Jim Ed Warden is the best closer in Atlantic League history...period.
Warden was a 6th round selection(187th overall) by the Cleveland Indians in the 2001 MLB Amateur Draft out of Tennessee Tech University.
He signed with the Indians organization on June 12, 2001 and was sent to Appalachian League where he was 4-5 with a 4.27 ERA for the Burlington Indians.
Warden played seven season in the Indians organization with his best season coming in 2006 with Akron where he had a 5-2 record with a 2.90 ERA and 13 saves in 59 innings.
In December 2006, Warden was selected by the Philadelphia Phillies in the MLB Rule V draft and went to spring training with them in 2007. However, he didn't make the opening day roster out of spring training and was returned to Indians organization.
In 2007, Warden was promoted to Triple-A Buffalo where he had a 1-1 record.
Warden split time between Harrisburg and Columbus in 2008 with the Washington Nationals organization.
In 2009, Warden signed with Southern Maryland Blue Crabs. He made an instant impact with 13 saves and a 1.13 ERA in only 24 innings pitched.
Warden's success didn't go unnoticed. On June 13, 2009 he had his contract purchased by the New York Mets and he was assigned to Double-A Binghamton. Warden continued his dominance and was eventually promoted to Buffalo (Triple-A) in the International League.
In 2010, Warden returned to Southern Maryland and established himself as the best closer in the league by going 6-4 with a 2.60 ERA and 30 saves. He was named an Atlantic League All-Star that season.
Warden a Southern Maryland fan favorite came back for his third season with the Blue Crabs in 2011, and had another tremendous season going 2-5 with a 2.76 ERA and 28 saves.
On January 18, 2012 Warden resigned with the Blue Crabs for the 2012 season.
CM: Favorite baseball team? Favorite baseball player?
JW: I don't really have one now, but growing up I loved the Yankees.. and Don Mattingly was the man. Jeremy Owens is getting close to Donnie Baseball though.
CM: What was it like playing college baseball at Tennessee Tech?
JW: It was a lot of fun but tough... I had 3 different head coaches in 4 years
CM: You played at Tennessee Tech with Ducks closer Bubbie Buzachero, and your current teammate with the Blue Crabs Casey Benjamin. What was that like? What do you think of those guys?
JW: Two of my best friends in the world... great guys...outstanding baseball players
CM: You were drafted in the 6th round (187th overall) by the Cleveland Indians in the 2001 MLB Amateur Draft. Do you remember where you were when you found out? What was your reaction?
JW: I was sitting at my parents house with my dad and a friend from high school... I thought I was going about 10 rounds later. I was ecstatic.
CM: Early in your career you were a starter. When did you or the Indians organization decide you were going to be a closer?
JW: Initially I just moved to the bullpen, because I really didn't do that well in the rotation. I never started a season as a closer with the Indians.. I always just ended up doing it by the end of the year.
CM: You played seven season in the Indians organization. What was your favorite memory?
JW: My favorite memories are my teammates... there wasn't one year where I didn't have the time of my life... but if I had to pick one year it has to be 2005, that was the year I switched to throwing sidearm and it change my career.
CM: You played with your manager Patrick Obsorn in the Indians organization. What was that like? Has he changed much since he was a player?
JW: He was the same man he is now... very competitive but at the same time very laid back and a great baseball guy
CM: You have an odd distinction of playing for Buffalo (Triple-A) in two different season for two different organizations (Indians in 2007 and Mets in 2009). What was that like?
JW: In 2007, I played there in April and May, and in 2009 I played there in August so the biggest differences were the weather but Buffalo always has unbelievable fans.
CM: You never made it to the major leagues. Did you ever feel that you were close to getting called up?
JW: I made it to one of the last days of camp with the Phillies in 2007 as a Rule 5 pick so that was a tough pill to swallow when I got sent back, and there were times in 2008 with the Nationals that I thought I might get called up.
CM: In 2010, you signed with the Blue Crabs. What were your first thoughts of Southern Maryland and the Atlantic League?
The Atlantic League is a great place to extend your career and I love playing in Maryland. I wouldn't play anywhere else unless it was affiliated ball.
CM: Since 2010 you've been one of the most dominant closers in the Atlantic League. What do you contribute to your success?
JW: A lot of my success is bred from knowing that is my game when everything is on the line at the end of the game...knowing that even if I gave up the lead the day before that my manager whether its been Oz or Butch has all the faith in the world in me and my ability to finish the game.
CM: 2012 will be your fourth season with the Southern Maryland. What do you think of the Blue Crabs organization and it's fans?
JW: I love our fans they are the best in the league.
CM: What do you love most about being a closer?
JW: Just being out there when the last out is made.
CM: What's your favorite park in the Atlantic League?
JW: I would have to say Regency Furniture Stadium in Waldorf. It fits to my style of pitching.
CM: What are your thoughts on signing autographs? What if someone ask you to sign 20 cards?
JW: I love it... if somebody asks me to sign 20 cards it might take all of 2 minutes to sign them. Its an honor.
CM: What was your reaction the first time you saw yourself on a baseball card?
JW: I though I looked really skinny.
CM: Did you collect baseball/sports cards when you were a kid?
JW: I had as many baseball cards as I could get... mostly Don Mattingly.
CM: If you could play catch with one person dead or alive who would it be?
JW: Abraham Lincoln... I bet he had nasty stuff.
(Picture on baseball card provided by Paul Hadsall)