Former University of Maryland baseball standout and Catonsville High School graduate Adam Kolarek recently became the first Terp to win a World Series title in more than 50 years when the Los Angeles Dodgers beat the Tampa Bay Rays in six games last month — and the left-handed relief pitcher describes the moment as something he will relive in his mind forever.
“I think I’d be lying if I said that the World Series was my goal because it just seemed so farfetched that it didn’t seem realistic. It’s starting to set in,” Kolarek said on Glenn Clark Radio Nov. 13. “I think it’s still going to take a bit more time. Nothing’s cooler than when you’re just flipping through the channels and you’re on ESPN or MLB Network and you see the final out and you see us storm onto the field all over again.”
“It’s going to be like that forever, which is awesome,” he added. “I’ll always be able to close my eyes and be right back there.”
This World Series title is also special because it is something that Kolarek is able to share with his father, Frank, who played for Maryland from 1973-1975 and in the Oakland Athletics’ farm system from 1976-1982. The former catcher has been one of Kolarek’s biggest supporters throughout his baseball career, but due to the COVID-19 pandemic, he did not attend the World Series in Arlington, Texas. Kolarek’s parents watched from home.
“… I know that they’re living and dying on the couch and jumping around the living room watching the games at home. My dad is always so blown away by the texts he gets from his brothers and family and all of his friends and former teammates of his own from Maryland,” Kolarek said. “That’s been really cool for him. He’s heard from so many fellow Terps that he played with in the late 70s and early 80s that have reached out and followed my career and just supported all the way.”
“Just representing the university has meant so much,” he added. “Not just to our former teammates, but [everyone] through all the last 20, 30, 40 years of Terps [history] that have been following along at home.”
Kolarek, 31, was drafted by the New York Mets in 2010 after a three-year career in College Park, Md., but did not make his MLB debut until 2017 with the Tampa Bay Rays. Throughout his big-league career, he has recorded a 3.32 ERA and a 1.16 WHIP with 81 strikeouts in 143 appearances. In 20 appearances for the Dodgers this past season, Kolarek posted a 0.95 ERA and a 0.79 WHIP. He pitched in four games during the 2020 playoffs, allowing five runs but none in his lone World Series appearance.
Kolarek wasn’t the only Terp representing the University of Maryland in the World Series, as second baseman Brandon Lowe was also in the running to win the title with Tampa Bay. Kolarek and Lowe, who roomed together while both were with the Rays, are the first two Maryland players to meet in a World Series. Kolarek struck out Lowe in Game 4.
“Obviously, it’s not too hard of an argument to say that [Lowe is] the best left-handed hitter in that lineup. I’m really glad I got the opportunity to face Brandon. I do let myself think about that stuff, even in the moment. I think about how special it is, the importance of it. Not just for the two of us, but for our college, for our university team as a whole,” Kolarek said of facing Lowe. “You allow yourself to appreciate that. I think that helps me mentally to not let the moment get too big and just realize that, as hard as it is to do, you just kind of tell yourself it’s another at-bat. It’s another lefty you have to get out.”
Lowe, 26, tore his ACL during his freshman season as a Terp but led the team in on-base percentage and slugging percentage during each of the next two years. Taken by the Rays in the third round of the 2015 draft, Lowe made his big-league debut in 2018 and was an All-Star in 2019. In 2020, Lowe hit .269/.362/.554 and 14 home runs — just three homers shy of his 2019 homer total in 26 fewer games.
In what was their third visit to the World Series in the past four seasons, the Dodgers clinched the World Series title with a 3-1 victory in Game 6.
“You really do take, as cliché as it is, that one-game-at-a-time approach,” Kolarek said of how the Dodgers kept pushing forward toward the series title. “We all just wanted to finish off the season for everyone in L.A., for the fans.”
For more from Kolarek, listen to the full interview here:
Photo Credit: Courtesy of the Los Angeles Dodgers