and Johnny Bench territory (both known to throw in the mid-1.7-second range on occasion).

Swimley says Susac — like Bench — was always a workaholic. Andrew got intense instruction from his dad Nick and uncle John.

Bench once explained to me that his dad told him, once he set up behind the plate, to keep his throwing hand safe behind him. Later, when his arm was strong enough, Bench would throw to a phantom second base, maybe 50 to 70 feet behind the real bag. It apparently helped build the freakish Bench arm that remains legend.

“The regimen and routine (the three Susacs) went through is unbelievable,” Swimley continued. “The dedication and hard work … the sweat factor is there for Andrew. And he loved it.

“At first I thought ‘Here’s a kid that’s going to revolt one of these days. He’s not going to put up with this all through high school.’ But I never saw a single sign of reluctance all the way through.

“I would have to say (Andrew) also was fanatical about working and getting better. These were no-nonsense people. Go for it.”

And now, Andrew Susac has it.

While I Have You Here: In the 2008 Sac-Joaquin Section playoffs, in a game won by Jesuit, 12-11, Armijo High had two players who had stolen 43 straight bases in Monticello Empire League play.

In this playoff game, en route to a CIF title, Susac threw both of them out on their first steal attempts.

“Both times Danny Hayes had the ball waiting for them — neither guy had started to slide,” the former Beaver shortstop’s grandpa remembers. “It was an eye-opener on how Susac airs it out.

“I could tell you a bunch of stories.”

Thanks, Phil, but I’m guessing there are new ones ahead.

— Reach Bruce Gallaudet at or 530-320-4456.



Bruce Gallaudet

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