Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Wohlers Works out for Braves

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Wohlers Works out for Braves

Article excerpt

His father is a welder, his mother a factory worker. If he hadn't morphed into perhaps the best closing reliever in the game of baseball, he may well have been a landscaper.

"It would have to be something with my hands," Atlanta Braves righthander Mark Wohlers said as he sat in the visiting dugout at Busch Stadium Friday night, the eve of Game 3 of the National League Championship Series with the Cardinals. "I'm half-Polish, and Polish is a working class."

His ancestry partly explains why, at 8 a.m. after baseball's infamous most recent strike began (Aug. 11, 1994), Wohlers reported for work . . . at Kerry Collision Repair in Suwanee, Ga. "They were looking for a third hand," he said, "and I was looking for something to do - so it kind of worked out." Wohlers, who will make $1.4 million this season, began at $10 an hour but jumped to $11 by the time he left in February 1995 to prepare for spring training. In theory, the extra buck came by way of added duties to his role of prepping cars for paint jobs. But the increase probably also was a reflection of his diligent approach to the work. Skeptical co-workers soon recognized that. "They saw me one morning, down in the Dumpster, squishing down some trash to get some more room in there," he said. "And I guess they realized, `He's here to work.' " The Braves, too, came to know this. Wohlers persevered mightily without reward for several years. He suffered the indignity, for instance, of being sent back to rookie ball in his second minor-league season. "I was so frustrated early in my career, and it seemed like I was never improving," he said. "But I never gave up on it. . . . You've really got to trust the people trying to help you, because if you're fighting them you're not going to get anywhere." By Wohlers' reckoning, it took two-plus years just to rectify the crude pitching form he had grown up with. …

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