Sunday, August 15, 1999

NORTHERN KENTUCKY INSIDER


St. Henry's Luebbers likes St. Louis

BY NEIL SCHMNIDT
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Larry Luebbers won't win a Cy Young Award, make the Hall of Fame or have his number retired. Those are goals for other pitchers.

        In proper perspective, though, the St.Henry grad's career has outstretched his dreams. “I've kind of exceeded the expectations I've had,” he said. “I've been lucky.”

        Lucky Larry Luebbers.

        He hardly pitched in high school. He walked on at Kentucky — “My friend Bobby Hicks wanted to try out and didn't want to go by himself,” he says — and made the team. Luebbers was drafted by his hometown team, the Reds, and won two games for them in 1993.

        And now, after waiting six years in the minor leagues, he has had another chance — starting four games recently for the St.Louis Cardinals. In his second-to-last start, in the most hyped game of this baseball season, he kept San Diego's Tony Gwynn from his 3,000th hit while teammate Mark McGwire clubbed his 500th home run.

        “It's unbelievable, the excitement in St.Louis,” Luebbers said. “I've been thankful to have this chance. St.Louis is a great place to play.”

        Luebbers went 1-2 with a 5.24 ERA for the Cards, returning to Triple-A Memphis last week when St.Louis summoned phenom pitcher Garrett Stephenson to the majors. Luebbers is expected to return to the big leagues next month when rosters are expanded.

        Luebbers will be 30 in October, and he's still playing — now in his 10th professional season. He counts every day in uniform as special.

        “Every time I think I'm finished, someone puts another opportunity in front of me,” he said. “A lot of times I've had to be in the right place at the right time.”

        Since Luebbers' late-season stint in 1993 for the Reds — he won his first two starts, finishing 2-5 with a 4.54 ERA — the 6-foot-6 right-hander has lived out of a suitcase. He pitched in the minors for four different organizations (Chicago Cubs, Reds again, Atlanta Braves and Cardinals) the past six years.

        Two years ago, he feared he was finished. He had gone 3-14 with a 5.38 ERA for the Braves' Triple-A team in Richmond, and he spent the offseason working as a teller at a bank in Walton, waiting for his phone to ring.

        “I didn't pitch as horrible as my record showed, but you can't really hide from numbers like that,” Luebbers said. “It was nerve-wracking not knowing if I'd get a call.”

        Finally, St.Louis phoned. Luebbers went 11-11 with a 4.10 ERA last year in Memphis, then went 11-4 with a 3.91 ERA there the first half of this season.

        He was the starting pitcher for the Pacific Coast League in the Triple-A All-Star Game. His next start would be for St.Louis. On July 25, he beat Colorado 6-4 for his first major-league victory in six years.

        Though he struggled re-adjusting to the big-league level, especially with his control — 11 walks and just six strikeouts in 22 innings — he feels confident he'll improve in his next opportunity.

        “I'm just trying my best each time out,” Luebbers said.

        SCHWEGMANN SITS OUT: Katie Schwegmann, one of the state's top cross country runners, has quit the sport.

        The Bishop Brossart junior-to-be plans to continue running track each spring — she has helped lead the Mustangs to three consecutive Class A state titles — but a combination of factors caused her to take this fall off.

        “I've been running from one sport to the other and haven't had a break,” she said. “It feels like I'm sick or hurt every week. I didn't want to run my body down.”

        Schwegmann, the Enquirer's Girls Basketball Player of the Year last season, sees her future in that sport. The free time will help her prepare for basketball.

        Plus, Schwegmann can't exercise the next month while she recovers from nasal surgery. She hadn't been able to train for cross country anyway, having played on a traveling AAU basketball team this summer that finished fifth in the nation in the 17-and-under class.

        Schwegmann earned Enquirer all-star honors and finished in the top 10 of the Class A state meet in all four of her cross country seasons. She won Enquirer Runner of the Year honors in 1996 after finishing third at state.

        “It was very, very hard to drop cross country,” she said. “I know I'll miss it.”

        SKATING ABROAD: Jordan Brauninger, a 12-year-old who trains at the Northern Kentucky Ice Skating Center in Crescent Springs, skates Saturday in the North American Challenge, an international competition in Toronto.

        The U.S. Figure Skating Association chose him to represent the United States in intermediate freestyle, in which he placed second at the Junior Olympics this spring.

        Brauninger also won the juvenile pairs title this spring with partner Samantha Skavdahl, 9. They will resume pairs competition this fall.

       

        ALUMNI MEET: The 15th annual Covington Catholic/Notre Dame alumni cross country meet is Thursday at Thomas More College. Notre Dame's team races its alumnae at 7p.m.; CovCath races its alum at 7:30. All former runners are invited.

        Neil Schmidt is The Enquirer's Northern Kentucky sports reporter. Call him at 606-578-5582 or send e-mail to nschmidt@enquirer.com.

       



Sports Stories
Final recalls heated end of '98 ATP
Luck, serve lift Sampras
Agassi's end familiar
ATP NOTEBOOK
Rafter cruises 55 past Kafelnikov
Saturday's ATP results
Today's ATP schedule
Sports policy aims to keep kids in school
A SECOND OPINION
Blake turns back Bengal clock
McEnroe an ace in the booth
Big losses don't stop big expectations at OSU
Dayton recruit likely in the clear
St. Ursula on Good Morning America
BOYS GOLF PREVIEW
GIRLS GOLF PREVIEW
- St. Henry's Luebbers likes St. Louis
D'backs thinking playoffs

REDS 4, PHILLIES 1
Box, runs
REDS NOTEBOOK
Hall-of-Famer Reese dies
COLTS 20, BENGALS 17
Brown 'helps' Colts close deal
Game statistics