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Feldman earns his stripes
August 18, 2006, 12:00 AM By Emanuel Lee, Daily Journal Staff

Even though Texas Rangers reliever Scott Feldman has pitched several innings since making his professional debut last year, the former Burlingame High and College of San Mateo standout got his official initiation into the MLB on Wednesday in the Rangers' 9-3 win over the Anaheim -- check that, Los Angeles -- Angels.

In the ninth inning, Feldman deliberately hit Adam Kennedy, triggering a bench-clearing brawl. Kennedy charged the mound, but Feldman was up to the challenge, tossing his glove aside and throwing a haymaker that barely grazed Kennedy's armpit. It's a good thing Feldman isn't a boxer, because of the six or so punches he attempted, he landed one -- a Kleenex-soft uppercut at that.

The basebrawl was replayed countless times on all the highlight shows. While Feldman never thought he'd make headlines this way, the fact of the matter is, he was an innocent bystander caught up in this godforsaken mess. He was only "protecting" his teammates, and was probably given orders by his manager or teammates to plunk an Angel. For a young pitcher, the task could be daunting. Just look at how Chicago White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen berated two of his pitchers a month ago when they failed to hit opposing batters. One of them was veteran Jon Garland, and the other was a rookie who was sent down immediately to the minors after failing to carry out the deed.

Feldman had no qualms about delivering the goods, and he gained instant credibility and respect among his teammates by plunking Kennedy square in the buttocks. Wednesday's uprising was the boiling point in the heated Rangers-Angels rivalry. The bad feelings started nearly two weeks ago, and only escalated with each passing game. CSM coach Doug Williams was driving home Wednesday night when he was inundated with call after call to his cell phone. Once he got home, Williams replayed the highlight a number of times, and offered a glimpse into Feldman's mental make-up.

"I heard the Texas catcher came out today and publicly backed Scott Feldman because he stood up for us and that's what the young man is all about," Williams said. "The announcer said, 'He even punches like he throws -- sidearm and under-hand.' To be honest, Scott Feldman isn't going to back down from anybody. This guy is 23-years-old, and young players always talk about doing what he did. But to actually expect that -- and I'm not condoning fighting at all, but there are certain things expected of you at the major league level -- and to be able to actually do it and carry it out says a lot about him. Scott is not afraid. He's got that certain intangible that's allowed him to make it to the highest level."

Feldman is a cold-blooded assassin, and I mean that in a good way. After watching him pitch countless times when he was at CSM, I marveled at his poise, mental toughness and cutthroat determination. If you're going to make it to the majors, you better possess all those traits, along with some exceptional physical gifts. Williams never misses a Feldman pitch because he has his computer at home set up to record every Texas game. After seeing Wednesday's melee, Williams recalled his own involvement in a baseball brouhaha.

In 1989, Williams was a member of a UC-Santa Barbara team that was playing a night game at rival UC-Irvine. Williams was on-deck when his teammate collided with the Irvine first baseman, igniting a no-holds barred brawl that delayed the game for 40 minutes. During the pile-up, Steve Pratt, Williams' teammate, lifted an Irvine player off the pile and, as Williams said, "simply annihilated him." Pratt's dad was videotaping the incident, and on the audio you could hear him say, "That's my boy!"

"I'm sure that's how Marsh Feldman (Scott's dad) felt last night," Williams said. "You certainly don't want to see violence, but Scott was in a situation and he handled it well."

Baseball is a funny game. Show any emotion, and you're accused of showing up the other team. Hit one of our own batters, even if it's not intentional, and expect payback. The Boston Red Sox seem to be the ultimate bush league team in that regard. Players are expected to live up to baseball's unwritten rules and codes. On Wednesday, Feldman proved he has what it takes to enjoy a long career in the majors.

Emanuel Lee can be reached by e-mail: emanuel@smdailyjournal.com or by phone: (650) 344-5200 ext. 109. What do you think of this story? Send a letter to the editor: letters@smdailyjournal.com.<


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