By Drew Karpen
April 11, 2013 7:00 a.m. —
Jay Tessmer went from a teenage kid with a funky delivery pitching on a mound at Cochranton High School to a successful man with the same sidearm delivery pitching in front of thousands of fans on the brightest stage for the New York Yankees.
Not a bad transformation.
“To play baseball in New York was hard to put into words,” Tessmer said. “The tradition there is unbelievable. It was special for me.”
After becoming one of the top pitcher’s in Crawford County — Tessmer was named to three All-County teams from 1987-90 — he attended the University of Miami.
Tessmer’s baseball career at Miami was a short but successful one. It was so successful that he just received ‘The Call’, and will be one of seven members inducted into the UM Sports Hall of Fame this year.
The 45th Annual Induction Banquet is tonight at Jungle Island in Miami.
“I was shocked,” Tessmer said about getting the call. “It just came out of the blue. To be considered for the Hall is exciting for me.”
After failing to walk-on the Hurricanes’ roster the first two years, Tessmer received a twist of fate as Miami changed their coaching personnel. During Tessmer’s junior year, Jim Morris came over from Georgia Tech and became the Hurricanes’ new coach.
“Jim (Morris) had a whole different philosophy on walk-ons,” Tessmer said. “I had a good fall ball and was able to make the team that spring.”
In his junior year, Tessmer accepted the setup role in the bullpen. It didn’t take long for him to get comfortable, as he started his career with 30 scoreless innings.
Tessmer’s first collegiate save came in the College World Series that year after the Hurricanes’ closer, Danny Graves, was injured. Graves — who went on to play 13 seasons in the major leagues and finished with 182 saves for his career — graduated after Tessmer’s junior year.
Tessmer finished his first year as a Hurricane second in the nation with a 1.16 ERA.
With Graves departure, Tessmer solidified the closer role in his senior year. He was a first-team Collegiate Baseball All-American as a senior after collecting 20 saves — tied for second-most in school history — and posting a 1.31 ERA to lead the Hurricanes back to the College World Series. Tessmer’s ranks second in school history with a career ERA of 1.24. He also holds the UM record for fewest walks per 9 innings (1.42 average) and has the second-most appearances by a pitcher in a season — 45 in 1995. Tessmer finished his career fifth with 23 saves. He was also named the Coral Gables Regional MVP in his senior year.
After Miami, Tessmer continued his baseball career at the professional level. Tessmer was drafted by the New York Yankees in the 19th round.
He started his professional career in the team’s Single-A affiliate in Oneonta, New York. His side arm deliver proved to give hitters even at the professional level some trouble. In his first year, Tessmer pitched 38 innings with two wins and a 0.95 ERA.
“My style of pitching was conducive to my role,” Tessmer said. “You don’t see a lot of guys that throw side arm become starters.”
Tessmer’s success continued in his following season when he moved up to the Tampa Bay Yankees. While there, he had a career-best 12-4 record and a 1.48 ERA. He also had 104 strikeouts, the highest total of his career.
In 1998, Tessmer made his debut with the Yankees and spent four year’s with the team before retiring in 2002. During his time there, he was a part of two World Series teams.
“I was at the World Series but wasn’t active,” Tessmer said. “We got to be there for all the games and celebration on the field when we won.”
As a young closer coming up through the ranks, Tessmer couldn’t have asked for a better mentor. Once he made it to the big leagues, Tessmer had the luxury of talking to the all-times saves leader and fellow teammate, Mariano Rivera.
“To sit in the bullpen with him and talk baseball was unbelievable,” Tessmer said. “He taught me about the mental aspects and adjustment’s you have to make as a pitcher. If you have a bad game you have to be able to forget about it and make adjustments.”