Michael Roth Joins 'From Phenom To The Farm:' Episode 34
“From Phenom to the Farm” releases new episodes every other Tuesday featuring players whose experiences vary across the professional baseball spectrum. Players will discuss their personal experiences going from high school graduation to the life of a professional baseball player.
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Michael Roth left the University of South Carolina as one of the most decorated NCAA pitchers of all-time and an undisputed campus legend.
While at USC, Roth was a two-time national champion, first team All-American, record holder for innings pitched at the College World Series, and owner of a complete-game victory over Clemson in the 2010 CWS that will live in Carolina lore until the end of days.
Not bad for a guy who viewed pitching as a “backup plan.”
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“They thought, and I thought, that my future was as a first basemen,” said Roth.
Roth arrived on campus as a guy looking to fill the first base slot vacated by recent 1st round pick Justin Smoak, and only kept up pitching at behest of a coach who saw some promise in his left arm. However, he didn’t win that 1st base job during his first season, and instead spent every weekend his freshman year hoping to get a pinch hit opportunity or some mop up innings just to see the field.
During the fall of his sophomore year, after being spotted by a coach showing great sidearm action on throws to first base, Roth was encouraged by that coach to bring the sidearm to his mound repertoire—because he might not have gotten many innings without it.
“(My coach) was like, ‘you need to get lefties out—we need someone who gets lefties out, because right now you’re a righty specialist,’” said Roth. “(He said) ‘we don’t need another righty specialist, we have two sidearmers and Matt Price in the bullpen, why would we go to you instead of those three? Let’s go throw a bullpen.”
The sidearm took, and Roth became a menace to lefties. His role for a majority of the 2010 USC run to Omaha was as that needed lefty specialist—16 of his outings lasted just 1/3 of an inning, often to get one lefty out.
That changed during the College World Series, during the aforementioned game against Clemson, where a taxed USC pitching staff was forced to call on their lefty specialist for his second career start to stave off elimination.
Roth delivered in spades, and would deliver again with a quality start in the CWS championship series a few days later that brought USC the title—the first of his record three CWS starts, including the 2011 clincher.
In the summer following that 2010 CWS, the one that would change his career trajectory and lead him down a path to becoming USC’s Friday night starter and eventual big leaguer, Roth made what seemed like the natural choice for him.
He went to summer ball to go play first base.
On today’s episode of ‘From Phenom to the Farm,’ former South Carolina ace Michael Roth joins to discuss his career. He talks his unlikely rise as an ace pitcher, the mentality a team needs to repeat as College World Series champions and how NIL might help players like himself, who graduated with student loan debt.