Paul Hvozdovic may have pitched his final game for the Shepherd Rams last May, but that hasn’t stopped him from continuing to keep his dream alive.
Hvozdovic, the left hander from Herndon, Va., may be the best pitcher in Shepherd history, owning the records for most wins, 34, most strikeouts, 307, most complete games, 19, most games started, 56, and most innings pitched, 340. Despite all that, he went undrafted in the 2014 MLB Draft.
“I wanted to keep play,” Hvozdovic said. “I didn’t want to stop. So I went to Canada.”
Hvozdovic joined the Western Major Baseball League in Saskatchewan. It is a summer collegiate league where he still had some eligibility remaining. He joined the Swift Current Indians, where he made six appearances. In his lone start, he went 6.2 innings and gave up six hits, three runs and struck out six. In his five relief appearances, he allowed one run in 7.1 innings and recorded three saves.
After a few weeks, he says the River City Rascals contacted him. The Rascals are an independent baseball team in the West Division of the Frontier League. They are located in O’Fallon, Mo., which is 15 minutes west of St. Louis.
“I received a phone call from the River City coach,” he said. “Two days later I was on a plane to St. Louis. The next day, I met with the coach and threw a bullpen session. It was only 20 pitches or so to make sure I was healthy.”
He signed with the team for the remainder of the 2014 season immediately after the bullpen session on July 8.
Despite always being a starter, Hvozdovic was strictly a relief pitcher for the Rascals. He says he was used situationally, as the coach liked to play “righty/lefty matchups.”
“It was a huge adjustment,” he said. “You have to be ready to go every day. When you’re called, you have to bring your “A” game.”
In his time with the Rascals, Hvozdovic made 19 appearances and pitched 16.1 innings. He had a 1.10 ERA, allowing only two runs and struck out 11 batters.
As a part of his contract, he would also receive an invite to Spring Training. River City’s Spring Training happens later than typical baseball Spring Training, starting on April 29. There are 35-40 players there and they cut the roster down after two weeks before the season starts.
“It keeps me hungry,” he said. “There are more people to go against trying to make the team. It keeps me motivated.”
Hvozdovic is back at Shepherd for now, as he is finishing up his degree and plans on graduating in December. He is majoring in sports management. He is also serving as a Player-Coach for the Rams’ baseball team this year.
He says he plans to take his last final on Monday, April 27, before traveling on Tuesday to O’Fallon, Mo., joining the squad on Wednesday. Though his roster spot is not guaranteed, he plans on giving it his all.
“You have to earn what you get,” he said. “Give it your all. No regrets.”