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Chasin' the dream


June 12, 2012

Former UW-Milwaukee standout Chad Pierce is now in the Milwaukee Brewers farm system.

Ask a young boy what he wants to be when he grows up. If he doesnít say a firefighter, the answer is probably a Major League baseball player.

The dream starts in T-ball, and for most continues to Little League.

At that point, the field starts to winnow a bit. By high school, even the top players know realistically this will likely be the end of their competitive baseball careers. A select few go on to play in college and the best of the best, the top one-tenth of 1 percent, are drafted by a Major League franchise. And then the real work begins. A long slog through the minors with the hopes of one day putting on a Big League uniform.

Chad Pierce, a Milwaukee resident and UW-Milwaukee alum, is on his way. Pierce, a pitcher, was selected in the 38th round of the 2011 Amateur Draft by the hometown Milwaukee Brewers.

"To be drafted is an experience in and of itself, but to be selected by the team I grew up rooting for was surreal; itís something Iíll remember for the rest of my life," Pierce says.

Pierceís route to professional baseball was a unique one. After playing at Fond du Lac High School, he signed with the University of Arkansas ó as a catcher. He was quickly converted to a pitcher and after two years he transferred to UW-Milwaukee. As a senior, he went 6-4 and struck out almost a batter an inning.

As excited as Pierce was by being drafted, he knows his real work is just beginning. He was assigned to the Helena Brewers and rookie league baseball in Montana. He struck out 33 batters in 40 innings but was 2-4 with a 6.64 ERA.

"In college, there are two or three hitters who are outstanding," he says. "In the minors, you canít take a batter off. If you miss a pitch, theyíre going to hit it pretty hard."

He pitched his best at the end of the season and will take that experience and momentum into his second professional season.

"I know I can do it," he says.

For Pierce, the dream continues.

Minor League Snapshot

In addition to Chad Pierce, the UW-Milwaukee grad in the Milwaukee Brewers Minor League system, there are a number of local players pursuing their Big League dreams in the minors. Here is a sampling.

Kevin James, Whitefish Bay, a pitcher in the Tampa Rays system. Following in the footsteps of WFB alum Craig Counsell going to Tampa Bay, Jamesí career is just getting started.

Tony Butler of Oak Creek, a pitcher in the Seattle Mariners system. He was a third round selection in the 2006 draft. He posted a 3.26 ERA last year in A ball.

Ryan Rohlinger of West Bend East High School, a shortstop/third baseman in the San Francisco Giants system. He appeared in 46 MLB games during the last four seasons and has hit 71 homers in the Minor Leagues.

Travis Scott of Milwaukee, a catcher in the Pittsburgh Pirates system. He has 50 Minor League home runs.

Ben Versnik, a West Allis Hale graduate, is a pitcher in the Seattle Mariners system. He has a 3.06 ERA in two Minor League seasons.

This story ran in the May 2012 issue of: