Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXV, No. 24
Wednesday, June 15, 2011
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ATTENTION GRABBER: Princeton University pitcher Matt Grabowski fires a pitch in action this spring. Grabowski came up big in his senior season with the Tigers, going 3-3 with a 3.92 ERA and one save on the way to earning All-Ivy League honorable mention recognition and helping Princeton win the league crown. He ended his career with a 1-2-3 inning in a 5-3 loss to Texas in the NCAA tournament.

Even Though PU Baseball Went Winless at NCAAs, Grabowski Proud of Team’s Competitive Mentality

Bill Alden

Matt Grabowski didn’t have a defined role on the pitching staff for the Princeton University baseball team this spring and that suited him fine.

“I was kind of a utility pitcher, I helped out in whatever way was needed,” said senior Grabowski, a right-hander from Philadelphia.

“Some starters got injured and other people got hot. I started three games. I did some closing and then I was the seventh-eighth inning guy.”

Earlier this month, Grabowski ended his Princeton career in typical utilitarian fashion, hurling a 1-2-3 inning against national power Texas in the NCAA tournament.

While the Tigers fell 5-3 to the Longhorns and then lost 3-1 to Texas State to get eliminated from the regional, Grabowski takes pride in how he took care of business in his final college outing.

“As I am sitting in the dugout, my heart is racing,” recalled Grabowski. “When I got on the mound, it was just like any other game. We knew that pitching was their strength and we could attack their hitters. It was tough to lose the game but it was nice to go out with a 1-2-3 inning against Texas. It is something I will take with me.”

Although the Tigers didn’t have a win to show for their first NCAA tourney appearance since 2006, Grabowski and his teammates took away something more important from a spring that saw Princeton go 23-24 and win an Ivy League crown after posting the worst record in the league in 2010.

“We knew we could hang with these teams; it would have been nice to win a game,” said Grabowski. “Even though we didn’t get a win there, we changed the mentality and culture of the team.”

After hitting rock bottom in 2010 with a program-worst 12-30 mark, the Tigers needed a new mentality this spring.

“We needed to change something; the seniors are the most competitive group of guys,” said Grabowski.

“Some of the guys weren’t going to get in much but that didn’t matter. We needed to work harder and take our practices more seriously. We needed to make baseball a priority but at the same time have more fun with it. It clicked in.”

Producing some uneven play on its spring trip in getting out of the gate at 5-13, things clicked early for Princeton as it went 4-0 in the first Ivy weekend of the season.

“I don’t hesitate to say that was a turning point,” said Grabowski, referring to the doubleheader sweeps of Brown and Yale in early April.

“We struggled a little bit on our spring trip; we might have taken a turn and ended up being like last year. We didn’t want to go through that again.”

In Grabowski’s view, Princeton’s rise from worst to first in the Ivies was the product of a collective effort.

“I am just proud of the team; we got production from everybody,” said Grabowski. “It seemed like every single game, somebody else dominated. Ryan Albert took over a doubleheader against Penn. Steve Harrington had a big weekend against Columbia.”

The 5’11, 190-pound Grabowski certainly produced in his final Tiger campaign, going 3-3 with a 3.92 ERA and one save on the way to earning All-Ivy honorable mention recognition.

“It is great; I made honorable mention as a sophomore,” said Grabowski. “My junior year, I had some mechanical problems and the team wasn’t right.”

Grabowski’s greatest memory from this spring centers on Princeton’s victory over Dartmouth in the Ivy playoffs.

“The most special moment will be winning the Ivy League Championship Series; it will always be my favorite,” said Grabowski, referring to Princeton’s 2-1 series win over Dartmouth which saw the Tigers beat the Big Green 8-5 in the decisive third game.

“Coach [Scott Bradley] was not happy with a practice one day and he asked each person to say one word that described the team. I said ‘resilient.’ We did the same exercise before the final game against Dartmouth and I was happy to give the same response. We played close games and even lost some close games but we were still coming through.”

The experience helped Grabowski appreciate the value of hard work.

“I think coming out of high school, I had the ability to have a good work ethic,” said Grabowski.

“But coach really drilled that into us and the seniors always took that seriously. Playing college baseball is a huge time commitment. You are getting up at 6:30 for early morning workouts and then practicing after class. You want to sleep during the day but you have to keep up with classwork.”

Now Grabowski is applying his commitment to baseball in a new arena, having started as an intern in the baseball operations department of the Atlanta Braves.

“I have always wanted to be in baseball,” said Grabowski. “The end game would be to move into the front office. I am excited about the chance to stay in baseball. A lot of my friends are going to Wall Street and making a lot of money. I love this and I didn’t want to leave the game.”

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