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Anservitz chasing his baseball dream

Jul. 6—For Johnny Anservitz, the dream has always been to play professional baseball.

Whether the future holds that or not remains to be seen, but this summer the 2019 Lakeside graduate is getting a taste of what it’s like to simply work on the game he loves and nothing else everyday.

Anservitz, a pitcher for Notre Dame College in South Euclid, is spending his summer playing with the Wisconsin Rapid Rafters of the Northwoods Baseball League, an independent league consisting of teams throughout Michigan, Wisconsin and Minnesota and made up of players from all over the country .

“It’s just a summer league where a lot of college guys play,” he explained. “It’s 72 games in like 75 or 76 days, so it’s constant baseball.”

It’s constant baseball, but more importantly it’s also constant exposure. For players like Anservitz, who do not play for a Division I college power program, but still desire to chase the dream of one day playing in the majors, getting themselves in front of scouts and other baseball team representatives is vital.

“I’m trying to get myself out there a little more,” Anservitz explained. “A lot of guys get drafted through this league. It’s a good opportunity for guys that want to play at the next level.”

After graduating from Lakeside where he was the Dragons catcher, it appeared baseball was all but over for Anserviz. He attended Mercyhurst for three years and was on the team. There he was converted to a pitcher, but was not getting as much as opportunities went.

Looking for a chance to get back on the field though, he caught a break when he caught the eye of former Cleveland Indians pitcher and current Notre Dame head coach Len Barker.

Barker could tell that Anservitz was seen as a pitcher, but he also saw a fastball that consistently hit 91-93 mph.

“I saw him pitch in the Western Reserve Collegiate League and he pitched really well there,” Barker explained. “So, I wanted to get him here to see if we could develop him and see what we could do with him.”

It was an opportunity Anservitz said he immediately planned on taking full advantage of.

“He reached out to me and gave me a chance to play,” he said. “I took that up and now I’m looking to make the most of it.”

“He’s turned out to be a pretty good kid,” Barker said. “He works harder than anyone else here and he listens and he wants to learn. He’s just developing late as a pitcher because he hasn’t done it very much.”

It was an opportunity Anservitz said he immediately planned on taking full advantage of.

Anservitz inexperience on the mound though did show this past spring. In eleven starts for the Falcons, he went just 1-5 with a hefty 7.53 ERA. He did strike out 48 batters in 46 innings.

Although he knows his numbers from this past spring are not going to remind anyone of Cy Young, he still had the confidence to take on opposing hitters from the elevated levels of competition that the Northwood league offers.

“I’ve gotten to face a lot of Division I players from Power 5 schools, which is cool to compete against those guys because you wouldn’t during a regular D2 college baseball season,” he explained. “To match up against guys at that level and achieve and succeed, it makes you feel like you can play at any level.”

Barker said the league was the perfect place for him to not only develop his pitches, but also to get some exposure that he wouldn’t normally get.

“It’s a big opportunity for him to be there,” the coach said “They’ve had I think over 500 guys drafted in the last five years out of that league. So, he’ll get exposure from scouts and others. It was the perfect league for him to go to.”

Anservitz has worked out of the bullpen for the Raptors, typically getting one inning stints in relief.

“They don’t want to send guys back to school with their arms fried,” he explained. “So, it’s a smart system they use for pitching.”

So far this summer, (as of June 29th) he’s worked ten innings allowing four runs off nine hits. He’s struck out 13 and walked eight; a notable improvement from his college stat line.

Barker says the improvement is something he expects to carry over to next season.

“I’m looking for big things from him coming back next year,” the coach said. “He’s learning to pitch there and he’s developing his other pitches, which you just have to have to have to be successful. You can’t rely on just a fastball, you have to have two other pitches, the curveball, changeup, slider or something. “

The other element that the league is giving him is just a feel of what it’s like to play pro ball.

Anservitz said he’s at the ballpark for 7-8 hours a day. That’s for 72 days in less than three months. He has also become familiar with bus trips that can last up to eight hours and go all through the night.

“Sometimes it’s draining,” he said. “It’s a mental battle, but once you get to the ballpark that all just goes away and it’s a normal day.”

And it’s also something that he hopes becomes a normal day for a long time. Anservitz will be graduating after the fall semester with a degree in sports management, but his pitching arm is what he hopes is earning him a living before his degree does.

“I’d love to play professionally, I’ve done it all my life and that’s the reason I’m here,” he explained. “So, right now it’s pedal to the metal. I’ll go to plan B if I can’t reach plan A, but right now the goal is to keep playing baseball.”