By Don Leypoldt
Last season, two-summer NECBL alumnus Bryan Rembisz was one of the best lanceurs in the Can-Am League. Suiting up for the Quebec Capitales, Rembisz’ 2.56 ERA was tops among all pitchers who threw 100+ innings. His .900 winning percentage led the League.
This season, Rembisz leads the 54-30 Capitales in starts. It took Rembisz a little bit to find a maison North of the Border, but the four-year Vermont Catamount starter has a joie de vive living and playing in Quebec.
“It’s an awesome place to play. The fans are great. They really root for you,” Rembisz describes. “Everyone on the team speaks English and a lot of the guys have played in the States. (French) is their native language and they speak to each other in French. As far as living up there, it’s different obviously. It can be a little difficult at times but you have to go with it. A lot of people do speak English. It’s different, but it’s a lot of fun.
“All of the games are in French,” he continued. “Everything is in French up there. Sometimes when the other team doesn’t have an announcer, my parents try to listen to broadcasts in French. But it’s tough to get details when you don’t know the language.”
Here is Rembisz’ bio from the Capitales’ official website. “CS” is NOT “Caught Stealing.” It’s “hits.”
Quebec surprisingly has a long baseball tradition. The Capitales were part of the original Can-Am Class C League that flourished in the 1940s. The modern Capitales draw 3,000 fans a game, equating their attendance to American Double-A.
Before he had to learn how to say “slider” in two tongues, Rembisz was a college student who suited up for Lowell in the 2005 summer. He partnered with Jonathan Papelbon’s twin brothers Josh and Jeremy to form one of the best bullpens in the NECBL. Rembisz appeared in 22 games, going 3-2 with a 2.27 ERA, striking out 47 in 47.2 innings.
The next summer, the Connecticut Shoreline native stayed in the Green Mountain State, pitching in 14 games for the Mountaineers and striking out 26 in 24 innings. Vermont won the 2006 NECBL championship, a memorable experience for Rembisz.
“I definitely think it was great competition, getting used to pitching to the wood bat because college is all metal.,” Rembisz recalled the NECBL. “Getting used to pitching to wood made it easier and helped my career a little bit.”
When Rembisz drove the 40 miles up I-89 from the Mountaineers back to UVM for his senior year, he was on the cusp of breaking out. Experience and maturity were about to click in and elevate his game.
“I don’t think I did anything differently,” Rembisz said of his senior year of college. “I think it was just the experience of my first three years where I pitched a lot, had some success and also failure. I was used to college by that time and used to pitching to metal bats. I grew up as a pitcher.”
In his first three seasons for UVM, Rembisz never had an ERA below 4.50. As a senior, he went 5-3 with a 2.05 ERA, striking out 79 and walking just 17 in 70 innings. He won the America East ERA crown. He did not get drafted, perhaps because he is a 5’8” righty, but teams were noticing.
“I hung around, playing in a men’s league near home,” Rembisz stated. “My coach called and said that Traverse City was looking at me, that they were going to call me and tell me what they were thinking. It worked out.”
Rembisz signed with the Frontier League’s Traverse City Beach Bums and sparkled. He posted a 2.17 ERA over two seasons; all the more impressive since Indy Ball games tend to be slugfests.
The Angels signed him- and promptly put him in Rancho Cucamonga in the High-A California League. The Cali League, with its high and dry elevations, is where ERAs go to die and slugging percentages look like typos.
Nonetheless, Rembisz put up a 3.44 ERA in the Cali League and got promoted to Arkansas, appearing in 44 games during parts of two seasons in Double-A.
“I work quickly and I throw strikes. I don’t really strike many guys out so I have to rely on my defense,” Rembisz pointed out. “That really hurts when you walk guys because when you give up a couple of hits, then you’re giving up runs. You just try and throw strikes and keep the ball down- that’s what you have to do in the California League.”
At press time, Rembisz had made 63 starts and 75 appearances in Independent Ball. He averaged just 2.4 walks per 9 innings during his Indy career.
“There are different mechanics for everyone, but the thing you have to realize is that hitting is hard and if you throw it down the middle, a lot of times, hitters will get themselves out,” he observed. “A good hitter gets a hit only 30% of the time so I look at it like that. Try and give yourself the best chance to succeed (and trust your defense.)”
Rembisz signed with Quebec in 2011. He immediately became one of the League’s best pitchers, making the All-Star team and posting a 2.56 ERA in 17 starts. This season, he is on pace to lead the Can-Am League in starts.
“Going up there, I didn’t know what I was getting into,” Rembisz admitted, “but everyone I talked to who played there loved it. The fans- there is not much baseball up there- they all come out, watch us and root for us. There are no other Minor League teams in the area so it’s big for them.”
Now, Rembisz gets the best of all worlds: getting paid to play baseball in a truly international city yet still being relatively near to his family.
Being close to home “was definitely a selling point when I was thinking about if I wanted to go to Quebec,” he considered, “with the new language and everything. But my family has never been able to see me play because I’ve never played close to home. It’s nice being able to play in New York, Massachusetts and New Jersey where it isn’t too far of a drive for them to come to the games.”
True.. close to home ironically involves visas, a language barrier and long distance phone calls (Yes, Rembisz is one of the few people left who have to pay roaming charges to call home.) But he would say, “Je ne regrette rien.” (“I regret nothing.) Rembisz keeps retiring hitters in whatever idiom you choose.