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Jimmy Summers

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James Summers

  • Bats Right, Throws Right

Jimmy Summers may have had the largest impact of any foreign player in Croatian baseball in the first two decades after the country's independence (Tetsuhiro Monna also has a strong case).

Summers was born in Mexico but grew up in Ohio, where he went to college. While in college, Summers made contact with a Croatian baseball team including Kruno Karin and Damir Karin. The elder Karin convinced Jimmy to sign with the Croatian team Karlovac Olimpija out of college, in 1995. The country was still undergoing a fair bit of unrest stemming from the war for independence and it was not a peaceful area for a player to appear. In 1996, the conflict officially ended.

Summers obtained a Croatian passport as people residing in Croatia who can help a national team can easily obtain passports; while he was exempted from military service, he had to officially register and was technically a sniper in the Croatian army. He may have been the first "ringer" on the Croatian national baseball team.

Summers was 0-2 with a save and a 0.98 ERA in the 1999 European Championship, fanning 22 but walking 12 in 18 1/3 innings. He led the event in Ks, five ahead of runner-up Robin Roy and 8 ahead of #3 Tom Urbani, a former major leaguer. He had the lowest ERA of any pitcher who allowed an earned run.

Jimmy went 21-2 in the 1999 Croatian season. As a European citizen, he had a chance to play in a higher European league, so he signed with the Dutch team ADO in 2000. He tied Derrick Isenia for fifth in the league with four complete games and also saved two contests that season.

In the 2001 European Championship, Jimmy was 0-1 with a save for Croatia, fanning 16 in 18 2/3 IP but walking 14. He had a 3.86 ERA, second among the staff's starting pitchers. He finished third in the event in innings and second in strikeouts (trailing Carlos Ros of Spain).

Summers had a strong 2002 season in the Netherlands. His 2.84 ERA was 10th in the Hoofdklasse and his 101 1/3 IP ranked 9th. He went 8-6, tying for fifth in wins, and was 7th with 86 strikeouts. He also saved two games.

In the 2003 European Championship, Summers was 1-1 with a 1.69 ERA for Croatia and fanned 20 in 16 innings, only walking 3. He was 4th in the event in strikeouts (6 behind teammate Monna). 2003 was the only season from 2000-2006 that he did not pitch in the Netherlands.

In 2004, Jimmy was among the Hoofdklasse leaders in innings (79, 9th), strikeouts (57, tied with Keino Perez for 7th) and complete games (2, tied for 7th). During '05, he went 4-2 with a save and a 1.64 ERA for ADO (by now called the Tornado's). By this point in time, he was also serving as the team's head coach. In 2006, Summers was 2-5 with a 5.11 ERA, ending his career in the Netherlands.

Summers coached for Columbus State College in 2007 then rejoined Croatia for the 2007 European Championship, going 1-1 with a 1.74 ERA and 17 K in 20 2/3 IP; he only allowed 11 hits. He lost to the Czech national team then beat the Ukrainian national team while going all 13 innings in a 2-1 win against Roman Yatsyuk (who also went the distance). Jimmy was second on Croatia in ERA behind Mario Zdelar.

In the 2008 European Championship Qualifiers, Summers was 1-0 with 5 hitless, scoreless innings to help Croatia earn a spot in the 2010 European Championship. Jimmy's win came against Serbia.

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