It’s been a year filled with firsts for Cody Sedlock.
The first-round draft pick of the Baltimore Orioles in baseball’s 2016 draft has lived the dream of a lifetime.
He’s signed a professional contract, found himself a bit in awe when he was introduced to fans at Camden Yards a year ago this week, made his pro debut, tasted big-league hitting in an inning of work during spring training, earned his first professional victory and now finds himself dealing with the natural highs and lows of his first full-season experience in the game.
All of those experiences have shaped the pitcher from Sherrard, a Rock Island Alleman graduate and Big Ten pitcher of the year for Illinois before Baltimore chose him with the 27th selection in last year’s baseball draft.
“So much has changed, but the one thing I have learned is that you have to continue to be who you are,’’ Sedlock said. “You have to keep the same mindset whether you are struggling or you are doing well. I’ve found that the family and friends who have always been by my side are still my strength.’’
It was a little over a year ago that Sedlock found himself surrounded by many of those same people, gathered at a Happy Joe’s Pizza in Milan where he heard his name called by the Orioles on the draft’s first day.
It was a year ago yesterday when Sedlock signed a contract with Baltimore and on Thursday it will be one year since he met with the media for the first time in Maryland and received a rousing ovation when he was introduced to fans at an Orioles game.
“That still ranks as my biggest thrill,’’ Sedlock said. “It was a very humbling experience to walk on that field, I felt so small, looking up at the stands in the middle of all those people. It’s something I’ll never forget.’’
In the months since, Sedlock’s objective has been to work his way back to Camden Yards, understanding that it is a process.
He spent 2016 at short-season Aberdeen, where he finished with a 3.00 earned run average and was limited to 27 innings in the New York-Penn League.
Sedlock spent most of the offseason training in Champaign, preparing for spring training and his first full-season assignment in the Orioles organization in familiar surroundings on the Illinois campus.
The offseason also gave him a chance to process the life-changing experience he had been through.
“Everything was coming at me so fast. It wasn’t until the season was over that I really had a chance to step back and appreciate it all,’’ Sedlock said. “It’s hard to describe what it’s been like. It’s been exciting. It’s been different and I’m anxious to see where it’s all going to lead.’’
His spring training experience provided him with a taste of the major leagues.
On Feb. 28, Sedlock was called up from minor-league camp and ended up pitching one inning of relief for Baltimore in its fifth exhibition games of the season.
He wasn’t sure if he would get to pitch that day in a game against Philadelphia, but the chance came in the eighth inning.
The Phillies’ Brock Stassi welcomed him to the majors by hitting a three-run homer and Aaron Altherr followed with a solo shot.
“It was my, ‘Welcome to the big leagues’ moment, and while it may seem a little strange to say the way things went, it was a beneficial experience for me in the long run,’’ Sedlock said. “It provided me with some good motivation the rest of spring and as my season started.’’
Sedlock broke camp with Frederick, the Orioles’ high-A affiliate in the Carolina League.
The 6-foot-3 right hander arrived there ready to work on his game and expecting to deal with a little bit of everything after Baltimore opted to let him skip the low-A level in its farm system.
“I was expecting a challenge and it has been, sometimes more than others,’’ Sedlock said.
Frederick plays in a 10-team league, providing pitchers and hitters with plenty of familiarity with each other and forcing players to learn to adjust as opponents adjust their approaches during the course of the season.
He considers it to be a great learning experience.
“It’s been an opportunity for me to learn how to prepare and settle into a five-day starting rotation,’’ Sedlock said. “This has been a good place for me to learn. It’s a good town, a good environment and it’s been good for me.’’
He earned his first professional win on April 8, recording six innings of shutout work in the first of his four starts so far against Carolina.
Sedlock had a 3-0 record and 3.71 earned run average at the end of April, but finds himself working his back to a more consistent from following a rugged May.
“It was a tough month, but this is a long season and I understand that you’re going to have stretches, good and bad, over the course of it all,’’ Sedlock said. “It’s about how you manage it, how you learn from it and that’s where I’m now, trying to learn from it regain the consistency I know I’m capable of.’’
After 12 starts for the Keys, Sedlock currently has a 4-4 record and a 6.10 ERA, striking out 50 batters and walking 24 in 59 innings.
He continues to work on fine tuning his arsenal of pitches, building around a two-seam fastball that averages 92-to-94 miles per hour that Sedlock complements with a slider, curve and a change-up.
“Right now, I’m working on my fastball command and that has gotten better. I’ve seen some growth in my change-up over the past year and that has really become one of my better pitches,’’ Sedlock said. “I needed that to happen because professional hitters are going to hit the fastball. That’s the reality of the game.’’
One year into his professional career, Sedlock understands that now more than ever.
“You can’t get too far ahead of yourself in this game,’’ he said. “I’m taking it a day at a time, trying to be better today than I was yesterday because of the trust I have in my abilities and my willingness to put in the work to get to where I want to be.’’