Barry University's "Bigger Unit" Stands Tall - NBC 6 South Florida

Barry University's "Bigger Unit" Stands Tall

At 7-foot-2, Frank Szczepanik is the tallest college baseball player ever



    One of the tallest baseball pitchers ever, Randy Johnson, went by the nickname "The Big Unit," but at Barry University, there's a pitcher who teammates are calling "The Bigger Unit." Meet 7-foot-2 Frank Szczepanik. (Published Friday, Feb. 18, 2011)

    Frank Szczepanik is the tallest college baseball player ever.

    The 7-foot-2, 270 pound pitcher for Barry University is three inches taller than the tallest player in Major League Baseball history, John Rauch. He's also four inches taller than the pitcher he looked up to as a kid, Randy Johnson.

    "Your teammates kind of look at you funny the first couple weeks," said Szczepanik. "Sometimes you get the 'wow,' and they just stare at you."

    Szczepanik grew up in New Jersey, playing baseball and, of course, basketball in high school. But believe it or not, the 7-footer turned down basketball scholarship offers from Princeton, Harvard and Clemson.

    "I sat down with my parents and realized that I wanted to wake up in the morning and do something I love," said Szczepanik. "So baseball's the route I took."

    After a couple of quick stops at South Carolina Beaufort, an NAIA school and Brookdale Community College, Frank emailed a video of himself to Barry's head baseball coach, Marc Pavao.

    "I thought it was someone playing a joke on me," said Pavao.

    But it was no joke. And the giant pitcher had talent. So Frank joined the team at Barry, and this season, the 20-year-old sophomore is a relief pitcher, with hopes of taking his talent to new heights.

    Barry's starting catcher is 5-foot-6, so he and Frank have an agreement. Anytime they have a meeting on the mound, Frank steps off the rubber and his catcher steps on, so people can't tell there's a 20-inch height differential.

    "I really didn't agree to it," Szczepanik laughed, "but I guess I have no say in the matter."

    Szczepanik's goal is to play in the majors one day, but he knows he's got a lot of work to do first.

    "I remember when he first got here and he was fielding a ground ball or a bunt off the mound," said Pavao, "and by the time he'd bend down and stand up, the runner was practically on second. So his ability to improve that part of his game has been huge for us." 

    Szczepanik says there are positives and negatives to being the tallest pitcher ever. One benefit is the intimidation factor. The pitching mound is 10 inches high, so when Frank looks down at a batter, he's essentially 8 feet tall.