SARASOTA, Fla. – There aren’t too many 19 year olds that will pitch to an MVP candidate, let alone two of them in the same inning.
Dylan Bundy stood on the mound at an Orioles spring training game last Tuesday at JetBlue Park and pitched a scoreless fifth to the Boston Red Sox Jacoby Ellsbury, Dustin Pedroia, and Adrian Gonzalez.
“It was the most intense part of the game I’ve ever been in,” said the sturdy right-hander of his debut, “I’ve never been nervous, I wouldn’t say nervous is the word
“More amped up and excited, seeing 12-13,000 fans there.”
Nerves don’t seem like something that would be a problem for the new guy at Major League camp in Sarasota, someone who was drafted fourth overall in the 2011 draft.
Bundy played for Larry Turner’s Owasso High School baseball team in Owasso, Ok, where finished his 2011 season with an 11-0 record, throwing 158 strikeouts in 71 innings of work.
Perhaps most notably, Bundy’s ERA was 0.20, and he allowed only 20 hits throughout the entire season.
His incredible year earned him the national Gatorade Athlete of the Year award, making him the first baseball player to ever receive such an honour. It didn’t hurt that he also batted .467.
“I’ll always remember it, it was a huge award to win,” said the Orioles No. 1 prospect.
The morning of Aug. 15, the deadline to make his decision to forego his commitment to the University of Texas, Bundy kept his mind clear of any stress.
“The day went by slow,” he said at the Orioles’ Buck O’Neil training complex on Thursday. “I was in Arkansas with my friend Archie Bradley and we just passed time
“We went out to this big acreage, 5,500 acres and rode around on these ATVs for four or five hours until the night when we had to make a decision.”
Bradley was selected by the Arizona Diamondbacks only three spots behind his fellow Oklahoman, and plays on their class-A affiliate in South Bend, IN.
Bundy’s older brother, Bobby, was picked up by the Orioles in the 2008 draft, and played a big role in Dylan signing with the organization last year instead of playing college ball as a Longhorn.
“The decision was easy. Once they give you an opportunity to play pro ball with a major league deal, it was set in stone,” he said.
“(Bobby) was definitely a huge factor too. We’re both happy for each other.”
The Bundy brothers have a work ethic that isn’t easily matched, and embody their father Denver’s philosophy (and frequently used Twitter hashtag) that ‘pitchers are athletes too’.
“We don’t just do our workout for the day, that’s just boring” Dylan says, as he stands firmly at 6-0, 200 pounds, “We like to do anything that keeps you moving as an athlete.”
Growing up Bundy has paid off, but it’s not without trials and tribulations over the years.
“It’s not as easy as everyone thinks,” Dylan says, speaking of playing with Bobby and Denver as a kid. “We’ve had our tough times throughout the whole process.”
There are big expectations for Dylan Bundy, but this teenager speaks with a maturity that seems well beyond someone who is throwing professional pitches for the first time. The lessons learned in Oklahoma from Denver still stand out, even here in Sarasota, with Ed Smith Stadium as the backdrop.
“‘Work harder than anybody else and don’t let anyone outwork you that day’, I try to stick to that,” Bundy said.
The new face in the Orioles organization wants to be around more familiar ones in a major league starting rotation.
“My brother, right in front of me, and right behind me,” he said, without a moment of hesitation.
“Any one of these guys here (at the Orioles camp).
“We’ve got a young staff and I think we’re going to be really good.”
Catcher Taylor Teagarden, who is a new arrival to the Orioles from the Texas Rangers, paid a visit to Bundy on the mound in Tuesday’s game after he walked Pedroia.
“(He said) ‘calm down kid, you’ve got plenty of zip to it’” Bundy said, recalling the moment.
“I’m happy he came out there. Sometimes that’s all it takes to be calmed down by a teammate.”