When former KU student Ryan Vogelsong pitched his final game in a Golden Bear’s uniform, he most likely knew he had a long road ahead of him, (with aspirations to pitch in the MLB), but it would be a safe assumption that he had no idea of the journey he would be taking. Fourteen years later, Vogelsong recently found himself as one of the San Francisco Giants set to start a game in the 2012 World Series, but not before a long trip through both major and minor league American teams and a three year stretch in Japan with two separate teams.
Vogelsong had a historic career in his two years (three seasons) with the Golden Bears from 1997-1998, setting records for his 2.87 earned runs average (ERA), 24 wins (W) 16 complete games, 210.1 innings pitched (IP) and strike-outs (K).
Given his college success, it was no surprise that Vogelsong was drafted in the 5th round of the 1998 MLB draft by the San Francisco Giants. Vogelsong went on to make his minor league debut with the Salem-Keizer Volcanoes, a single-A team for the Giants. Two years later, he made his major league debut with the Giants in 2000.
Vogelsong’s journey between teams began in 2001, when he was traded to the Pittsburgh Pirates. There, he started two games but was benched for the next two years after having Tommy John surgery. He had his first complete season with the Pirates in 2004, in which he finished with a disappointing 6.50 ERA, and a 6-13 record as a struggling starter. Vogelsong went on to pitch in Pittsburgh for four more seasons, ending in 2006, with an ERA of 7.17 and a record of 10-19.
In 2007, Vogelsong made the 9,500 mile journey to Japan, when he was traded to the Hanshin Tigers. He pitched for Japanese teams for the next two years (2007-2009), with both the Tigers and the Orix Buffaloes.
In the off-season of the 2009 MLB season, Vogelsong saw not only a return to the United States, but to his former team’s state of Pennsylvania when he signed with the Philadelphia Phillies. The stay in the City of Brotherly Love was short lived, however, as he was released in July of 2010.
Vogelsong went on to sign a minor league contract with the L.A. Angels of Anaheim in 2010 but, in yet another short run with a team, was released at the end of the season.
His luck changed with that release when his first MLB team, the San Francisco Giants, offered him a new contract in 2011. He was signed to replace injured Giant Bary Zito, and by the end of the year he would not only improve as a player, but was one of five Giants to make the 2011 MLB National League All Star team.
In the two years since beginning his second round with the Giants, Vogelsong has used the experience of playing for several teams to shape himself into a truly reliable pitcher, with 27 W, a 3.05 ERA and 297 K. This season alone, Vogelsong has impressed even more, with a 2-0 record, and a 1.29 ERA in 14 IP. He was also awarded the 2011 Willie Mac Award for the Giants, which goes to the most inspirational player on the team.
The true measure of Vogelsong’s success came in the Giants’ World Series run, in which Vogelsong, who has affectionately become known as “Vogey” in San Francisco, finished the postseason 3-0 with an impressive 1.09 ERA in 24.2 IP. In his game 6 start of the National League Championship Series (NLCS), Vogelsong also broke his career record for strikeouts, with 9 K, and he also recorded 3 strikeouts in his game 3 start against Detroit in the World Series, which proved to be an important win in San Francisco’s sweep of Detroit.
By Nick Carson