CWS hero Roth gets chance to pitch for Great Britain
Over the past couple years, Michael Roth turned in one of the most dominant collegiate pitching careers of all-time, won two College World Series titles and signed a contract with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.
Yet this week, Roth will have an opportunity to do something that he didn't even know was possible until recently -- pitch for Great Britain in the 2013 World Baseball Classic qualifiers in Regensburg, Germany.
Roth, whose mother was born in Kettering, England, technically has dual citizenship that allows him to represent his mother's native country in the Classic. The thought of pitching for Great Britain hadn't even crossed Roth's mind until last year, when he stumbled across the possibility while doing research for his international business degree.
"I honestly had no idea it was possible. I literally found out about a year ago that I was eligible for dual citizenship because of my English mother," Roth said. "I'm not really sure how [Great Britain] found out, but a coach contacted me in the middle of summer and asked if he could pass my information along to the Great Britain coach and asked if I was interested in playing, and I said, 'Yeah, sure, that'd be awesome.'"
However, even after the British Baseball Federation later extended an official offer to Roth, there was no guarantee he would be able to accept.
It certainly wasn't a matter of desire on Roth's part. The international business graduate always welcomes the opportunity to travel, so combining that with a chance to pitch on a stage as big as the Classic seemed like the opportunity of a lifetime to Roth.
"He's excited about new opportunities, new adventures," said Ray Tanner, Roth's college coach at the University of South Carolina. "When he found out he had a chance to represent Great Britain, he was off and running. That's just the way he is, he's really excited about this opportunity."
There still remained one major obstacle -- gaining permission from the Angels.
After drafting Roth in the ninth round of this past June's First-Year Player Draft, the Angels sent the southpaw to the Orem Owlz, the club's Rookie-level affiliate.
Though Roth logged 159 combined innings this year between Orem and South Carolina, the Angels allowed him to participate in this week's qualifiers on the condition of a 65-pitch limit.
"One of the things that I was worried about initially was -- because of the number of innings I'd thrown in college this year -- I was already on a limited pitch count when I reported to [Orem]," Roth said. "So I really didn't know if they'd let me go at all, but I just pitched it to them as a great opportunity to travel overseas and play some baseball and gain international experience. Luckily, the front-office guys were more than willing to let me go play, and here I am, ready to suit up Thursday for Great Britain."
Roth said the plan for now is to use him immediately following starter Chris Reed (a Los Angeles Dodgers prospect, also on a limited pitch count) in Thursday's opener against Canada. The other two teams in Great Britain's pool, Germany and the Czech Republic, will square off on Friday. The winner of this four-team, modified double-elimination qualifying pool will earn a spot in the field of 16 for the World Baseball Classic next March.
For now, Roth is simply focused on pitching in yet another big game Thursday.
The 22-year-old helped South Carolina to the 2010 College World Series title, and was then the winning pitcher in the '11 CWS-clinching game in Omaha, Neb. Overall, he finished 26-6 with a 1.91 ERA in 94 career appearances (44 starts) at South Carolina, including a 4-0 mark with a 1.49 ERA in his career at the College World Series.
"I've been blessed with some great opportunities, great coaches and great teammates," Roth said. "To be able to go and pitch on that stage at Omaha and be successful, then realize your dream of playing professional baseball has all been amazing.
"And now it continues here with Great Britain this week, so I really can't thank the people enough that have supported me through the successes and failures I've had."