Cole Sulser ’12 gets called up to play for the Tampa Bay Rays

by Eric Vaughn | 9/20/19 2:00am

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Cole Sulser ’12, a standout pitcher for the Big Green, was called up to the big leagues in time for the postseason.

Source: Richard Lewis/Courtesy of the Dartmouth Athletics Department

Cole Sulser ’12, the 29-year-old former Dartmouth right-handed pitcher, was called up to the Tampa Bay Rays of Major League Baseball after a seven-year stint in the minor leagues. He played his first game on Sept. 2 and through six solid games, has made his case to be on the team’s potential playoff roster.

Sulser joins fellow classmate Kyle Hendricks ’12 as standout pitchers who made it to the major leagues, exemplifying Dartmouth’s ability to develop players that can succeed at the next level.

 Dartmouth head coach Bob Whalen said he was extremely excited to see Sulser fulfill his lifelong dream.

“Everybody that has ever recruited him, coached him, played with him, is just happy for him because he’s entirely deserving of this opportunity,” Whalen said. “He’s passionate about baseball, and he’s passionate about school. He just did everything right — he’s not just a talented player, he’s also a great teammate. Everyone respected him, and he always put the team and program first.”

 Sulser showed immense potential at Dartmouth and throughout his seven years in the minors building up to this moment. Sulser, who is originally from Santa Ysabel, CA, had a fantastic career donning the green and white. He was a part of two Ivy League championship teams and held a stellar individual record of 20-6, including a remarkable 8-0 sophomore campaign. Sulser also averaged nearly a strikeout per inning and a 1.18 WHIP, earning All-Ivy honors three times, including making the first team his junior year. 

 Sulser’s road to the MLB has been anything but easy after he was selected by Cleveland Indians in the 25th round of the draft. Sulser had to overcome two Tommy John surgeries, one during his senior year of college and another which forced him to miss the entire 2015 season after pitching in the last game of the previous season on short rest. His road to the MLB was even tougher than most fans would anticipate, Whalen said.

“I don’t think people really know how tough it is to move to the MLB,” Whalen said. “There’s so much that goes into that life. Very few people would have the perseverance — particularly with a Dartmouth engineering degree — to say, you know, I’m going to stick with it.”

 For the most recent season, Sulser pitched for the Triple-A International League’s Durham Bulls for the Rays after he was traded previously that year by the Indians. He thrived with a 3.27 ERA and held opposing batters to just a .208 batting average. Once again, his command was one of his strong suits, as he had a nearly four-to-one strikeout to walk ratio.

 “Sulser combined great arm strength and velocity with command,” Whalen said. “He for the most part could put the ball where he wanted it to go, particularly with his slider and his fastball. His numbers were crazy.”

 With his debut in September, Sulser became just the third player from Dartmouth this decade to play in the MLB and the 31st Big Green alumnus to make it to the big show. Hendricks and Ed Lucas ’04 are the only two other Dartmouth alums this decade, putting Sulser in rare company.

Sulser’s debut is a testament to Dartmouth’s success as a program in developing talent, especially pitching. In addition to these three players, Dartmouth boasts alums such as Los Angeles Angels manager Brad Ausmus ’91 and Jimmie Lee Solomon ’78, who used to serve as the executive vice president of baseball operations and was described by Black Enterprise Magazine as “one of the most influential African-Americans in the business of sports.” Former players also include four-time All-Star and five-time World Series champion Red Rolfe ’31 as well as Pete Broberg ’72, Jim Beattie ’76, Mike Remlinger ’88 and Mark Johnson ’90.

Before his debut, Sulser tried to not let the gravity of the moment affect him.

“I was just trying not to get too emotional in the moment,” Sulser said to the Tampa Bay Times. “It was awesome having everyone from the team come up and tell me congratulations.” 

Sulser is not the only Dartmouth alum in his family with aspirations to play in the MLB. Beau Sulser ’17 was the former Ivy League Pitcher of the Year and was drafted in the 10th round of the MLB Draft by the Pittsburgh Pirates and is currently in Double-A.

Since his debut, Sulser has been solid in limited playing time. Sulser has played in six games and pitched in 6.1 scoreless innings. He’s only surrendered five hits and has only walked two batters, striking out seven as well. 

Additionally, Sulser has improved with each outing. In his past four games, he allowed three hits and combined for six strikeouts through 4.1 innings. 

 Sulser’s debut and Dartmouth’s success overall professionally has made a great impact, even on the current players. Starting pitcher Justin Murray ’22 said that pitchers like Sulser are great role models for everyone on the team.

“Being a part of this program, it’s fun to follow the success of former players and it pushes us to work hard to hopefully reach that level someday,” Murray said. “It’s clear that Sulser has worked very hard over the last couple of years, and I hope to see him continue to succeed.”

The team hopes to use Sulser’s and other alums’ success in the MLB as motivation this year to continuously improve themselves and sustain Dartmouth’s success on the national stage.