Wednesday, April 14, 2004
By Mike Ballard
Bob Diepold never had the chance to play a baseball game at Campbell’s Field during his collegiate career at Rutgers University-Camden.
The Scarlet Raptors’ assistant coach may finally be getting that opportunity after signing a contract with the Camden Riversharks of the Atlantic League of Professional Baseball. Diepold, who signed with the Riversharks Friday, will go to spring training with the team beginning April 19 at Campbell’s Field. That will give him the chance to make the team as a right-handed pitcher.
“It’s huge,” said Diepold, a former Camden Catholic High School star who had a standout three-year career with the Scarlet Raptors from 1999-2001. “It means you can play your game instead of worrying about getting a contract. It’s a huge step in the direction of what I want to do.”
Diepold, who graduated from Rutgers-Camden in 2003 with a degree in Sociology, is in his third year as an assistant coach under Head Coach Keith Williams. He joined the Scarlet Raptors during Williams’ first season in 1999 after transferring from Catawba College, and helped transform the Raptors from a last-place team to a contender in the New Jersey Athletic Conference. The Raptors went 7-49 over the first two years of Diepold’s career before turning the corner in 2001 by setting a school record for wins in a 21-15 campaign. That mark has since been broken.
“It’s a great opportunity for Bobby,” said Williams, whose club started using Campbell’s Field as its home park in 2002, one season after Diepold ended his collegiate career. “I think the Riversharks will be real happy with him. If we were stronger when he played, he would have had an opportunity (to get signed) out of school. He worked real hard and he wanted to get signed. He did everything he had to do.”
Instead of lamenting over his lost opportunities, Diepold went to work improving his game, his fitness and his chances for success. He has spent his summers playing for Cinnaminson of the Rancocas Valley League. He worked with Rutgers-Camden Director of Performance Enhancement Graig White to fine-tune his body, and he worked out over the winter with former Camden Catholic star Jonathan George, now a member of the Cincinnati Reds organization. George will be playing with the Class A Dayton Dragons this season.
“The last few years I matured a lot,” Diepold said. “I hit the weight room hard. I worked out with Graig White and he whipped me into shape. I’m a better athlete physically. I worked out with Jonathan George, playing long toss, throwing in the bullpen… The off-season workouts is where it’s at. I learned the most from Jonathan just working out with him and being around a pro athlete. I learn to step it up. He taught me how to be confident and play the game.”
Diepold could always play the game. As the ace pitcher on struggling Rutgers-Camden teams, he compiled a 5-14 record, including a no-hitter against St. Joseph’s-Patchogue (March 20, 1999). He also threw a no-hitter against the Netherlands in the Apeldoorn Baseball Series while playing for the USA Athletes International Baseball team during the summer of 2000.
In addition to pitching, Diepold also played first base at Rutgers-Camden and posted a .335 career batting average and a school-record 18-game hitting streak. Diepold earned All-NJAC Honorable Mention in 1999. As a Rutgers-Camden senior in 2001, he was named First Team All-NJAC and All-ECAC Metro, Second Team All-NJCBA Division II/III and All-ABCA Mid-Atlantic Region, the Raptors’ team MVP and the South Jersey Baseball Coaches Association Division III College Player of the Year. Yet despite his accomplishments, he didn’t get a professional offer.
Since his playing career ended, Diepold has worked with the team as a coach while finishing up his degree and working in the school’s athletic department.
“I was going to give it up after last year,” said Diepold, whose last outing in the RVL changed his mind. “I threw a pretty good game, a four-hitter, and I said I’d give it one more year and we’ll see what happens. If I failed I could say I gave it 110 percent. It’s hard to give it up when you’re working in the athletic department and have all the resources around you. Everyone around me supported me. I couldn’t have done it without my family and everybody supporting me.”
Roland George, Jonathan’s father and the brother of Colorado Rockies scout Will George, provided Diepold invaluable advice and contacts, and Diepold absorbed more information in his role as a Rutgers-Camden coach.
“I learned a lot more sitting and watching the games,” Diepold said. “I learned to pitch and to be wiser on the mound. Roland George taught me a lot, working on my mechanics. He got me looks with affiliated teams. He got me a look from (Riversharks General Manager) John Brandt.”
Diepold threw for Brandt and the Riversharks during the winter
“When I threw, he said they’d give me an opportunity,” Diepold said. “I still have to make the team.”
Now that he has the contract, Diepold may finally get his chance to play a game at Campbell’s Field. He’ll join the Riversharks for a dinner Sunday, then begin workouts on Monday as they prepare for their opening day May 6.
“He was determined,” Williams said. “He wanted to get himself to the point where he’d be signed. It’s a shame he didn’t get the opportunity out of school, but I understand their view. He was on a bad team, so he didn’t have the numbers. I think the Riversharks will be very pleased. He’s a local kid, he grew up in the area. It’s a win-win situation for all of us.”
“Hopefully, on May 6 I’ll be on the roster,” Diepold said. “I’m glad I didn’t give up. I received an opportunity and hopefully all the hard work will pay off.”
*Sacrifice flies not kept until 2001
Photos by Nancy L. Pope
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