Sam Wolff Joins ‘From Phenom To The Farm:’ Episode 57

Image credit: Zachary Lucy/Four Seam Images

As a 2009 high school grad, Sam Wolff’s athletic upbringing coincided with the move to more specialization in youth sports—young athletes picking one sport early and riding it. Wolff, a Rapid City, South Dakota native, went in the opposite direction.


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In high school Wolff starred in baseball as a two-way talent with a live arm and excellent infield instincts, but also lettered in track, football, and basketball—allowing him to never have any risk of burnout when it came to overdoing it in one sport or another.

Wolff only narrowed in on one focus when it came time to pick his college baseball route. He’d garnered interest from Division 1 programs both on the mound and as a position player, but decided to defer to the experts on his future path.

“At that point I’d talked to enough scouts on the college level and the professional level,” said Wolff. “They kinda hinted towards me ‘Hey, as far as your upside and future going into professional baseball—you have a great arm, and that’s going to probably be your best avenue.”

Wolff went along with scouts’ advice, and signed with the University of San Diego as a pitcher. He didn’t spend much time lamenting no longer being a position player, as giving life on the mound his full focus freed him up to truly appreciate that aspect of the game.

“I hadn’t really been able to truly dive into the pitching side of baseball,” said Wolff. “Honestly I just fell in love with it—it felt like I was playing a new sport because I had never really known how to pitch up until that point.”

However, learning how to pitch is easier said than done. Wolff, like many high schoolers with powerful arms, hadn’t had to hone his craft much to put away high school hitters. From the jump at San Diego, Wolff had to learn how to battle hitters with the ability to turn around his fastball and spit on his breaking stuff if he couldn’t command it.

Wolff played catch-up in terms of learning how to pitch during his freshman season, and in an attempt to get some much needed innings and mound time, chose to transfer to The College of Southern Nevada for his sophomore campaign. Leaving his first college choice after one year and opting for junior college wasn’t exactly how he drew it up, but the development from ages 18-20 gave Wolff building blocks that he’d eventually carve out his career with.

“I learned a lot—leaps and bounds within those two years,” said Wolff. “Being able to understand how to harness your stuff (…) it really opened my eyes as hey, your fastball isn’t just one pitch—if you’re moving it up and down, side to side, it can be used in multiple different aspects.”

He followed the year at CSN with a two year run at New Mexico, culminating with a 1st team All-Mountain West senior season that saw him then selected by the Rangers in the 6th round of the 2013 draft. The now more polished Wolff got right down to business, putting up quality numbers at multiple minor league stops during his first two years as a professional, and was primed to begin his age-24 year old season in the Double-A Frisco rotation.

That season in Double-A would get delayed via a torn Achilles in 2015 spring training, and unfortunately wouldn’t be the last time Wolff spent time on the injured list. Upon returning from the Achilles tear, he’d spend the next few years battling a flexor tendon issue. A competitor at heart, Wolff battled his injuries head on, admittedly throwing through pain that in retrospect should’ve been addressed earlier.

Despite fighting injuries, when Wolff was on the mound he was effective. A 2017 move to the bullpen suited him, landing him in Triple-A and in the call-up conversation for the first time, before his flexor tendon finally gave out, ending that season.

He’d head to the Giants as a part of a trade for Matt Moore, and continue to knock on the door of the big leagues in that system, but also continue to be dragged down by injuries. Following the 2021 season, another in which he spent time on the IL and battled multiple maladies, Wolff chose to hang up his spikes. While at peace with his career and time in baseball, he acknowledged that with hindsight being 20/20, there were times he could’ve toned down the competitive instinct and leaned into some rest.

“I’d probably tell myself to listen to my body a little bit better,” said Wolff. “For me it was understanding what to push through, and what not to push through.”

On the latest episode of ‘From Phenom to the Farm,’ former Rangers and Giants farmhand Sam Wolff joins to discuss his career. He talks pitching through injuries, learning the art of pitching, and team camaraderie at various levels of the minor leagues.

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