From Ivy League to Midwest League

At 22, David Speer has already lived out a lot of dreams.

He’s lived out every teenager’s dream of moving to a city with endless opportunity, living in New York City.

He’s lived out every high schooler’s dream of spending four years at an Ivy League college in attending – and graduating from – Columbia University.

And now, he’s living out the dream of every young boy who steps onto a baseball diamond in playing professional baseball.

Speer grew up in Westport, Conn., a suburb of New York City and a commuter town outside of areas like Stamford and Greenwich, which he describes as a great area to grow up and play baseball. In high school, Speer had the goal of attending a prestigious university, but also knew that he wanted to play baseball throughout his college career. Luckily, he didn’t have to give up either dream.

“Everything fell perfectly for me,” Speer said of his collegiate experience. “I always wanted to go to an Ivy League school but also had in mind that I wanted to play baseball. I was fortunate enough to have an opportunity where I could do both and go to Columbia.”

Located in the heart of Manhattan, Speer said Columbia was “a blast.”

“It was a great location, I loved being in the city,” Speer said. “The baseball experience was also great; I had a great coaching staff and team, and it was just a great four years.”

In his four years at Columbia, Speer posted an overall 2.96 ERA and an 18-7 record. He made 44 appearances and threw 11 complete games. Speer was named the Ivy League Pitcher of the Year in 2014, when he went 7-2 with a 1.86 ERA in 12 starts, including six complete games. His 75-to-7 strikeout-to-walk ratio was the second best in the nation, and he allowed 18 earned runs on 69 hits in 87 innings of work.

Speer was drafted in the 27th round of the First Year Player Draft by the Indians in 2014, which enabled him to finish out his collegiate career at Columbia (he graduated with a degree in political science and economics and said he might be working in the financial sector were he not playing baseball) and jump directly into professional baseball. Speer said in a 2014 interview that being drafted by the Indians came as a bit of shock, since he didn’t even know he was on the team’s radar.

Nevertheless, Speer found himself in Mahoning Valley to kick off his professional baseball career. He said spending his first season with the Scrappers have him a good chance to get acclimated to the professional baseball experience, as well as Northeast Ohio as a whole.

“It was definitely a culture shock coming out to Ohio,” Speer said. “New York City is everything. Everything is huge and everything is populated. Here, there’s a lot of space and a lot of emptiness. It’s been fun to explore the midwest and see some spots I never would have made it to otherwise. Ohio wasn’t a destination state before.”

Speer went 3-1 last season with the Scrappers, posting a 2.74 ERA in 14 games. The lefty has spent most of his professional career in the bullpen, despite starting while at Columbia.

Speer’s 2014 performance, coupled with what he called a “great” first Spring Training, enabled the 22-year-old to start this season with the Lake County Captains.

“I was lucky enough to break with the full season team,” Speer said. “It’s been great here.”

Last season, Speer lived with an “amazing” host family in Mahoning Valley, where he said he was treated like a son. He’s living on his own with teammates in an apartment this season, and said he values the independence.

“It’s a really tight-knit group of guys,” Speer said of his teammates. “We’re starting to get our momentum going and it’s been fun so far.”

Speer is 1-0 so far with the Captains with a 1.93 ERA in seven games. He has struck out 17 batters while walking just two in 14 innings, allowing five runs (three earned) on 14 hits.

“I’m working on adding velocity and staying connected to the mound this season,” Speer said of his work with pitching coach Steve Karsay. “My command has been my strength, so I’m working on still using that but not being afraid to throw harder and keep attacking hitters.”

Also on his to-do list this season? Take advantage of downtime. The Captains had their first off-day of the season on April 27, for which Speer said himself and the team as a whole were more than ready.

“We’ve had some long road trips and I think we were all a bit sluggish to start the season,” Speer said. “I don’t think I’m alone in saying that I’ll be spending much of [our off-day] sleeping.”

After living out so many dreams, that relaxation is more than earned.

Photo: Gene Boyars/Columbia University Athletics

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