When the 2015 schedule for the Double-A Binghamton Mets came out for the first time, there was no secret what away dates were most important for 2007 Catonsville High graduate Adam Kolarek.
The southpaw relief pitcher, in his sixth minor league season in the New York Mets organization, wanted to know when the Mets would play at Prince George’s Stadium on the road against the Bowie Baysox, the Baltimore Orioles Double-A affiliate.
“Not only me, but my family, it’s the first thing we look at on the schedule, to see when the Bowie trip is because it’s great just getting an opportunity to play so close to home,” Kolarek said. “It’s tough for everybody, including my parents and friends, to make a trip elsewhere and just being able to come so close and just getting to see everybody, I’ve been very lucky to have it happen a couple times now.”
So the Kolarek family and his extended supporters of Catonsville area friends and fans can mark the dates of June 9, 10 and 11 for his return to his home state.
All games start at 6:35 p.m.
If his fan base is any bit as strong as it was in August of 2013 when Binghamton played at Bowie, expect roars of applause to sprout up throughout the stadium if he enters a game.
“That’s the tough part, everyone wants to know when I’m going to pitch,” said Kolarek, 26, who was drafted in the 11th round by the New York Mets in 2010 out of the University of Maryland.
If he does come in, fans can expect a new delivery.
“I kind of lowered my arm slot a little bit,” Kolarek said. “I started doing it in the beginning of May and it’s really helped me out a lot.”
Before making the change, he allowed 11 earned runs and 14 hits in five appearances covering seven innings.
He made the change and in his next eight appearances, spanning 15 innings, he didn’t allow a run and yielded just three hits, while walking two and striking out nine.
“It’s really kind of crazy how fast it started helping me,” said Kolarek, who noted his control was slightly off during his first tough outings. “I just wasn’t hitting my spots and I was just kind of getting frustrated with it because you never want to start off the season on a bad note so I really just kind of tried it.”
He had fooled around with the lower arm angle while playing catch on the sidelines, but it was his decision to try it out in a game.
“I just felt the need personally to just try to find that little something that was going to make a difference for me, kind of set me apart as far as having a little bit more run on the ball and more sink and that’s really what it has been,” he said. “For whatever reason, I can’t really explain it, but it felt natural from the beginning.”
Opposing hitters saw a two-seam fastball with movement, which he didn’t throw when he threw straight over the top when he relied on the four-seam fastball.
“I always tried to throw a two-seamer over the top, but I just never had much of a feel for it, and with the lower arm slot, it’s more of a natural spot for the movement,” he said.
It has also cleared his mind of some of the other mechanics that go into pitching.
“It’s taken my head away from thinking about 10 other things, my leg lift or where my hands are separating from my glove, just little stuff like that,” he noted.
His earned run average was 14.14 after his first five appearances. It dropped all the way to 4.50 after his next eight outings.
One of his strongest efforts during that scoreless stretch came on April 29 when he pitched three innings and earned a victory. while allowing only one hit in an 8-3 win at Portland. In that game, 24 of his 34 pitches were strikes.
The 6-foot-3, 205-pound Kolarek notched his first save of the season on May 16 when he allowed only one hit in three innings in a 6-1 win over New Hampshire.
He threw 47 pitches, including 27 for strikes. The only batters that reached did so on an infield hit and throwing error.
Through June 2, Kolarek had allowed 26 hits in 26 1/3 innings and struck out 20. He has a 1-1 record and one save.
Binghamton, the defending Eastern League champions, is currently in fourth place in the Eastern Division of the Eastern League. They are five games out of first place and two out of second.
“We got off to a pretty good start again, but we’ve scuffled a little bit over the past 10 games,” he said.
“We have a lot of younger guys on the team this year, a lot of first-year Double-A players, but they are all very talented,” Kolarek said. “I think it will be a matter of time before we hit our stride.”