Richard Batman/Daily Journal/File Photo
Scott Feldman at CSM in March 2003.
College of San Mateo baseball coach Doug Williams views Texas Rangers pitcher Scott Feldman as the son he’s never had.
And right about now, Williams couldn’t be prouder of his former pupil. Feldman, a former Burlingame High and CSM product, made his second start ever in the Major Leagues in the Rangers’ 3-1 loss to the A’s in Oakland on Sunday — his first start in front of his hometown fans. Feldman pitched 6 1/3 solid innings, allowing three runs while striking out five. He took a three-hit shutout into the seventh only to be undone by a sun-aided double off the bat of Frank Thomas followed by his only big mistake of the game — a home run to Jack Cust.
Upwards of 100 family, friends and relatives were in attendance, including a large gathering of former CSM players. While Feldman didn’t get the result he wanted, undone by some bad luck, the 6-foot-6, 220-pound right-hander lived his dream — and how many people can say they’ve done that?
"Not many guys get a big league start in the backyard where they grew up,” Williams said. "That’s awesome and what a thrill. The Bulldog nation is rooting for him, and the great thing is he’s a guy who remembers his roots.”
Feldman, 25, spent a portion of his offseason working out at CSM, the place where for all intents and purposes he became a man. It seems like only yesterday when Feldman was baffling junior college hitters at CSM and leading the Bulldogs to back-to-back state Final Four appearances. By now, everyone knows Feldman’s story.
How he lost 40 pounds after graduating from Burlingame and transformed himself from an above average high school pitcher into the best pitcher in CSM history. How he made it to the majors despite undergoing reconstructive elbow surgery and being involved in a car accident within a year of getting drafted (it took him only two minor league seasons before he was called up to make his MLB debut on Aug. 31, 2005). Feldman’s meteoric ascent to the majors has been a storybook ride, containing all the elements of a feel-good story.
"The dream started off like any other kid,” Feldman told The Daily Journal shortly after one of his first big league outings. "You think about it as you were watching games in front of the TV, and you 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.”
Especially if your own coaches are pulling pranks on you. That’s what happened near the end of the ’06 spring training season, as Williams recalled a story Feldman told him. Feldman felt confident that he was going to make the 25-man roster, having pitched well in the exhibition season and at the end of the ’05 season. A week before opening day Feldman was called into manager Ron Washington’s office for the all-important announcement.
But for the first 10 minutes, Washington and the team’s pitching coach blabbered about how Feldman had a solid spring training but that he needed to work on some things. Feldman didn’t believe what he was hearing at first but after a while thought, "Holy smoke, I’m going down (to the minors).” All of a sudden, Washington busted out in laughter, unable to hold the joke any longer.
"Pack your bags rookie, you’re coming with us!” Washington said. The first time Feldman got called up, he walked into the Texas locker room with a sense of awe.
"The night before, I didn’t sleep a minute,” he said. "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.’”
Feldman’s career has had its ups and downs. After a couple of years out of the bullpen, Feldman finally got a chance to start this season, his preferred choice. Able to throw four pitches effectively — a 90-93 mph fastball, curve, slider and change-up — Feldman could find success in his new role.
"Ultimately he’s always wanted to start,” Williams said. "He’s comfortable in that role.”
While he’s enjoyed his time in the majors, Feldman is looking for a long-term stay. He’s been sent down and recalled from the Rangers’ Double-A affiliate a number of times, and the Rangers won’t be able to send him back down to Double or Triple-A too many more times.
"Something tells me he’ll be OK,” Williams said. "He went through an adjustment period experimenting with some different arm slots and angles, but ultimately he went back to the way he was throwing at CSM.”
Feldman has always been the humble sort, never one to think he’s better than anyone else. So how has 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.”