Nudged by some buddies, Mike Arbinger recently joined a local softball team. Those familiar with the former Start standout's skill on the ball diamond might be surprised to learn what happened.
"Softball's tough, man," Arbinger said. "My first couple of times I looked like I didn't have any clue what I was doing. It felt like it took the ball eight years to get there."
It's interesting that Arbinger said eight years. It was that long ago that he wrapped up a college baseball career that is recognized as among the finest ever at Ohio University. The school recently honored Arbinger, 30, in a major way, inducting him and three others into its athletic hall of fame during a ceremony Oct. 15 in Athens, Ohio.
"Good time," Arbinger said. "Real nice."
Arbinger, a 2002 graduate of OU with a bachelor's in physical education, had a stellar senior year, earning first team All-American and Mid-American Conference honors. From there, the Pittsburgh Pirates signed Arbinger as an undrafted free agent, and he succeeded immediately, batting .327 and being named to the Gulf Coast All Star team.
Arbinger, though, never advanced to play for Pittsburgh's parent team and was released after two years with the organization. In the three years that followed, he toiled around the independent leagues before officially putting an end to his professional baseball career.
"I had enough," Arbinger said. "I wasn't really moving up and I had my teaching license and degree. Usually when guys are in the minors for five or six years you get to a point where you have to make a decision. I decided not to do it anymore."
Arbinger moved back to Toledo and got a job with Toledo Public Schools. He is a physical education teacher at Bowsher High School, but unlike his father, legendary Start High coach Rich Arbinger, Mike isn't much interested in being around the diamond, unless you consider his weekly softball games that "aren't competitive" and are merely "a social event."
"I do a lot of bow hunting, deer hunting, and my dad and my brother - Jason, who also played baseball at OU - are big fishermen, so we spend a lot of time on the boat," Mike said.
At Start, Mike was present for four of the illustrious program's best years, winning City League titles every year, advancing to two state final fours, and enjoying an overall record of 105-13. Rich Arbinger retired after the 2009 season as Ohio's fourth-most-winningest coach with a record of 759-214.
Mike said that within two years he hopes to have attained two master's degrees from the University of Toledo, one in physical education, and another in health. As for the school where he received his bachelor's degree, Mike says OU is "Just a fabulous place to get an education."
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