Friday, July 13, 2018 | by Brad Bohlke

Competing for a Dream: Liam O’Sullivan’s Journey

Story by Brad Bohlke 

Photos by Adam Jomant

The 2016 Frontier League Pitcher of the Year Liam O’Sullivan was quickly on his way to achieving every Frontier League player’s ultimate dream in getting picked up by a Major League Baseball organization in the Arizona Diamondbacks.   

O’Sullivan was pitching in his first full season as a professional at a top level and had no idea he would need elbow surgery until the Diamondbacks called later and revealed he failed a physical because of a tear on that elbow that would require O’Sullivan to take a year off in 2017.  While any elbow damage is significant for a pitcher, O’Sullivan finished the 2016 campaign with the Slammers and elected for surgery in the offseason.  

Now roughly a year after getting surgery and returning to the Slammers for the 2018 season, O’Sullivan has gained a new perspective on the situation and what it means for his career.

“You can’t take anything for granted. I had no option if I wanted to play at the next level. I had to get this taken care of,” O’Sullivan said in reference to his surgery. 

O’Sullivan’s 2016 campaign was certainly deserving of taking home the title of the league’s best pitcher.  The right hander went 11-1 with a 3.33 ERA pitching 121.2 innings while striking out 109. 

Recently in a Herald News article, manager Jeff Isom talked about O’Sullivan’s journey back to the Slammers. 

“He made the club, and after starting out in the bullpen he was our fifth starter early, but by the end of the year Liam was Pitcher of the Year,” Isom said. “But then for his health, he needed to get the surgery, and he sat out last year. It kind of tells you about the individual when I asked him as a rookie if he wanted to be my pitching coach. He’s very intelligent and has a baseball savvy to him and is a competitor, so there’s a lot of things to like about him.”

O’Sullivan is also grateful for the comeback chance.

 “Coach Isom gave me a great opportunity to come back here and said come get yourself right and get yourself back to where you were before surgery.”

O’Sullivan knows however that the clock is ticking.  The Massachusetts native is 27 and the Frontier League’s age restriction of 27 would forbid him from suiting up after this year. 

The Frontier League, and all independent baseball for that matter, is a grind that may not be suited for everyone. 

“You have to be hungry; it tests you,” O’Sullivan said.  “You’re constantly tested on if you want to be here.” 

O’Sullivan certainly has been tested. On top of surgery that knocked him out for a year, he played for the Frontier Greys in 2015, a traveling team with no home stadium. 

“You’re always on the road, always being the away team, constantly traveling; it really tests you if this is what you want to do.”

As far as O’Sullivan’s future, he knows that his time will soon be up in the Frontier League, but stays optimistic in knowing that he lets his work do the talking. 

“I don’t know what the next step is. I just know that I’m working on getting better each day. If the cards line up, then everything will fall into place.”   

Recently O’Sullivan has been lights out on the mound.  In his last five starts O’Sullivan has thrown three complete games with 41 innings pitched, 25 strikeouts and a 0.66 ERA.  His dominant resurgence has led him to be named a 2018 Frontier League All-Star. 

While O’Sullivan’s age may prevent him from being apart of the Frontier League in the near future, he is still perhaps in the prime of his career at 27 and has just three years of professional baseball under his belt.  If he can keep pitching like he has been recently, maybe another call from a Major League team will come sooner rather than later.