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MSU’s Girodo develops in collegiate wood-bat summer league

The Mississippi State rising sophomore who led Hartselle to the Class 5A state championship in 2009 is spending his summer vacation playing in a collegiate wood-bat league in Danville, Ill.
Girodo is off to a solid start with one win in three starts for the Dans. He has struck out 19 in 18 innings of work while posting a 1.50 ERA.
Most of the players in the Prospect League come from Division I programs and since 1963 the league has sent more than 175 players to the major leagues.
“This is a pitcher’s league since players are using wood bats, but there are a lot of great players here,” Girodo said. “There are kids here from a lot of other Division I teams. Hopefully, that will make me a much better pitcher.”
After spending his freshman season with Mississippi State where the Bulldogs travel to long road games by plane, the Dans spend most of their time on the highways traveling to stadiums in the 15-team league that is based in the Midwest.
“SEC baseball is a big deal,” Girodo said. “You get used to flying to places like Gainesville where a bus comes out onto the runway to pick you up right off the plane.
“Now we spend a lot of time on the road, traveling in church vans and we don’t get home until 2 or 3 in the morning sometimes.”
Already this season, Girodo and the Danville players had to walk home early one morning when the team’s van broke down about a mile from the exit in Danville.
“We had to walk to the stadium to where our cars were parked,” Girodo said. “That wasn’t a lot of fun, especially when you are tired after a long game and a long drive home.”
It was an experience that most Division I players will never experience. But around the Prospect League, it’s just another story from a summer away from home.
“Danville is a lot like Hartselle – small,” Girodo said. “It’s got a little mall with just four stores.”
The Prospect League’s stadiums are older facilities that were used in the past for small minor league teams.
Where stadiums in the Southeastern Conference are modern with state-of-the-art amenities, life in the Prospect League is a little different.
For Girodo, walking into each stadium is like stepping back into baseball history. The Dans play in the Prospect League’s Central Division and make regular trips to small towns like Huntingburg, Ind., Richmond, Ind., and Terre Haute, Ind. The biggest city in the Central Division is Nashville.
“We play in some really old, historic parks,” Girodo said. “The stadium where we play our home games was where they filmed the movie Babe.”
Players in the league live with host families, who provide the players with room and board during the season.
Many of the families have children who get the opportunity to build a relationship with players from around the country.
Girodo’s host family has two boys – 8 and 5 years old – who wait up for Girodo to get home from games.
“They both love baseball,” Girodo said. “They love to come out and see the games and meet the players.”
Girodo is off to a strong start in Danville. In his first appearance for the Dans, Girodo scattered 11 hits while allowing just one earned run and did not figure in the decision.
He picked up his first Prospect League win five days later at Dupage when he allowed just three hits over six innings.
Girodo suffered through some growing pains with the Bulldogs this spring. In 19 appearances, he finished with a 2-3 record with a 7.40 ERA.
But he also pitched 48 innings – a remarkable total for a freshman in the nation’s toughest conference.
“I didn’t really know what to expect this year at Mississippi State,” Girodo said. “It was really a learning experience for me. I had some ups and downs, but I really think it will be a valuable experience for me.
“Our coaches told me that as a freshman you just don’t get to pitch 48 innings in the Southeastern Conference. That’s huge. That experience will help me next season.”