Penn grad Whitmer providing relief in Midwest League

Penn High School graduate Chad Whitmer is pitching for the Class A Wisconsin Timber Rattlers in the Milwaukee Brewers organization. Whitmer was originally selected by the New York Yankees in 2017.

You don't have to tell former Penn High School baseball standout Chad Whitmer that professional sports is a business.

After graduating from Southern Illinois University, Whitmer went from the euphoria from being drafted by the New York Yankees in the 10th round in 2017 to a year later being traded to the Milwaukee Brewers organization.

"That was something else," said Whitmer about being drafted by the Yankees. "That was pretty crazy, especially being taken in day two of the draft. I didn't know that would happen. I didn't have an agent and I talked to my pitching coach at Southern Illinois (P.J. Finigan) and he said (the Yankees) were interested. It didn't compare to anything I've ever witnessed when I got drafted by them."

That joy was soon replaced by confusion after the trade took place.

"I kept telling myself, what did I do wrong?," Whitmer said. "Why is this happening to me? Why would they want to get rid of me?

"I was in Tampa about to leave for the Yankees short season team the next day. Then I got traded the night before. Someone from the Brewers organization called me and said I needed to go back home in Indiana so they could fly me to Helena, Montana where the short season rookie team was.

"I had a long time to think about it when I drove home from Tampa to South Bend. The more I talked to people the better I felt about the trade. People said a team wouldn't trade for someone they didn't want. 

"It was definitely a whirlwind of emotions and a lot to process at the time."

The 24-year old Whitmer pitched well in his one year in the Yankees organization in 2017. In 14 games-all in relief-Whitmer went 3-0 with a 3.79 earned-run average. Over 19 innings, Whitmer struck out 22 batters, walked only two, and allowed 24 hits.

Whitmer has continued to be a reliever in his two years in the Brewers organization. At the rookie level for the Helena Brewers in 2018, Whitmer went 3-3 with a 2.66 ERA over 22 games. Over 23 2/3 innings, he struck out 24, walked seven, and allowed 24 hits.

Promoted this year to the Class A Wisconsin Timber Rattlers and continuing just as a reliever, Whitmer has compiled a 6-2 record and a 3.64 ERA over 30 games. In 47 innings, he has fanned 42 batters, walked 11, and allowed 45 hits. 

"I would say it has been a long journey for me, even though it may seem short to others," Whitmer said about his professional baseball career. "Getting traded it feels like I've been all-around and seen a lot and done a lot. But, I wouldn't want it any other way.

"I think I've done allright this year. It's my first full year in long season baseball. I've had my ups and downs and had learning points during the season. It has been very good for my baseball career. I've learned a lot about myself and my strengths and weaknesses and what I need to work on."

Whitmer's most recent outing came on July 24th when he came out of the bullpen against the Cedar Rapids Kernels, which is a Class A affiliate of the Minnesota Twins. In 2/3 of an inning he allowed an unearned run, one hit, and walked two in picking up a loss in a 4-3 defeat.

"I was a little shaky," Whitmer said. "I hadn't thrown in four to five days and we were coming off an off day so I hadn't touched a baseball in awhile. But I don't want to make excuses. My command was a little off. I'll be better the next time out."       

The 2013 Kingsmen graduate has an assortment of pitches. He throws a fastball, which is a two-seam sinker, a slider, and a change-up.

"My slider is my out pitch," Whitmer said. "I get strikeouts and ground balls on that pitch."

Whitmer, who was mostly a starter in high school and a starter and reliever in college, was asked which role he preferred as a hurler.

"I'd have to say relieving because that's what I'm doing right now," Whitmer said. "Whatever they want me to do I'm going to do. I've been a reliever for three seasons and I've learned the ins and outs of preparing myself every day to pitch." 

Whitmer gave an interesting observation when talking about the differences between college and professional baseball.

"At some of the rookie levels it's a lot different when you come straight from college," Whitmer said. "You're facing 18 to 19-year old kids that are just out of high school. They're pretty aggressive hitters because they're so young. It seems like you take a step down from college ball, where players are more experienced and patient. You've got to get here and go through that first. Once you move up levels in the pros it flattens itself out and you see more experienced players."  

Finigan helped Whitmer when it came to adjusting to the different challenges presented by professional baseball. Finigan played in the minors for the Detroit Tigers. 

"Last fall when I went to finish my degree I was able to get an internship with P.J. Finigan and the Southern Illinois baseball team," Whitmer said. "P.J. and that coaching staff helped me prepare mentally and physically for the offseason."

Whitmer, who was an a three-time All-Northern Indiana Conference selection in high school and a two-time second team All-Missouri Valley Conference selection in college, will exhaust all his energy in his pursuit to be a major leaguer.

"I always wanted to do what I'm doing now before getting a real job and sitting behind a desk," Whitmer said. "I've played this game forever and I want to make it last as long as possible.

"They talk to us as a group (in the minors) not to give up and that you never know what can happen. That you never know when it might be your turn to go to the show for one night. They tell us to stay optimistic and never to remove (making it to the majors) from our thoughts. That there has been crazier stories than your typical first rounder that makes it." 

  

"I always wanted to do what I'm doing now before getting a real job and sitting behind a desk.'' Penn grad Chad Whitmer on pitching in the Milwaukee Brewers organization.

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