07/12/07 — Sasser living out a dream

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Sasser living out a dream

By Rob Craig
Published in Sports on July 12, 2007 1:49 PM

BOISE, Idaho -- When Dustin Sasser was younger, he would play catch with family and friends while imagining himself as a professional baseball player.

Today, he doesn't have to pretend anymore.

It all began following a successful four years at East Carolina University. During his career, the left-hander amassed a 12-11 record with 155 strikeouts in 53 appearances. He underwent Tommy John surgery and took a medical redshirt in 2005.

Sasser's final year with the Pirates was his best as he led the team with a 3.52 ERA and was second on the staff with 68 strikeouts.

"I just couldn't have been more happy with my time at ECU," said Sasser, a 2004 graduate of Charles B. Aycock. "It's a great school and they have a great program with great coaches."

Following the season, Sasser was selected by the Chicago Cubs in the 21st round (pick No. 637) in June's Major League Baseball Amateur Draft.

"It was pretty exciting," said Sasser. "It was something that I had been dreaming about ever since I was a little kid. It was just a really exciting time for me and my family."

Since the draft, Sasser has gone from Mesa, Ariz. to sign his first professional contract and to Boise -- site of the Cubs' short-season Class A affiliate.

On June 23, Sasser put on his Boise Hawks uniform and walked out to the mound for the first time as a professional.

The moment was just as Sasser had pictured when he was a young boy.

"It was just like I was back home in my backyard pitching, imagining myself as a professional baseball player," he said. "It was a nerve-racking time, but also an exciting time."

In front of his family and girlfriend, Sasser shook off the early nerves to throw a quality first start. He allowed only one run on three hits and struck out three against Salem-Keizer.

"That helped a lot, them being there," he said. "It made it feel like pitching back home at ECU."

Sasser has since made three more starts and currently stands 1-1 with a 3.94 ERA and 12 strikeouts.

"So far I'm pretty pleased (with my performance)," said Sasser. "I haven't pitched as well as I've wanted to so far on the road though."

In addition to adapting to a new area halfway across the country, Sasser is learning to pitch to more skilled hitters with wooden bats. The switch from hitters using aluminum to wood has actually eased the transition for Sasser.

"There's some hits you give up in college that you definitely won't give up here. In some ways it's easier, but then again the hitters are a lot better up here," said Sasser. "If you make a mistake, they can turn it around pretty quick."

Sasser is also trying to deal with the long, exhausting bus rides every minor leaguer must deal with.

"The bus rides are definitely my least favorite thing," he said. "Small, uncomfortable seats with long trips."

Still, Sasser insists that's only a minor issue and one that friends he had in the minor leagues had prepared him for.

Sasser knows he has a long road ahead of him before he can fully realize his dream of putting on a major league uniform, but so far, things are off to a great start.

"I really just want to get my feet wet and get some innings in," said Sasser. "I really want to get used to pitching to these professional players and do as well as I possibly can."