Birth of a Major League Dream

Birth of a Major League Dream

At age 18, West Springfield's Bobby Wahl prepares to choose between college baseball or a career in the MLB.

If it was up to a young Bobby Wahl, he'd stand on the pitcher's mound in front of 57,545 fans at Yankee Stadium and attempt to strike out the last batter in the ninth inning.

If he gets the strikeout, adoring fans will paint his name in pinstripe and he’ll become a Bronx hero.

"I've always wanted to be the pitcher on the mound," the West Springfield pitcher said. "All eyes on me. I've always wanted that situation and every kid dreams about it — being in Yankee Stadium with the pinstripes."

It's a situation ripped from baseball lore, and it has been Wahl's childhood dream to fulfill it.

On June 7 at the Major League Baseball draft, Wahl will come one step closer to that dream. The only unknowns are which team his 94-mile-per-hour fastball will go to, and whether he'll go pro or join the University of Mississippi baseball team next year.

"It depends on what happens on June 7," he said. "If I get the right amount of money, go in the right round, then maybe there's a shot I will go to the MLB. Until that day, I'm focused on going to Ole' Miss."

Mock drafts have the right-handed pitcher going in the fifth round. Fan bloggers who have never seen him play debate if he would be a good fit for their team, and West Springfield's baseball games are flooded with professional scouts watching his form.

Even if Wahl decides to play in college, he’s just now realizing he is on a crash course with professional baseball.

"I don't know if it has set in yet," he said. "I'm still just playing my senior year of high school baseball. I've thought about it, but I don't know if I've come to grips with it."

Wahl's baseball playing days started in his grandfather Elden Wahl’s backyard with a plastic Baltimore Orioles bat and glove.

"While my parents worked, my grandfather would play with me," he said. "He helped me love the game."

As a child, Wahl idolized former Orioles great Cal Ripken Jr. He had other favorites as well. In an interview with The Connection on March 10, Wahl said he'd want to trade places with former Boston Red Sox pitcher Pedro Martinez during his 1999 season.

Wahl's path to becoming a scouted prospect began at a baseball camp at the University of Virginia after his sophomore year of high school.

At the camp, Wahl's fastball broke 90 miles per hour for the first time.

"It was a good feeling," he said. "I was like, 'Wow, I actually got to that goal.' Ninety is the magic number. Once I hit that, I realized I could go somewhere with my arm."

After his junior season with West Springfield, Wahl joined other baseball prospects for a circuit of summer games. He even got to pitch at a prospects’ game at Wrigley Field in Chicago.

Interest in Wahl began to sizzle.

"After [the showcase] they saw me," he said. " A lot of scouts came to my house and talked to me for awhile. Then they came to my games and I noticed them watching me."

West Springfield head coach John James said every team in the MLB has made the trip to Springfield to watch Wahl, some making return visits. Teams also conducted in-home interviews with Wahl, James said.

"We've played in front of the scouts at least five or six times," he said. "I knew they were going to come this year. Early in the season, I was worried it might affect the team. It's not a factor now."

Wahl makes it clear that there’s more to his success than five pitches and a blistering fastball. He is a self-described gym-rat.

"I'm always out on the track or in the weight room," he said. "It's constant go for me. I never quit and I never end. I want people to realize how much hard work goes into my pitching. It's not just God given."

It's a character trait that has helped drive Wahl to his current success, and fortunately for James, he rarely needs to remind his star pitcher to work on his own.

"He understands that he needs to take care of his body," James said. "It's not just throw and take three days off and throw again. He understands that between pitching he has to do running and lifting. He does it on his own."

The iron work ethic doesn’t surprise James.

"Baseball is his passion," James said. "When you're passionate about anything, you get consumed by it and you work as hard as you possibly can."

All the talk swirling around Wahl doesn’t faze his teammates. Catcher David Pyon said Wahl doesn't brag about his spotlight and never strays from working toward the Spartans' team goals.

"He's just awesome," he said. "He's always keeping us in class and keeping us focused on what we should be doing. The scouts don't bother him. It's just a game out there to him."

With a month left before the MLB draft, Wahl will turn his attention from the draft to focus on a region title run before making his big decision.

College or the majors? Either way, he's MLB-bound. How he gets there is his choice.

"Bobby would benefit from some years in college," James said. "But when the opportunity comes to play professional baseball, it's hard to pass that up."