Since 1993, the Chillicothe Paints organization and its home grounds at VA Memorial Stadium have brought many exciting moments to southern Ohio in the form of baseball competition – whether it is the home games that the Paints play during the summer at the famed VA or the exciting high school playoff battles that encompass the ballpark during the month of May.
The summer of 2015 is proving to be no different as two of the Southern Ohio Conference’s finest have suited up for the Paints to put on some thrilling displays over the course of the year for one of the most notorious baseball organizations in all of Ohio.
In high school, Derek Moore (Wheelersburg) and Patrick Riehl (Valley) carved out niches for themselves while going to battle against one another on the mound at rival high schools in the ever-competitive SOC II. Now, both are teammates, looking to possibly pursue careers at the professional level.
For both players, the atmosphere that is evident at VA Memorial Stadium – and the overall experience that comes from playing with the Paints as part of the Prospect League – is not comparable with most atmospheres.
“It’s been great,” Moore said of the experience with the Paints. “Meeting new friends and traveling new places is something that I will cherish forever. I have been very blessed to go places and meet the friends that I have met through the game of baseball. Also, Chillicothe is a great place to spend the summer. We average about 1,500 fans a game and it’s amazing to play for the amount of people that we play in front of as well as how supportive the community is of the Paints organization.”
Riehl echoed Moore’s sentiments and said that the opportunity to play in front of an electric atmosphere in Chillicothe has already provided him with many good times.
“The experience has been awesome,” Riehl said. “The league is great and the guys that I’ve played with are spectacular. We have all meshed together really well and the coaching staff has treated me great. Overall, the workers and people that go to the games make it a great atmosphere to be a part of.”
At the same token, both players have done an incredible amount of work to be in this position, which has allowed both Moore and Riehl to be successful regardless of their chosen path.
For Moore, it was to stay close to home at Shawnee State, where the 6-foot-2-inch, 242-pound right-hander has accumulated a 13-8 record in 190 and two-thirds innings pitched over two seasons under the Chris Moore-led Bears. Moore, who will be a junior next season, already holds the team record for shutouts in a season (3) and a career (4) as well as ERA in a single season (with a 1.50 during his freshman year) and innings pitched in a season (114, also as a freshman) in addition to a NAIA Division I First-Team All-America honor, the Mid-South Conference’s (MSC) Pitcher of the Year award (both accolades that were earned as a freshman) and numerous other single-season records.
Through the first half of the 2015 season with the Paints, Moore has only continued to improve on his overall abilities, as the Wheelersburg native has recorded a 1-1 record and a blistering 1.84 ERA in six starts with the Paints in 2015, including six innings of four-hit baseball in a 9-1 victory over the Butler (Penn.) BlueSox on May 30 and seven innings of six-hit baseball in a 1-0 victory over the BlueSox on June 13.
“I would say just talking with my Dad (Bruce), current Paints’ pitching coach Brian Bigam, (Michael) Estep and (Andy) Heimbach, and (Chris) Moore,” Moore said when discussing who has made the biggest impact on his overall improvement. “Talking about location and how to use my pitches to certain batters with them has been a huge role in my improvement. Also, just having experience from last season has helped me tremendously.”
As for Riehl, the redshirt junior to be decided to take his talents to Asheville, North Carolina and Mars Hill University after accepting an opportunity to play baseball for the Lions, a member of the South Atlantic Conference in the NCAA Division II ranks, where the 6-foot-5-inch, 225-pound right-hander has logged significant playing time in the Mars Hill pitching rotation over the course of his playing career.
But it’s what Riehl has overcome off of the diamond that makes his story so remarkable. It was discovered that late last summer, Riehl developed massive blood clots from his chest to his elbow, with the aforementioned blood clots creating a complete blockage of one of his subclavian veins (the veins which border the first rib in the body). This medical issue, called thoracic outlet syndrome, is referred to as a repetitive stress injury, and is common among athletes that raise their arms above their head or use their wrists and arms repeatedly.
That means that for baseball pitchers, TOS is an injury that is common. In fact, several of the biggest pitching names in the MLB ranks have had to face this injury, such as Josh Beckett, Chris Carpenter, Matt Harrison, Noah Lowry, and Chris Young. For Carpenter (the longtime ace of the St. Louis Cardinals pitching staff) and Lowry (who pitched for the San Francisco Giants) TOS was a primary factor in the ending of their careers.
For Riehl, the injury meant an eight-day stay in the hospital last summer as well as sitting out the 2014-2015 season to recuperate from the condition. However, it didn’t stop Riehl from pushing through. By June 17, Riehl was back in action against the Danville (Ill.) Dans to make his first appearance of 2015 for the Paints.
After allowing two runs against the Dans in his first appearance back, it didn’t take long for Riehl to regain his form. In fact, Riehl has been stout through five and a third innings of work, as he’s recorded seven strikeouts over the 19 batters that he faced in his past two appearances while only allowing two hits and walking just two batters by comparison to record an overall ERA of 3.38 in the three appearances that he has made for the Paints so far during the summer months.
“I would definitely have to credit my Dad, (Valley coach) Dean Schuler, (former Minford head coach) Tim Martin, (Mars Hill head coach) Aaron Rembert, and all of my coaches from my past,” Riehl said. “I have
taken pieces from each of them and figured out what has worked best for myself on the mound. They have always been there for me and have helped me tremendously along my journey.”
When the going gets tough on the hill, both Moore and Riehl know that they can rely on each other for feedback and encouragement to keep each other going, especially considering the competition that they face off against in practices as well as in the actual contests themselves. With 14 NCAA Division I players from five D-I conferences on the Paints’ roster for 2015 (including schools such as Ohio State, Michigan State, and Dayton), staying confident is a must.
“Getting to share this experience with Derek is spectacular,” Riehl said. “From facing each other all through little league and high school ball to playing with each other in this league is special. It’s an honor to be able to share it with him and with the rest of the guys on the squad.”
For Moore, the opportunity is doubly sweet. Not only does Moore have the opportunity to play with a longtime SOC II competitor in Riehl, Jason Byers, a teammate of Moore’s and a fellow pitching hand who transferred from Marietta College to Shawnee State last season, is also on the Paints’ roster. Byers, who will be a redshirt junior this upcoming season and is a transfer from East Granby, Connecticut, made the Prospect League’s All-Star roster and currently holds a 5-1 record and a stout 1.87 ERA through seven starts, which gives a promising look to the pitching rotation that the Bears will have for the next two seasons.
“It’s a great feeling knowing that there are familiar faces that I am playing with,” Moore said. “I can always go in and know that Patrick, Jason, and I can go to each other when we questions or advice if we need it.”
For Moore and Riehl, the opportunity to play for the Paints is a blessing in and of itself. But make no mistake about it, both players want to win.
“My individual goal is to stay healthy right now,” Riehl said. “Coming off of a serious injury, I don’t want to rush anything. I just want to get some innings, throw well, and help this ballclub, but the main thing right now is to stay healthy. From a team standpoint, we’re looking to finish at the top of the standings overall in the second half of the season (in the Prospect League, the standings reset after the first half). With coming up shy in the first half, we need to win the second half to have a playoff spot, and then try to rattle off a few wins in the playoffs.”
“I just want to continue to improve and become the best that I can be,” Moore said. “I want to continue my dream of making it to The Show. From a team standpoint, we want to win as many games as we can but also have as much fun playing for a championship as possible.”