The year was 2002 and Seth Bobbitt had just finished his second year in the Houston Astros' organization. He had a solid season in the South Atlantic League, but he just didn't think he was advancing in the system.
So he quit.
Bobbitt walked away from the game of baseball. He had pitched in college for Birmingham Southern and graduated in 2001. The Astros then took him in the 28th round in the 2001 draft, the 836th player drafted overall. He pitched well in Pittsfield in the New York Penn League later that summer, posting a 1.61 ERA in eight games (fives starts). Then in 2002 he pitched well in a half a season for Lexington in the South Atlantic League (7-4, 3.04 ERA in 14 starts, 21 walks, 63 strikeouts, and 79 hits allowed in 85 innings).
When he retired, he had a fastball in the 90-91-range with decent offspeed stuff. But it wasn't enough. He didn't believe he was going to make it in baseball, so instead he became a personal trainer.
For the first time in his life Bobbitt started working out. He had never really lifted weights before. Several years had passed since his retirement, and this past spring he started to wonder if he could pitch again.
Bobbitt showed up at a Team One Pre-Draft workout on May 24th. He was one of nineteen players, but most were high school kids preparing for the June draft. Bobbitt just wanted to be seen, and there were four scouts representing big league organizations on hand to watch the workout.
The 6'1", 180-pound right-hander was the most impressive player in the entire workout. His fastball was consistently in the 93-95-range, and he hit 96 and 97 mph on several occasions. Seth's curve ball was effective and his changeup was described by Team One as being "nasty." They voted him as the best prospect in their small tryout camp.
Despite the impressive workout, not one of the four teams offered to sign him. So he placed a call to Braves' area scout Al Goetz, who was in the middle of preparing for the June draft himself. Goetz told Bobbitt he was having a tryout camp in two weeks at Georgia State in Atlanta and told him to come by.
Goetz's tryout camp was to mainly take a look at prospects for next year's draft. He had kids from Georgia and Alabama on hand, mostly rising high school seniors hoping to get the call in June of 2006. But at the end of the tryout camp, Goetz told Braves' Scouting Director Roy Clark he had one more pitcher to look at.
Seth Bobbitt stepped up on the mound and did exactly what he had done two weeks earlier in Alabama. It was only the third time he had even thrown since he decided to attempt a comeback. But in front of Goetz and Clark, he was consistently in the 94-97 range with his fastball, he had a plus breaking ball, and good command.
The Braves signed him immediately.
The change in Bobbitt's fastball is due to his weight training. He had never done it before, and that's why his fastball was in the low-90s when he retired. Now, at 26 years old, Bobbitt is headed to Rome, Georgia where he'll join the Braves' Low-A team in the South Atlantic League either sometime this weekend or early next week.
Once again a team, in this case four teams, passed on a pitcher that has intrigued the Braves. Yes, Bobbitt is 26-years-old, but since he's taken the last two years off, he doesn't have the "normal" arm of a 26-year-old. The Braves scouts believe Bobbitt has solid major league caliber stuff. Now that he's stronger and his stuff is obviously advanced, he'll be placed in the careful hands of the Braves' minor league pitching coaches.
And like for so many other young, talented, and raw pitchers, anything might happen when the Braves develop Bobbitt. Who knows whether or not he'll make it to Atlanta, but once again the scouting philosophy of believing in their minor league system has paid off for the Atlanta Braves.
Bill Shanks has a new book out on baseball scouting and player development philosophies called "Scout's Honor: The Bravest Way To Build A Winning Team." Bill can be reached at email@example.com
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