Their Major League careers shared many parallels, nearly overlapping, but rarely intersecting. Ironically, it took one blurry eyed morning at Saint Stephen’s for Scott Sauerbeck and Scott Eyre to make the connection that has led them to their seats in the Falcons dugout.
“There weren’t that many left-handed relievers, so we knew of each other and played against each other,” Sauerbeck said.
“But I think we actually met – half asleep – on the Lower School playground when we were dropping off our kids one day,” Eyre added.
Now more than five years on from that meeting, the pair are fixtures on the bench for the Falcons. They bring to Saint Stephen’s a level of experience that few high school baseball programs can claim. Between them, Sauerbeck and Eyre boast 20 seasons of Major League service, more than 1,000 innings on the mound, and a World Series ring.
Sauerbeck made his Major League debut in 1999 and spent his first four and a half seasons with the Pittsburgh Pirates before being traded to the Boston Red Sox during the 2003 campaign. He also pitched for the Cleveland Indians and Oakland A’s prior to retiring in 2008. Sauerbeck was a workhorse out of the bullpen during his career, appearing in 471 games, compiling a 20-17 record, 3.82 ERA, and averaging more than a strikeout per inning pitched.
Eyre played 13 seasons with the Chicago White Sox, Toronto Blue Jays, San Francisco Giants, Chicago Cubs, and Philadelphia Phillies. The quirky left-hander made 617 big league appearances, which included leading the majors with 86 in relief for the Giants in 2005. Between the 2007-08 seasons, he set a Cubs franchise record that still stands by pitching in 33 straight games without allowing an earned run. Eyre was traded to the Phillies midway through 2008, and his season included making two relief appearances in the team’s World Series victory against the Tampa Bay Rays. He retired the following year with a 4.23 earned run average and 28-30 career record in 649.1 innings pitched.
The building process has been steady for Sauerbeck and Eyre during their tenure at Saint Stephen’s. Their blueprint is in place and while the early focus has been on developing fundamentals and basic baseball smarts, the 2016 team took a giant step forward.
After an overmatched 2015 in which they went 4-21, the Falcons finished 15-11 last season. The campaign included a six-game winning streak to finish the regular season and a 6-1 record in games decided by one run.
“We were really focused on changing the culture and were constantly preaching to them that when you’re part of a winning program, you expect to win every time you step out on the field. They started to figure it out this year,” Sauerbeck said.
“We’ve never been much about wins and losses. We always wanted them to play the game the right way because how they play is a reflection on us,” added Eyre. “We understand the game inside and out, and Scott’s always been very understated. But this team, when he challenged them, they really stepped it up.”
No one stepped up higher than pitcher Nick Runde. The senior right-hander, who has played for the Falcons since seventh grade, was 7-3 with a 1.51 earned run average. Those numbers got him selected all-state in class 3A. He credits his coaches with developing his game physically and mentally.
“They’ve been supportive throughout and you’d never know by talking to them that they were pros. But when I get into my bullpen session, that’s when you realize it. They showed me things I never would have thought about – pitch sequencing, pitching to a specific batter in the lineup. I never was better physically than other guys, but I learned how to analyze each at bat and that set me over the top.” Runde said.
Baseball is FHSAA sanctioned and is a spring season sport.