He had more or less given up on signing with an MLB team.
A few days after not being chosen in the draft’s 40 rounds, pitcher Evan Bell looked elsewhere to prolong his baseball career, signing with Joplin Blasters.
The Blasters are a team in the American Association of Independent Professional Baseball. It wasn’t what he envisioned, but it was something.
But then his dream snapped back into place. After two days and pitching one inning for the Blasters, he received a call from the Chicago White Sox, who were suddenly interested in signing the 6-foot-8 right-hander.
“They had their eye on me for the draft but it ended up not working out,” Bell said. “They didn’t even know I was playing in that league when they called me.”
Joplin, Kansas, is a couple hours away from Bell’s hometown of Stillwell, Kansas, which also happened to be the site of his first game with the independent team.
Then he made the drive to Joplin alongside his new teammates, watched a game that day from the dugout before receiving the call from the White Sox.
So, the next morning, after one day in town, Bell packed up his belongings and left for Arizona to finalize his new contract.
Bell had worked out at U.S. Cellular Field, the home of the White Sox, a couple days before the draft. But then he sat and watched every team, including the White Sox, bypass him and not receive an explanation why.
Then, Bell received some help. After the draft ended, IU pitching coach Kyle Bunn went on a mission to find his Sunday starter a place in an MLB organization.
“Coach Bunn was working pretty hard after the draft for me and telling them about me and telling them that I got passed up,” Bell said. “He was working really hard for me to get me a chance somewhere and I think that paid off big time.”
Now, thanks to Bunn, Bell has a chance to pursue his dream. He has with him a change up he only recently developed during his senior season.
He said he needs to work on commanding that pitch better, to throw it both for a strike and a couple inches off the plate to fool hitters and entice them into swings and misses.
“My breaking ball has always been pretty consistent but I have to be able to throw more change ups for strikes and also change ups a little off the plate to get swing and misses,” Bell said. “I think that pitch is going to be big for my success going forward.”
Bell calls himself someone who’s always been a competitor. He only won two games in his senior season despite a 3.36 ERA, in large part because IU’s bats seemed to go cold whenever Bell was on the mound.
He competed and fought through that, and has now overcome the challenge of going undrafted. The success rate of reaching the major leagues after going undrafted is low, but the likes of Bobby Bonilla, Kevin Millar and Kevin Mitchell have done it. Mitchell won an MVP award. Both Bonilla and Millar are World Series champions despite their draft day slights.
It will take a lot for Bell to join that list, but in the short time he’s been with the White Sox he already thinks he’s carving out a place for himself.
“In the few days here, in bullpens and working with the coaches, it’s been really good and I’m locating better now and I think I can help any level win,” Bell said.
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