Watching the San Francisco Giants win the World Series last year was bittersweet for Anthony Pannone.
The former professional baseball player, who pitched in the Giants’ minor league system, was happy for players such as Tim Lincecum and Nate Schierholtz — guys he’d liked when he played with them.
“That could have been me,” Pannone said. “So many of those guys were ones I played with.”
Pannone, now 29, has one of the more unusual stories of the about 4,000 Cal Poly students graduating today.
After Pannone had to let go of his dream of playing big league ball, he went back to college at Cal Poly on a Major League Baseball scholarship.
Pannone once threw the ball more than 90 mph and seemed to be on a good track for “the show,” the term players use for the big leagues.
From 2000 to 2006 he pitched as high as baseball’s AA level, even getting called up to AAA — the step before the big leagues — for a couple of weeks.
But an arm injury that required surgery sidetracked him, and his hopes eventually faded. Rehabilitation didn’t take, and in 2006, he was told there was no longer a place for him in the organization.
Now Pannone says he’s happy with his current path in agriculture communications. He writes often, which has always been an interest.
“Even on the bus, I’d be writing poems and writing down lyrics from songs,” Pannone said of his time as a player. “Some people thought I was weird. But writing and reading is what I love to do.”
Pannone initially attended Cal Poly at 27 to study biology and thought he might enjoy working with animals. But he didn’t find his niche in labs examining samples of livers and cells, he said.
So he switched his major to agriculture, which eventually led him to specialize in agriculture communications.
He’s now moving on to a master’s degree in agricultural leadership and communication at Texas A&M University and has thoughts of returning to teach at Cal Poly eventually.
But the 6-foot-3-inch graduate with a lanky frame hasn’t let baseball go completely. He still coaches the San Luis Obispo Blues summer league team for college players.
“I’m getting better with dealing with it,” Pannone said. “But I never thought I wouldn’t make it. I’d say, ‘That’s not going to happen.’ There’s no ‘after baseball.’ But I’m more at peace now.”
Graduations at Cal Poly today
College of Architecture and Environmental Design
Orfalea College of Business
College of Engineering
College of Agriculture, Food and Environmental Sciences
College of Liberal Arts
College of Science and Mathematics