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Deerfield’s submariner Epstein left plenty of hitters with that sinking feeling

Deerfield's submarine reliever Aidan Epstedelivers pitch during actithis spring. His ERA was 1.86. | Joel Lerner~Sun-Times Media

Deerfield's submarine reliever Aidan Epstein delivers a pitch during action this spring. His ERA was 1.86. | Joel Lerner~Sun-Times Media

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Updated: July 13, 2012 9:39PM

After his sophomore baseball season at Deerfield two years ago, Aidan Epstein had a chat with varsity coach Kevin Marsh.

It started with a question.

“What do I need to do to make varsity next year?” the pitcher/outfielder asked.

Marsh delivered a suggestion. Two years later Marsh has no idea why he said what he said to the eager Warrior then, but he’s glad he did.

Marsh suggested Epstein pitch submarine style. Epstein was a sidearm hurler before the chat.

Marsh wanted the righty to go low – knuckles-nearly-scraping-mound-dirt low.

“I was worried at first,” recalled Epstein, who completed his second season as a submarine reliever last month. “I was more of an outfielder and hitter then.”

Epstein went online to check out and study videos of MLB submariners like Chad Bradford and Darren O’Day. The most challenging part of the unique delivery is throwing strikes consistently from a comfortable release point. It also helps to toss more than just a fastball.

Epstein threw submarine fastballs as a junior. But his curve was thrown overhand, well north of a submariner’s release point. His results were mixed: 14 strikeouts and 14 walks in 17 1/3 innings, with a 5.15 ERA.

But he stuck with the unconventional style and started developing a slurve and a changeup last summer.

“That changeup of his became a nasty addition,” said Marsh.

Epstein fanned 14 and walked only four in 14 1/3 innings for the Warriors’ Summer League squad. His ERA was a gorgeous 1.95. At that point in his career most batters were doing anything they could to avoid looking silly while trying to make contact.

“Guys appeared really uncomfortable during at-bats against Aidan,” said Marsh. “Some of the looks they had after striking out – baffled, totally baffled. Then they’d walk back to their dugout, shaking their head.”

Batters’ helmeted heads did the east-west-east-west thing some more this spring, as Epstein struck out 32 and walked just six in 26 1/3 innings for the 12-23 Warriors. His ERA melted again, down to 1.86.

“It was fun, watching some guys take crazy-looking swings,” said Epstein. “If I noticed a guy didn’t have a clue against me, I knew I was doing my job.”

CSL batters might have to face Epstein again. Kid Befuddle was named to represent Deerfield along with teammates Ryan Adkins, Zack Berman and Jack Silberman at the CSL Senior All-Star Game June 11 at Oakton Community College in Des Plaines. Before and after that, look for him on local diamonds as a Deerfield Park District maintenance man.

“I get to chalk baseball fields, ride tractors in outfields and drag infields,” he said.

But he’d rather be at Wrigley Field, “toiling” as a scoreboard operator.

“That’s my dream job,” Epstein said. “Who wouldn’t want to do that? But the more realistic job for me will probably be in the field of law. I’ll be on that career track (at the University of Pittsburgh).”

The son a former musician (Alex, violinist) and current dance teacher (April), he plays a mean bassoon, the instrument he hopes to play for an orchestra between club baseball games in college. But don’t look for Epstein to lower the mouthpiece of the four-foot instrument and blow it in the vicinity of his right ankle.

“I go by the book when I play music,” he said.

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