"I was retired as far as I was concerned. I was done with baseball," Nate Bump said. "But I met a guy who basically told me I was not done and I could still do this."
Bump's career, while short, had also been a memorable one. He was drafted by the San Francisco Giants in 1998 and was traded to the Florida Marlins in 1999. Bump made his major league debut with the Marlins in 2003, and he was a part of the team when the Marlins upset the Yankees in the World Series that season.
"That was such a crazy year. The first day I was called up I was pitching in a game out of the bullpen," Bump said. "But it was just amazing the way it all came together. It was like we couldn't lose, like it was destiny for us."
But in 2005, shoulder pain forced him to sidelines, and when Bump could not pitch without experiencing pain, he felt it was time to call it a career.
"I just felt like that was it. My arm just hurt so badly. I had a surgery in 2005 and nothing really happened for me. I had one more in 2006, and I still did not feel good. I felt like I was done for good," Bump said.
Mike Keady felt otherwise. Keady, an independent Florida based pitching coach, felt Bump had plenty of good years left.
"It was funny because I saw this coming. I saw Nate pitch while with the Marlins, and I could see the strain he was putting on that shoulder," Keady said. "His mechanics were off and I felt like we could change that and get him back on the right track."
Keady and Bump began working together, reshaping Bump's delivery to the plate and taking stress off his surgically repaired shoulder. The duo spent countless hours working on Bump's mechanics, in hopes of another chance in the big leagues.
"Nate works so hard in anything he does," Keady said. "He gives you everything he has and that is what helped him the most. He was so determined."
After just 60 workouts, Bump signed a minor league contract with the team that drafted him, the Giants, and he was assigned to their Double-A team, the Connecticut Defenders. In 17 games with the Defenders, Bump was 4-3 with a 2.64 ERA in 58 innings pitched. Unfortunately for Bump, the Giants decided to release Bump after the 2008 season.
After being released and no other team interested, Bump signed with the Camden River Sharks of the Atlantic League of Professional Baseball, which has no affiliation with the MLB. The right hander hoped that if he pitched well enough, someone might take notice. However, after three months of pitching in Camden, Bump was starting to lose hope that he would get one more chance.
"It was at that point where we were not seeing many scouts in the stands anymore. I was at the point where I did not know if this was ever going to happen again. I was going to give myself a couple of more weeks and shut it down again. I was really starting to get down and out about the whole thing," Bump said.
On July 4th, Bump's luck took a turn for the better. The Detroit Tigers signed him and quickly assigned him to Toledo, and he made his first start on July 7th. It was a great debut for the Penn State product, as he pitched seven innings allowing one run on four hits and getting a win.
In two months, Bump has shown how far he has come since 2005. Bump has posted an impressive 7-1 record through ten starts with a 2.38 ERA. Even more importantly Bump gave the Mud Hens starting rotation the consistency it had been desperately seeking.
"I have tried to stay consistent mechanically. I have worked hard and I finally know what I am doing. I always could pitch, but I did not always pitch the right way," Bump said.
"Nate has done a whale of a job for us," Mud Hens manager Larry Parrish said. "He has added some stability in our rotation and that helped us get back into the swing of things."
Bump had a minor setback in his last start on August 27th against the Indianapolis Indians. He was forced out of the game after six innings with a blister on his right pointer finger. The blister injury made Bump miss his next start.
"Well I am a sinker ball pitcher, and I rely on finger pressure with the sinker and my cut fastball too," Bump said. "With a blister it is very difficult because of the pain but also because you can't get a feel for the pitches."
Regardless of the injury, Bump continues to be focused on one thing and one thing only.
"I just want to make it back to the big leagues. I am not here for money, for pride, or for anything else," Bump said. "I'm here because I want to be in major leagues and that is my main goal."
While there is a still a chance that Bump may be added to the Tigers roster when Toledo's season ends this coming Monday, he has pitched his way back on to not just the Tigers, but baseball's radar screen.
"It would be a great success story if he makes it back to the big leagues," Keady said. "He has battled through many obstacles and he wants to be a contributor for a major league club again."
Bump knows he still has some work left to be done. He knows that he needs to continue to pitch well and prove he still belongs at the major league level.
"I feel like I can still get guys out at the next level, whether that it is as a reliever or a starter. I can give a team a few innings and get out of jams out the pen, or I can come in and throw up low pitch counts and control a game as a starter," Bump said.
Whatever happens for Bump, the 33 year-old pitcher feel like age has provided him with some wisdom.
"When I was with Florida in '03, I didn't enjoy it and let it sink in the way I think I would now. I would be more appreciative of the opportunity that would come along," Bump said. "But that's it. I want my career to start back up. My arm has never felt better, and I am going to keep pushing on and we'll see what happens."