In big league baseball, Remlinger '88 is quite a relief

by Elliot Olshansky | 4/22/03 5:00am

Editor's Note: This is the first in a series of articles profiling Dartmouth alumni in professional sports.

For Mike Remlinger '88, a road trip to New York used to mean taking the mound at Andy Coakely Field, a 300-seat venue tucked away in a corner of Columbia's Baker Field Athletic Complex.

Just over 15 years later, as another generation of Dartmouth baseball players prepares to make the trip to Coakely Field, Remlinger puts on his Chicago Cubs uniform in the visitors' clubhouse at Shea Stadium, preparing to take the mound against the New York Mets in front of 17,244 fans.

As far as he's come, however, Remlinger doesn't make much of the contrast. "Even when I went to play at school, this was always my goal," Remlinger told The Dartmouth in an interview before the Cubs' 6-3 victory over the Mets on April 3, a game in which Remlinger struck out one batter during the scoreless eighth inning.

"This" refers to a major league career that began with a three-hit shutout of Pittsburgh on June 15, 1991, and has gone on to include four Division Series, two National League Championship Series, the 1999 World Series and the 2002 All-Star Game.

As he begins the 2003 season with the Cubs, Remlinger has established himself as one of baseball's premier left-handed relief pitchers. Since the 1999 season, Remlinger has appeared in 291 games, the third highest total among southpaw relievers.

In those games, Remlinger has a 2.65 earned run average over 299.1 innings, both bests among southpaw relievers, and his 315 strikeouts are second only to Billy Wagner.

In truth, Remlinger hasn't slowed down since his days in Hanover when he led all college pitchers with a 1.59 ERA during his sophomore year, and competed with the U.S. National Team that summer. In 1987, Remlinger was selected as a first-team All American after leading the Big Green to the top of the Eastern Intercollegiate Baseball League, and he was drafted shortly thereafter by the San Francisco Giants.

Remlinger played for A- and AA-league teams that summer, forfeiting his NCAA eligibility, but the economics major returned to Dartmouth to complete his degree, and walked with his class in June of 1988.

As Remlinger was finishing his academic career at Dartmouth, the Big Green's other contribution to a 2003 major league roster, Brad Ausmus '91, was beginning his time at College.

"One of the winters I was back [at Dartmouth], he was going to school, so we got to know each other pretty well," Remlinger said of the Houston Astros' catcher.

Years later, Remlinger has had occasion to face Ausmus on the field, along with former teammate Mark P. Johnson '90 (who most recently played for the Mets during the 2002 season). However, for Remlinger, when a fellow Dartmouth alum steps to the plate, he's just another batter.

"There's no friendship on the field," Remlinger said. "It doesn't matter who's standing up there. If you're thinking about making more out of it because you know him, or want bragging rights, I just don't think that works."

Something certainly "works" for Remlinger: he went 7-3 with Atlanta in 2001, maintaining a 1.99 ERA in 73 appearances for the Braves. Remlinger's performance earned him a trip to Milwaukee for the All-Star Game, where he pitched two-thirds of an inning of the 11-inning tie, the first Midsummer Classic without a winner in 41 years.

Despite the game's controversial ending, Remlinger counts his All-Star experience among the highlights of his career, unmarred by the game's unpopular ending, or anything else, for that matter. "I tore a tendon in my foot, and that didn't tarnish it at all," Remlinger said.

Thus far in his career, Remlinger names the Braves as his favorite of the teams he's played with (in addition to Atlanta, San Francisco and the Cubs, Remlinger has suited up for the Mets and the Cinicinatti Reds). Remlinger's fondness for Atlanta was reciprocated in 1999, when he was honored with the Bill Bartholomay Award for outstanding community relations.

"Fans have always been important to me," Remlinger said of the award."To me, the size of the crowds isn't really as important as how into the game they are. But it's definitely a lot of fun to have a lot of people out there watching."

Remlinger certainly hopes to give the fans in Chicago something to watch. "I'm really looking for big things in Chicago," he said. "I'd like to think that my favorite team will have been the one that I win the World Series with."

If Remlinger were to help attain that feat in Chicago for the first time since 1908, the feeling would be a lot like Remlinger himself: "quite a relief!"