Inside USD

A.J. Griffin Pitches in at USD Baseball Camp

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Last month A.J. Griffin was performing on Major League Baseball’s grandest stage — the pressure-packed postseason — and in a pivotal role as a starting pitcher for the Oakland Athletics.

On Monday, Griffin, a standout four-year starter/closer for the Toreros from 2007-10, returned to campus, stood in front of a group of baseball players, ages 7 to 12, and once again, delivered.

Griffin, a San Diego native, gave a short, inspiring speech to the 50 or so Future Stars of USD Baseball Camp participants. The 6-foot-5, 230-pound right-hander then signed hats, jerseys, gloves and baseballs, posed for photos and engaged in friendly small talk with the campers.

Griffin, 24, talked about the importance of doing well in school and the role that education plays in developing a well-rounded person. When he got to the topic of baseball, his advice for “playing this awesome game” was simple: always have fun. “Are you having fun?” he asked. The campers, in unison, enthusiastically replied, “Yes!”

As a Torero, Griffin was a dependable starter and closer. A four-time All-West Coast Conference selection, he finished with 28 career saves, including a then-program record 14 his sophomore year (2008). He recorded 11 saves as a freshman. He posted consecutive 8-3 overall records as a starter his junior and senior year. USD won WCC titles in three of his four seasons and made three NCAA Tournament appearances.

His appearance on Monday at USD provided a flashback to his own childhood as he got to connect with young athletes, something USD Baseball Coach Rich Hill’s teams routinely do through skills camps in the local community.

“I remember going to a baseball camp at El Capitan High when I was younger,” Griffin said. “It was a lot of fun. It’s always great to come back to USD and it means a lot to me to give back to the kids.”

Griffin wasn’t asked any questions about what it takes to be a major league baseball player, but 2012 certainly turned into his own major-league education platform, including his first postseason exposure of any kind since he played at USD.

Griffin made his major-league debut with the A’s on June 24 in a spot start against San Francisco. He didn’t didn’t factor into the decision, but pitched well enough to earn another start. And another. And another. Soon, he was a key cog in the A’s starting rotation.

He contributed mightily to Oakland’s late-season run to the American League West Division title, even starting the regular-season finale against the Texas Rangers that decided the division winner. Griffin started only one postseason game, a Game 4 A’s victory in its AL Division Series against Detroit to force a fifth and deciding game. Although Detroit went on to win the series, Griffin had made his case to stick with the major-league club.

Griffin finished his first season with a 7-1 record and a 3.06 earned-run average in 15 major-league starts. He walked 19 and struck out 64 in 82-1/3 innings. His performance, he said, gives him confidence this offseason heading into 2013 as a member of the A’s major-league roster.

“I want to keep working, do what I can to stay up there as long as I can, have fun and enjoy it,” said Griffin, who was sporting a blonde moustache during his USD appearance.

Griffin answered the call when Oakland needed him to contribute this season. When his college alma mater sought his help this week, once again, he delivered.

— Ryan T. Blystone

Read more about Griffin and another former USD baseball standout, Baltimore Orioles pitcher Brian Matusz, and their respective 2012 seasons in a recent article

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