D3 Baseball pitchers usually come through in two different forms when they are considered to be the stars of their level and time: dominant staff aces or reliable back-end options.
While most of those arms in D3 don't make it to the Major Leagues after their collegiate careers, there have been quite a few relievers to make it with teams — and three have been awarded as the Reliever of The Year.
But which three alumni have been honored with this award? Here's the three to accomplish the feat:
Dan Quisenberry — La Verne
Quisenberry was a dominant closer during the 1980's, winning five Rolaids Relief Awards between 1980-85. That mark took the greatest closer of all time – Mariano Rivera -10 years to accomplish.
Hailing from La Verne College, "Quiz" was not drafted, but worked his way through to make the Royals for the first time in 1979. Taking over as the closer in his second year – in which he won his first award – he went on to be named an All Star three times.
Besides his Relief Awards and All Star honors, the 1985 World Series champ also finished in the top 10 of MVP voting four times, and the top five of Cy Young voting five times with two straight runner-up finishes in 1983 and '84.
Billy Wagner — Ferrum
One of the most dominant relievers in the history of baseball, Wagner would have been the premier closer of his time were it not for Trevor Hoffman and Mariano Rivera playing as future Hall of Famers.
The 1999 NL Rolaids winner, the former Ferrum product had his breakout season before the turn of the century, establishing a new career high in saves, ERA, and strikeouts. He would later go on to save a season-best 44 games in 2003, his last season in Houston.
While the Hall of Fame love has not bestowed Wagner yet – 11.1 percent voting in 2018 – hopefully it is just a matter of time before we see "Billy The Kid" make his way to Cooperstown as the first D3 enshrinee since Carlton Fisk in 2000.
Joe Nathan — Stony Brook
You may see Stony Brook above and think "aren't they a D1 school"? Well, you are not wrong in your thought, but SB was actually a D3 program when Joe Nathan played there in the early 1990's.
Winning the Relief Award once – tying Mariano Rivera for the honor – Nathan was another closer who did not receive as much recognition because of who was in the American League with him during his career.
Eligible for the Hall of Fame beginning next year, it is unlikely that Nathan ever gets in during his ten years on the ballot. But for one of the better closers in the 21st century, he deserved his one Relief Award in his career.