There are moments on the College of San Mateo campus when time stops, and members of the baseball team feel like they're floating on air and living in a dreamworld.
Such a moment occurred on Monday, as Bulldogs coach Doug Williams and a number of assistant coaches and players gathered around a projection screen in the baseball office to watch former CSM great Scott Feldman pitch on Major League Baseball's opening day.
Feldman, a 2001 Burlingame High graduate, tossed 1 2/3 innings of relief and allowed two hits and a run in the Texas Rangers' 7-3 loss to the Boston Red Sox. As Williams described watching his former star player over the phone, you could sense the pride in his voice and picture the glowing smile on his face.
"It's unbelievable hearing the announcer say Manny Ramirez is on deck and Scott Feldman is pitching," Williams said. "We delayed practice for half an hour, and 32 Bulldogs had to sit and wait, but it was well worth it. I had 10 people call me the moment he came in to pitch, and players here are jumping in trying to get a look. Whenever he's pitching, the world pretty much stops around here for a while."
As well as it should. Feldman's meteoric ascent to the majors has been a storybook ride of epic proportions, containing all the elements of a feel-good story.
"The dream started off like any other kid," Feldman said. "You'd think about it as you were watching games in front of the TV, and you'd think about it playing in the neighborhood park with your friends. You always hope, but you just don't know if it's ever going to happen."
If someone said, five years ago, that Feldman would one day make it to the majors, most people would have snickered. After all, Feldman, a 6-foot-6, 220-pound right-hander, was known more for his hitting than his pitching during high school. He was also overweight, something he's not remotely sensitive about. But in a span of only five years, Feldman transformed himself into a bona-fide major leaguer.
He lost 40 pounds from the time he graduated high school to his freshman season at CSM, where he put up numbers that were simply out of this world. In two seasons, he went 25-2 (his only losses were in the state final four), had an unreal strikeout-to-walk ratio of 8 to 1, and a 1.30 ERA. It's no wonder Williams calls Feldman the greatest pitcher in CSM history, better than former major leaguers Bob McClure and former World Series MVP John Wetteland. The 23-year-old sensation credits his time on the hilltop as the turning point of his career.
"I owe so much to Doug and Schef (CSM pitching coach Steve Schefsky) and Geis (Feldman's former Millbrae Joe DiMaggio coach, Eric Geiseker)," Feldman said. "At CSM, that's where I was able to take my game to the next level."
Feldman was drafted in the 30th round of the 2003 MLB Draft, but signed with the Rangers after they offered him "6th-round money." His professional career actually got off to a rocky start after he had to undergo reconstructive elbow surgery that October, which limited him to four appearances in '04 in the Arizona League.
Feldman didn't miss a beat, making a rapid rise through the Rangers' minor league farm system. He started the '05 season at single-A Bakersfield before getting promoted to Double-AA Frisco after impressive stints at both levels. After being called up twice to the big league team near the end of last year -- Feldman didn't make an appearance in his first stint -- he made eight relief appearances and went 0-1 with a 0.96 ERA.
Feldman is the same pitcher at the major league level as he was at CSM, only better. He's primarily a fastball-slider pitcher. His slider has extreme downward movement that saws off the bats of right-handed hitters. Feldman's mental make-up is the stuff of legend -- one moment, he's the happy go-lucky type, but once he goes into game mode, his entire identity changes, a la Peter Parker becoming Spiderman.
"To make it to the majors, you have to be able to flip that switch," Williams said. "He's a fun-loving, charismatic guy who can be a goofball at times, but also the guy in the dugout with his head down who comes out with a killer instinct and focus. It's amazing to see the things he's doing. There's no stopping him. His movement and command are exactly the same as it was at CSM. Major League guys are swinging at it just like the JC guys did a few years ago. The only difference now is Schefsky and I aren't calling the pitches. Scott has earned everything he's got, but having said all that, sometimes you have to shake your head and say to yourself, Iis this really happening?'"
The first time Feldman got called up last year, he walked into the Raners' locker room with a sense of awe: "The night before, I didn't sleep a minute. I didn't know what to expect, but when I walked in, I saw a lot of the guys I had seen on TV all these years, and was like, 'Holy cow, I'm in the big leagues.'"
Williams calls Feldman a "big leaguer who hasn't big-timed anyone." That more than anything speaks to the integrity of Feldman's character. He's always been the humble sort, never one to think he's better than anyone else. So how much has Feldman's life changed? Well, with the exception of making pizza deliveries, unloading cases and kegs of Budweiser and working for a valet parking company -- jobs he all did as a teenager -- not much.
"I'm the same guy," Feldman said. "I'm not going to change and I don't even want to think about that because that would be the worst. I couldn't imagine that. Right now, I'm just enjoying it all. It's a dream come true, and looking back, I would be disappointed if I didn't make it. I just had no idea it would happen this fast."
Emanuel Lee can be reached by e-mail: email@example.com or by phone: (650) 344-5200 ext. 109. What do you think of this story? Send a letter to the editor: firstname.lastname@example.org.<