There were times when Frank Herrmann wondered why he was riding a bus to cities with teams named Rock Cats and Sea Dogs instead of working on Wall Street, putting his economics degree from Harvard to good use.
"When I was in my third year in the Minor Leagues doing the seven- and eight-hour bus rides, and my buddies were making all kinds of money in New York City, there were times, obviously, when it crossed my mind that I should be with them," Cleveland's rookie right-hander said.
"But I think I made the right decision. I think any of them would have traded places with me in a second because I could always go [into finance], but if I'd gone to work on Wall Street, I could never have gone back to baseball."
The 26-year-old from Rutherford, N.J., has beaten the odds, one of the very few undrafted players to make it to a Major League roster and one of barely a couple of hundred Ivy Leaguers to have done it. Currently among them are the Dodgers' Brad Ausmus (Dartmouth), Padres' Chris Young (Princeton), Giants' Mark DeRosa (Penn), A's Craig Breslow (Yale) and Herrmann.
His journey began after he overheard a Harvard teammate talking about a new wooden-bat summer league starting in Hawaii.
"He didn't think I'd want to go because I was always pursuing financial internships," said Herrmann, who had spent two previous summers as a stockbroker intern and with a private equity venture capital firm "just to keep my mind sharp and build my resume."
"I got a taste of what working [in finance] would be like," he said. "It really makes me appreciate what I'm able to do now. I'm in no rush to get back into a cubicle."
Herrmann was coming off a 5-1, 3.09 junior season for Harvard. "I figured, 'Hey, at the very least I'm going to live and play baseball in Hawaii for free for six weeks,'" he said.
"We tried to talk him out of it, me and my wife," said his father, Frank Sr., a retired New Jersey police detective. "We wanted him to finish his last year at Harvard and play baseball up there, but he was pretty adamant. He knew if he never got drafted after his senior year, he'd have no leverage to get anything."
That's how his son he wound up spending the summer of 2005 pitching for the Oahu Paddlers, where he caught the eye of Cleveland scout Don Lyle. The Indians' contract offer included paying for part of Herrmann's senior year at Harvard. That sealed the deal.
He began his professional career in 2006, starting for the Class A Lake County Captains. By 2009 he'd been converted to a reliever and was at Triple-A Columbus.
"Now that I've worked out of the bullpen for about a year, I think I have the right mentality for it," Herrmann said. "I really enjoy being part of a group out there and being able to come in and pitch on a nightly basis, instead of having to wait five days [between starts]."
On June 3, with a 3-0 record and 0.31 ERA at Columbus, the Indians called him up. The following night against the White Sox in Chicago, with his parents in the stands, Herrmann made his Major League debut, throwing 1 1/3 perfect innings in a 10-1 Indians rout.
On July 1 in Cleveland, Justin Masterson was cruising against the Blue Jays until they scored a run and loaded the bases with one out in the ninth. Herrmann took over and got Jose Molina to ground into a double play.
"I didn't even know it was a save until I got into the clubhouse and somebody told me," he said. "It was pretty cool. I wasn't even expecting to go in. We're up 6-0 in the ninth, and Masterson's pitch count is pretty low.
"But the inning got rolling, and I was up and in the game before I even knew it. Sometimes the best situations are those where you don't have time to think," Herrmann said.
"This has been a dream come true for me. Every day I remind myself how lucky I am and where I'm at."
Bruce Lowitt is a freelance writer based in Tampa.
This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.