Men across the nation waited to hear their names be called out to fulfill their dream as a professional baseball player June 5 through 7 — and for one Dixie State University baseball player happened just that.
“And with the 716th selection in the 2014 First Year Player Draft, the Milwaukee Brewers select Bubba Blau — a right-handed pitcher from Dixie State University,” the MLB representative announced that Saturday night. And just like that, those 24 words in the 24th round altered the life of DSU alumnus Bubba Blau.
“It was probably one of the best days of my life … I was more happy than anything,” Blau said. “It was just kind of a relief off my shoulders. It’s just a big accomplishment.”
Blau was invited to the Brewers’ pre-draft workout prior to being drafted. This workout is a place where prospects will go throw a bullpen and hit in front of scouts. Blau said this helps their chances of being drafted.
After being selected by the Brewers, Blau received a phone call from the scout who drafted him. Along with congratulating him, the scout told Blau the Brewers were shipping him out to Phoenix in two days to start his baseball career in the Brewers’ Arizona League.
“The AZL is where they send the big leaguers to rehab when they get hurt,” Blau said. “So I have been able to get to talk to a lot of players about the process of how they got to where they are now in the big leagues; it [has been] a really cool experience.”
The routine schedule for the team is practice from 3 p.m. to about 5 p.m. followed by a game every night. He said he faces teams in their region such as the Giants, Cubs, Reds, Indians and Dodgers.
As far as the competition goes, Blau said it seems to be a pretty friendly environment, and it is more of a learning experience for everyone there.
“At first it took a while [to get the friendly environment] because a little more than half of the team is Dominican or Latin speaking, so there was that language barrier that kept us from talking,” Blau said.
He said but now the team is close and can talk now that everyone has learned a bit of each other’s languages.
Along with being drafted, Blau also got dubbed with the No. 1 rank in the “Top 25 most awesome names of the 2014 Draft,” by CBS Sports.
Blau’s name in the article was described as an “onomatopoeia” evocative of an explosion.
“I thought that was pretty fun — pretty cool,” Blau said. “I didn’t even know it happened until my dad posted it on Facebook. It’s kind of funny having your name getting No. 1 in the draft. I didn’t even know they did that stuff.”
But this excitement was not something that came easy. Blau struggled with his pitching in the 2013 season for DSU due to a neck injury in the first week, which kept him from his starting position in week two.
“He started in week three but really struggled with his command and really never earned his starting spot back, as other guys really pitched well,” head coach Chris Pfatenhauer said.”
To recover, Blau worked in the off time on his own, as well as with the help of DSU pitching coach Dave Martinez.
Pfatenhauer said Blau worked hard throughout the fall to make a couple tweaks in his delivery and to regain confidence. He was one of the hardest workers on the team, which is one of the reasons he made great strides from the 2013 to 2014 seasons.
“For [my coaches] to have confidence in me to come back and give me another shot — a second chance really helped me a lot,” Blau said. “It gave me confidence back.”
Blau said his teammates at Dixie always had his back and were there for him. Both coaches and teammates helped him get through the bad year, and their support is what really helped him.
Blau then made an appearance in 16 games in 2014 as a late-innings relief pitcher with a 2.96 ERA.
“Bubba has a chance to be a very successful professional and will always be an important part of the Dixie State baseball family,” Pfatenhauer said.