Brendan Saak is serving dual functions this season as a social media specialist and relief pitcher for the Hannibal Hoots.
Brendan Saak figured his baseball playing days would be over when he graduated from Quincy University.
The 22-year-old was ready to find full-time work.
But the Hannibal Hoots came calling.
Hoots general manager Matt Stembridge reached out to Saak about pitching for the team in its inaugural season.
“Originally I was unsure about it,” Saak admitted of joining the Hoots. “I was like, 'I might just be done,' because I was really more looking for a job.”
Stembridge changed course, instead offering the sports management major a position in the Hoots front office as a communications specialist.
The plan was for Saak to handle the social media accounts for the new franchise and work in the press box executing various responsibilities during home games at Clemens Field.
As with anything, however, plans can change.
Saak's role for the club increased in the days leading up to Opening Day. Due to injuries and no-shows, the Hoots didn't have an optimal number of arms to navigate the new pitch count rules enforced by the Prospect League.
Approached again by Stembridge about taking the mound, Saak agreed to a dual role.
Depending on the day, the right-hander can either be found in the press box or entering games out of the bullpen.
For Saak, it's the best of both worlds and something he's willing to do in order to help the team.
“Every time I come down here to the stadium,” Saak explained, “I pop into the office and ask, 'What am I doing today?' Just as kind of a little joke.”
His success on the mound has been no joke.
Saak is the only pitcher in the league with more than 10 innings pitched and no earned runs against him.
He has logged 10 1/3 innings over three outings of long relief while striking out seven batters and giving up just two unearned tallies.
Opposing hitters are batting just .139 against him.
“You talk about the ultimate team guy, there is no selfishness in this at all,” Hannibal manager Clayton Hicks said. “He comes in, does his thing and eats innings when we're down on pitching and guys need a break.
“With him being a graduated senior and being able to eat up the innings he has and throw up the zeros like he has, that's been huge for us.”
Saak experienced nerves warming up for his first appearance this summer, when he retired nine of the 11 Springfield batters he faced over three scoreless innings May 31.
Those emotions subsided when he got into the game.
The four-year baseball and football player at QU benefited from being well-rested entering the season.
“I had probably a week or week-and-a-half off from Quincy to here,” Saak said. “I didn't really touch a baseball during that time, but I think it served me well because I was pretty rested going into Springfield.”
Saak pitched 3 2/3 innings at Danville on June 3 while allowing a pair of unearned runs.
After he stayed home during Hannibal's four-game road trip last week to fulfill front office duties, Saak took the mound Sunday for his first home outing.
He surrendered just one hit over 3 2/3 scoreless innings against Danville.
Saak is under contract to pitch for the Hoots all summer. He said he is willing to take the mound for the club as long as there remains a need.
“There is definitely more pressure on the mound than my day job, if that's what you want to call it,” said Saak, the oldest player on the Hoots roster. “But it's been great. The guys have been great. It's been fun so far.”
Saak, a native of Belleville, Illinois, anticipates the time will come when he hangs up his cleats to pursue a full-time sports management career.
But the next step will wait at least until the end of the summer.
“This is just another opportunity and I'm really thankful,” Saak said of pitching for the Hoots. “A couple weeks ago, I thought my playing days were done. But when they asked me to step in, it was another opportunity to play the game I love.”