Reusse: Auggies pitcher unusual, even for a lefty

  • Article by: PATRICK REUSSE , Star Tribune
  • Updated: April 22, 2012 - 2:50 PM

Jeff Boresz is 5-6, served four years in the Air Force and survived a brain tumor before arriving at Augsburg.

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Jeff Boresz has proven himself a valuable reliever for Augsburg, which is making a run for the MIAC title.

Photo: Bruce Bisping, Star Tribune

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Keith Bateman is the Augsburg baseball coach. He received an e-mail to his augsburg.edu account in the summer of 2008. The message from Jeff Boresz was sent without much regard for spelling or punctuation.

Boresz also failed to mention a few facts that might have given pause to a college baseball coach: That he was already 21, that he stood 5 feet 6 and that he recently had a large benign tumor removed from his brain.

"There was one sentence in the e-mail that caught my eye: 'I'm a lefthanded pitcher,'" Bateman said. "As they say, 'Lefthanded and breathing ...'"

Bateman responded with an e-mail suggesting to Boresz that he stop at the baseball office, if and when he made it to the Augsburg campus.

"I never saw him," Bateman said. "We started fall baseball in 2008 and he wasn't around."

Boresz showed up in Bateman's office on a winter day. He explained that his financial aid -- through the military -- had been delayed and he had been unable to enroll in the fall.

"I didn't know what was going on," Bateman said. "His original e-mail hadn't said anything about being in the military. Didn't make any difference, but I don't see a lot of guys who want to start a college athletic career after four years in the military."

NCAA regulations prevented Bateman from giving a tryout to Boresz. The coach gave him the contact information for Craig (Hank) Henry, the Auggies' catcher and a captain. Boresz was able to throw to Henry.

"I was a pretty good reliever in high school, but basically, I hadn't thrown a baseball in four years," Boresz said.

Bateman asked for Henry's opinion at the start of spring practice. "Hank said [Boresz] was as raw as could be but that he threw fairly hard," Bateman said.

Henry also was able to confirm that Boresz was lefthanded.

"You should have seen him when we started practice that spring," Bateman said. "Jeff had this big windup, where he swayed back in his delivery, then kind of lunged forward. But most of the time his front foot would hit the ground before his arm started forward. He was flying all over on the mound."

So, what you're saying, Coach, is that Jeff Boresz as a Division III freshman was a shorter version of Francisco Liriano?

"You said that, not me," Bateman said.

Boresz grew up in the Cleveland area. His grandfathers served in World War II. His father was in the Army and then had a career in the Euclid, Ohio, police department.

"The military was a family tradition and so was police work," Boresz said. "I enlisted to the Air Force to be an MP."

Boresz was stationed at the air base in Minot, N.D. The main job was guarding the 150 Minutemen ICBMs that remain on the North Dakota prairie.

During free time, Boresz and a friend were practicing a few WWE wrestling moves. Jeff was dropped on his head and passed out. He was checked and the brain tumor was detected.

The tumor was benign, but so large that it had to be removed. The surgery took place in Cleveland.

After his recovery, Boresz served out his enlistment in Minot. He had met a woman there. She was attending the University of Minnesota when Boresz was discharged in 2008.

"I used to ride Amtrak down here on weekends to see her," Boresz said. "I was looking for a college to attend, and she told me there was a school right next to the university."

That was Augsburg. Boresz was able to sort out the red tape for his college aid through the military, landed a job shoveling walks and mowing grass with the Augsburg facilities department, and will graduate next fall with a degree in sociology.

And in an upset, Boresz became a valuable reliever for Augsburg as a junior in 2011. He has been relied on again this spring as the Auggies seek to reach the MIAC's four-team postseason playoff.

"Jeff has gotten hurt by hanging a few changeups this spring, but, overall, he's been a pretty good pitcher for us the last couple of seasons," Bateman said.

Which is more than the Twins can say about Francisco Liriano.

(Note: That's my gratuitous shot, not Keith Bateman's.)

Patrick Reusse can be heard noon-4 weekdays on 1500-AM. preusse@startribune.com

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