Hard work paying off for All-Star Sherrill

Hard work paying off for All-Star Sherrill

NEW YORK -- Orioles closer George Sherrill is the perfect role model for players who play in baseball's independent leagues. He is living proof that one can make it to the Majors with enough work.

After graduating from Austin Peay State, Sherrill played with the Evansville Otters of the Frontier League and the Sioux Falls Canaries and Winnipeg Goldeyes of the Northern League for five years and never gave up on reaching the Majors. Why? When he didn't play baseball, Sherrill worked for UPS and a training facility. Neither job satisfied him, so he decided that baseball was one of the few things he loved.

"I love going to the ballpark every day and playing baseball," Sherrill said.

Working hard eventually paid off for Sherrill. In 2004, he made his Major League debut with the Mariners and became a successful setup man and left-handed specialist.

Last February turned out to be the turning point for Sherrill's career. He ended up being part of one of the blockbuster deals of the offseason, as Sherrill was one of five players to be traded to the Orioles for left-hander Erik Bedard.

While Bedard has spent a good portion of this year on the disabled list, Sherrill is one of the best closers in the American League. He already has 28 saves and is on pace to break Randy Myers' team record of 47 saves.

Sherrill was rewarded last Sunday when Red Sox manager Terry Francona named him to be part of the AL All-Star team.

"It's a long trip and it's a little overwhelming at times, but it really means a lot," Sherrill said about his long journey and being an All-Star. "[My advice to players in the independent leagues is] just keep playing. Keep working hard, keep plugging away. If I can do it, anybody can do it.

"It's just a matter of being seen and being at the right place at the right time. It worked out for me. I pinch myself every day. It's an honor to put on the uniform everyday. It still hasn't sunk in to be named [to the All-Star team]. It was a really good feeling."

Sherrill will be playing alongside 10 closers, including Yankees right-hander Mariano Rivera -- and Sherrill plans to soak up all of the advice he can get from the ninth-inning guys.

The 79th Major League Baseball All-Star Game will be televised nationally by FOX, in Canada by Rogers Sportsnet and Sportsnet HD and televised around the world by Major League Baseball International, with pregame ceremonies beginning at 8 p.m. ET. ESPN Radio will provide exclusive national radio coverage that will also be available on XM Satellite Radio, while MLB.com will provide extensive online coverage.

When Spring Training started, Orioles manager Dave Trembley told Sherrill that the team was looking at him as their closer. Instead of accepting being the odds-on favorite for the role, Sherrill said, "Let me earn the role." He had that attitude because he remembered that he usually had poor Spring Trainings with the Mariners.

But this Spring Training turned out to be different. He gave up two runs in 10 innings and didn't walk a batter.

"I had a pretty good spring for once, so it took a little pressure off of them to go ahead and call me the closer," Sherrill said. "I really didn't know what to expect going in. I had done it in Triple-A. It's not the big leagues."

Sherrill did the job in the big leagues. His best month came in May, when he had a 2.25 ERA and seven saves. However, he has struggled in recent weeks. Sherrill has seen his ERA rise from 2.73 on June 13 to 4.08 at the All-Star break. During that period, he has blown four of his past five save opportunities.

"I haven't been pitching well in the last three weeks. So, I guess, as I go, we go," Sherrill said. "I'll start coming in and stop making things so interesting."

No matter what happens to Sherrill the rest of the season, he has proved to players in independent leagues that hard work pays off.

Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.