Reeser pitches in

Ben Reeser has had a strong summer with the Fayetteville SwampDogs
Ben Reeser has had a strong summer with the Fayetteville SwampDogs

Aug. 6, 2007

Fayetteville, N.C. - Hard work and service has been ingrained in the life of Ben Reeser. The junior pitcher is determined to improve on the mound in preparation for next season. In between starts, the Bloomington, Ill., native has also found time to give back.

Reeser has joined Illini teammates Dominic Altobelli and Aaron Martin, and future Illini John Schlichter on the roster of the Fayetteville SwampDogs of the Coastal Plain League. While Reeser has been one of the top hurlers in the league, it's his work away from the diamond that has also grabbed headlines.

Having grown up on a farm, Reeser has never been one to shy away from physical labor, but he also believes that his skills can be used to serve others. He and his twin brother, Collin, have spent the last two winter breaks helping victims of Hurricane Katrina in Alabama and Mississippi.

"This summer it was up to me to keep it going," Reeser said.

That's why when he got to North Carolina, one of his first calls was to Ann Griffin, the executive director of the Fayetteville Area Habitat for Humanity. "I was impressed with the fact the he took the initiative," Griffin said. "He has been active with us on several occasions this summer."

Specifically, Reeser has helped build storage sheds for three families. Griffin said that is something they include with every house they do throughout the year. Reeser even asked SwampDogs manager Darrell Handelsman to miss a road trip between starts to work on a project. He estimates he has been out 6-8 times overall this summer.

"I have always enjoyed working outside," he said. "I think it's important to help out people as much as possible. This is a way I can use some of my skills to make a difference."

"He is one of those people that has his heart in the right place all the time," Illinois head coach Dan Hartleb said in an interview with a Fayetteville area newspaper. "It's not all about Ben Reeser, it's about what he can do to help."

Reeser, who earned a spot on the league's all-star team, has worked just as hard on the field. "I didn't have a stellar season in the spring," he admits. "I started getting comfortable with my pitches at the end of the year and it has carried over to the summer."

Martin and Reeser are 1-2 in the league in victories with eight and seven, respectively, while Reeser is third with a 1.39 earned run average.

"The wooden bats allow you to challenge hitters with your fastball inside, at least early in the season," Reeser said. "I've worked really hard on my changeup and curve and getting them over for strikes."

Reeser didn't give up a run in seven innings of his first start against Wilmington and hasn't looked back. He is 7-0 with 28 strikeouts in 58.1 innings pitched. Opponents are hitting just .213 off Reeser in those appearances. The SwampDogs have enjoyed a dominating season as a team, going 23-5 in the first half of the season and 16-9 in the second half. The league itself has been popular with the fans with several crowds over 2,000 and two over 4,000.

This is the third season that Reeser has been active during the summer, having played for the Twin City Stars of the Central Illinois Collegiate League and the Duluth Huskies of the Northwoods League in 2006, although his stint with Duluth was cut short due to a back injury. In between his community service and work on the mound, the business administration major has also been taking a course on-line. He hopes to parlay his success in a SwampDogs uniform to his usual Orange & Blue threads.

"This has been a great experience for the four of us," Reeser said. "I believe we can affect our team in a positive manner because of it."

Reeser has proven his positive influence extends beyond the diamond.