Versatile Durbin a key to Phils’ early success.
Durbin’s long and winding road to Philadelphia began in Spring Valley, Ill., where he grew up. A gifted athlete, he claims that no one person pushed him into the game of baseball. His parents, Deb and Joe Pearson, were both very athletic and excelled in other sports in their youth, just not baseball. So what got Durbin into America’s pastime?
“Cubs baseball on WGN,” recalled Durbin. “I loved watching Ryne Sandberg play. I learned a lot of baseball by watching the Cubs play and I was a fan until I started to play pro ball.”
When his family moved down south to Baton Rouge, La., a then 12-year-old Durbin maintained his allegiance to the Cubs. Since the southern climate allowed baseball to be played year-round, Durbin began to pitch in addition to playing shortstop. He starred in baseball and basketball at Woodlawn High School and was named the Louisiana Class 4-A High School Most Valuable Player as a shortstop his senior year.
Despite receiving a few offers to play basketball at local colleges (he was an excellent ball handler) and signing a letter of intent to play baseball at Louisiana State University, Durbin ended his tenure as a Cubs fan when the Kansas City Royals selected him in the third round of the 1996 First-Year Player Draft right out of high school.
After spending three years in the Royals’ farm system between stops in Michigan, Delaware, Kansas and Nebraska, Durbin finally got his first taste of the Majors when he made his debut in relief for Kansas City in 1999 at the age of 21.
“I made my debut in old Tiger Stadium in the last series ever there. That was pretty cool and something I’ll never forget.”
After stints with KC, Cleveland and Arizona and a year in the Nationals organization, Durbin found himself back in Detroit, this time pitching for the team he debuted against. Although he only appeared in three games for the 2006 American League champion Tigers, Durbin played a large role in the team’s Triple-A championship that year as the Toledo Mud Hens won the International League crown. In that season, Durbin pitched as a starter and led the league in strikeouts, while ranking fifth in ERA and tied for fifth in wins.
Durbin began the 2007 season in Detroit’s starting rotation before being moved to the bullpen in June. Overall, he made 47 starts in 67 total appearances during his two years in the Tigers’ organization. When he became available in the free-agent market, he caught the eye of several teams, but the Phillies, who needed pitching depth, were especially interested because of Durbin’s versatility.
Heading into this season, Gillick was asked about Durbin’s role. “Chad is going to fit in real well with our club. He gives Charlie [Manuel] and [pitching coach Rich] Dubee the option of starting or middle relief, and he’s a competitor.”
Durbin, who has taken a blue-collar approach to his role with the club, finds his situation with the Phillies similar to his time with Detroit.
“I feel like I can help wherever,” Durbin said. “If it’s starting, if it’s middle relief, if it’s the seventh inning or if it’s long relief, I don’t care. I want to help this team win. I’ll go out there and do what they tell me to do. If everybody is healthy and pitching well, then we’re in pretty good shape. That’s better for the team.”
So far this season, Durbin has proven to be a valuable offseason acquisition. Entering Thursday, he had allowed seven earned runs in 41 2/3 innings pitched to post a 1.51 ERA over 28 appearances.
“I’m just finding a role among guys that have big roles not only on this team but in the league. I’m just trying to find my niche and play my part.”
In addition to playing his part on the diamond, Durbin has taken on some new roles off the field.
First, he became a father when he and his wife Crystal welcomed their first child, son Cade, into the world nine months ago. “I always anticipated being a good dad, and when Cade finally arrived, it just felt like I was always meant to be one,” said Durbin.
Then last month, with the help of his business partner, Jake Chapman, he launched his own business, an online recruiting community called Showcase U (www.showcaseu.com). According to Durbin, the site is designed to take athletes to the next level by letting them showcase themselves in an online community. High school and college athletes can post video of themselves on the site, plus they can find equipment and workout camp information and verify their statistics.
“We’ve put three years into this,” Durbin explained. “Showcase U is a way for coaches, student-athletes, parents and facilities to interact. Coaches can search through their database. Kids can post video. It’s going to be really easy for smaller colleges to recruit kids. It’s the next level. The idea is, showcase yourself.”
A pitcher, father and an entrepreneur, Durbin plans to showcase his versatility to Phillies fans all season long. (H/T Phillies.com)
Looks like Gillick hit the bulleyes when he went to get Durbin during the past off-season, along with Brad ‘Auto-Save’ Lidge. Hopefully he’ll be able to continue what he is presently doing for the club as middle relief. Might be a good move on Charlie Manuel’s part if he allows Durbin to start a game or two so that Brett Myers will be allowed to get his act together.