Losing his eligibility to play in Division I may have saved Greg Ross's professional baseball career.
Towson University accepted the Loch Raven High graduate after standout sophomore season at Community College of Baltimore County-Essex, but when he went to enroll in the fall 2009, he was told problems with a high school transcript wouldn't allow him to join the Tigers the following spring.
"I would have lost a year," Ross said. "I couldn't even redshirt. I would have be OK with that, but in the end the school didn't work out. I actually thought of giving up baseball."
Instead, the standout pitcher took another tack and decided to attend Frostburg State University, the school from which the Atlanta Braves picked him in the 18th round in the 2011Major League Baseball draft.
Ross, 21, is making the most of the opportunity, enjoying plenty of success with the Danville (Va.) Braves, a rookie Class A team in the Appalachian League.
The 6-foot-3, 205-pound Ross is 3-0 with a 3.10 ERA, having struck out 21 batters in 20.1 innings while yielding 18 hits and walking six batters.
"He has been a very nice surprise," Danville pitching coach Gabe Luckert said of Ross, who has been used a starter and reliever. "He has four pretty solid pitches. When we get guys in their first year of pro ball, they usually have two or three pitches."
Ross picked up wins in three of the four games he pitched. He improved to 2-0 when he gave up no runs and two hits while fanning five in 3.1 innings in a 27-6 rout of Burlington.
His third win came in a 6-2 win over Bluefield when he yielded two runs and four hits in five innings while striking out six.
"He is very mature," Luckert said. "On the days he pitches, he is more intense, very focused and concentrates well on what he is doing. He is hard on himself when he pitches. He wants to perform. He is pretty serious about his job, but he enjoys it at the same time."
Ross said there is a simple reason for his success: Throwing strikes.
That's what he has been doing well with his curveball, slider, change-up and a fastball that consistently reaches 88 to 90 miles per hour.
"What is the best way to get through the system and to the big leagues? Consistency," Ross said. "That's what I have really been trying to do. Spot my fast ball, use all my pitches, and just go after people."
Ross understands getting promoted in the pitching rich Braves system won't be easy. After all, all five starters in the Danville rotation have more professional experience than he does.
"I have been working as hard as I can, and you want to move up the ranks as fast as you can," Ross said. "Some guys have already been moved up to Single-A Rome (Ga.), but I think I have just as good numbers as them. I think it's the politics of what round you got drafted, who is your scout, and stuff like that."
Ross became the first Frostburg State player drafted since 1978 after dominating as a senior, going 11-2 with a 1.49 ERA. He worked 90.2 innings and struck out 112, which broke a 39-year-old school record.
"We lost in the championship during my junior year and I set my mind to work my butt off," Ross said. "And I realized this is my last shot for fulfill my dream. I wanted to be the best guy in Division III."
Loch Raven High baseball coach John Railey said Ross talked often about getting ahead in the professional ranks.
"He set his sights back in high school that he wanted to be a pro ball player," Railey recalled. "He had the size, determination and skill."
And now, Ross has the confidence to continue to blossom.
"I have always wanted to do this since I was a kid," Ross said. "I am finally here. I'm taking it all in. It's a lot of fun."Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun