JOLIET – After finishing up a successful career at Saint Xavier University in the spring, Scott Vachon was uncertain about what kind of future he had in baseball.
The Plainfield North graduate started the summer playing along with some of his former teammates and other area athletes with the Joliet Dirtbags.
While he enjoyed that time, Vachon hoped for an opportunity to make a go of it in pro ball but knew that the odds of getting a shot were long for most players.
But that big break came his way July 1 when Traverse City of the Frontier League signed the 6-foot-7 righthander to a contract.
And when the Beach Bums came to Joliet last week for their first series with the Slammers, Vachon not only got to pitch in one contest but also walked away with his initial win as a professional after the visitors won a 12-inning contest.
In the July 22 game at Silver Cross Field, Vachon retired Joliet in order in the 11th, and his teammates scored three runs in the 12th and the former Tiger standout finished up to claim the win in his team’s 7-5 victory.
Needless to say, Vachon was thrilled to capture his first victory as a pro in front of family and friends just a few miles away from his hometown of Plainfield.
And the fact that he was in a familiar setting made his local debut as a pro player much easier, despite the fact he entered the game in a pressure situation.
“I had a lot of family and friends here so I was pretty amped up,” Vachon said. “It’s pretty cool to come back home and seeing familiar faces. I had thrown here in college and also in high school, so there was a level of comfort since I’ve had some success here.
“I’d pitched here about five times and been here as a younger kid going out on the field and meeting the JackHammers at the time, so it’s very nice to have some more success. I just went out and threw strikes and tried to do my thing and it worked out well for me.”
The transition to pro ball has been a challenge for Vachon, who was a four-year player at Saint Xavier.
He received all-conference honors in his past two years. He led SXU with a 2.24 ERA and 74 strikeouts in his final season with the Cougars.
But the jump from NAIA competition to Frontier League play, where many players began their careers in organizational ball, hasn’t been easy for a pitcher who was used to being a starter in college and now is being utilized as a reliever.
“It’s definitely a big adjustment from college,” Vachon said. “You’ve really got to keep the ball down and there’s no easy outs in the lineup. So you have to get used to throwing 110 percent on every pitch and going out there and just trying to be ready.
“I’m used to being a starter, so it’s different as a reliever. You’re only pitching one or two innings, so there’s no saving any gas. But I really like the change. You go out there and give it your all while when you’re starting, you’ve got to think more about the big picture.”
After being not too far from home in recent years, Vachon now finds himself more than five hours away playing in a community renowned for its tourism, cherries and wine.
“I’m used to having my friends around and people that I know,” Vachon said. “Now when I look in the stands, I don’t know one person. But the team is awesome and I’ve already made a lot of good friends. I had been to Michigan a lot and there’s a lot to do so I feel lucky that I got to have this opportunity to be in such a beautiful place.
“When I was in high school, I was 100 percent basketball, but then I tore my ACL and couldn’t jump any more. So I decided to give baseball a chance to see if I could play at the next level. When i got the call to come here, I almost started crying since I was so happy. Only about one percent of players get this opportunity, so I just feel blessed to be here.”