Getting the call…
Making it to the show…
Being called up…
It doesn’t matter what you call it, every young boy that has put on a glove or stepped into a batter’s box has dreamed of getting that call to the show and officially becoming a Major League Baseball player. With college baseball season starting over the weekend, andthe big league guys begin reporting for Spring Training this weekend, baseball season is officially here. With that comes the dreams of many collegiate players hoping to play well enough over the next few months to hear their name called in this year’s MLB Draft.
For many Bisons who played their collegiate ball at Lipscomb’s Stephen Marsh Stadium, that dream has already come true.
Over the years, 27 Lipscomb baseball players have had their names called in the Major League baseball draft, and three of them have fulfilled that ultimate goal of suiting up for a major league team. Bo McLaughlin became the first Bison to reach the major leagues. The Houston Astros drafted the two-time All-American with the No. 14 overall pick in the first round of the 1975 draft, making him still the highest draft pick over for a Lipscomb player.
McLaughlin, a right handed relief pitcher, spent four years with the Astros before going to the Atlanta Braves for one season and ultimately finishing his career with two seasons on the hill for the Oakland Athletics. His career almost came to an abrupt halt in 1981 while with the A’s, when Chicago White Sox hitter Harold Baines hit a line drive back into McLaughlin’s face, breaking his cheekbone and eye socket in five places. After fears he may not make it through the night, and multiple surgeries, he returned to the mound only four months later in September of the 1981 season.
In his time in the league, McLaughlin made a total of 156 appearances, 21 as a starter, striking out 188 and carried a career ERA of 4.49. A distinction of McLaughlin’s still etched in the record books is that he is still No. 2 all-time for career plate appearances without a hit. While not uncommon for pitchers to not be great hitters, McLaughlin made 45 consecutive plate appearances without a hit, which was only bettered by the New York Mets’ Randy Tate with 47 during the 1975 season.
After his playing days, McLaughlin went into the real estate business before finding his way back into baseball, this time as a pitching coach. Over the years he has spent time as a pitching coach for the Chicago Cubs, Montreal Expos, Baltimore Orioles and now the Colorado Rockies. With the Rockies he worked with their pitchers through the minor leagues for years before being named the Rockies co-pitching and bullpen coach in 2012.
As pitching coach for the Rockies, McLaughlin has had the unique opportunity to coach Rex Brothers, one of Lipscomb’s only two other major leaguers. Brothers was drafted No. 34 overall by the Rockies in 2009 after then roving pitching coordinator McLaughlin had scouted him. Brothers spent two years in the minor leagues before making his major league debut for the Rockies in 2011. He became a regular out of the Rockies’ bullpen, then in 2013 moved into the team’s closer role after injuries knocked out then-closer Rafael Betancourt.
Brothers finished 2013 with 19 saves, posting a 1.74 ERA and even had a 30-inning scoreless streak. Brothers’ success has continued this season, including tossing an immaculate inning. Against the San Francisco Giants in June, Brothers struck out three batters on only nine pitches. It was the first time the feat had been accomplished by any Colorado Rockies pitcher in history, and the first time it had ever happened in San Francisco’s AT&T Park.
McLaughlin said of coaching the fellow former Bison that, “He’s outstanding, you know what I mean? It’s always a pleasure to go ahead and work with somebody like that. He’s got a lot of dedication and a lot of desire to be the best he can be.”
After Brothers was drafted in 2009 his Lipscomb coach, Jeff Forehand, said at the time, “I think this is going to show kids that if they come to a smaller school they will be on the mound early. They will pitch for three straight years and if they improve, Major League teams are going to find them. As we go forward from here Rex has set the bar high. Hopefully, we will have more of them in the years to come.”
Little did he know at the time, but that message wouldn’t just hold true for future Bisons, but also for family members of Rex Brothers. Adding to the Colorado Rockies stable of former Lipscomb talent, in 2013 they drafted Bisons junior Hunter Brothers – yes, he is Rex’s brother – in the 24th round.
The younger Brothers decided to return to the Lipscomb for his senior year but in June of last year the Rockies came calling again. Colorado drafted Hunter a second time, in the 30th round this go-round, and he joined both his brother and McLaughlin in the Rockies organization.
Time will tell if Hunter ultimately joins his brother and McLaughlin in the ranks of former Bisons to ‘get the call’ to the majors, but someone who doesn’t have to worry about that call coming anymore is Caleb Joseph.
Joseph, a fixture on the 2008 Atlantic Sun championship Bison team, was a seventh round draft pick by the Baltimore Orioles. After seven persistent years working his way up through the minor league system, Joseph got the news he had always wanted in a rather unique way. While with the Triple-A Norfolk affiliate of the Orioles last season, Joseph recalls getting chewed out by his manager Ron Johnson for talking to players on the other team during batting practice.
Little did Joseph know at the time though was that it was a ruse by his normally stoic manager. Johnson said as punishment they were going to ‘scratch [Joseph] from the lineup that night, and furthermore they were going to send him to Florida tomorrow.’
That was when it hit Joseph, because the Orioles were in Florida at the time taking on the Tampa Bay Rays. I lost it at that point,’ Joseph said of the moment. ‘I was like, that is not how I dreamed about it, but it was great. It was a good moment.”
Joseph’s new manager, the legendary Buck Showalter was very eager to get Joseph up to the big league club. “He’s kind of been a steady climber,” Showalter said of the right-handed-hitting catcher the night of his major league debut.
Showalter added, “He really wants this. For a lot of guys it gets tough to keep girding through and improving. He’s gotten a little better each year and he one common thing, pitchers really like throwing to him. This is a big moment for him and he deserves it.”
In Joseph’s first game with the Orioles, he went 0-3 at the plate, but just a few short days later at historic Camden Yards he registered his first major league hit. Later in June he hit his first major league home run, at Yankee Stadium, and became a regular in the Orioles lineup the rest of the season.
When asked in an interview what it meant to join Brothers and McLaughlin as the only Lipscomb players to play in the major leagues, Joseph had this to say.
“Really good, and since I’ll be the first position player because Rex and Bo are both pitchers, that’s quite an honor. When I was young I use to go to [Lipscomb] games, I’m like a third generation there.”
Joseph added, “When I went there I had such a great experience with Coach Forehand and all the staff, and then to be able to kind of be a part of history is a real honor.”
With Brothers and Joseph both on active rosters in the majors, the bar Coach Forehand was speaking of in 2009 has certainly been raised, and shows that it was no fluke that major league talent is being developed at Stephen Marsh Stadium.
Uniquely, on the diamond isn’t the only way that former Bisons have found their way to the big leagues either. Casey Bond, who began his baseball career at Birmingham-Southern, transferred and played his final season at Lipscomb after Birmingham-Sothern dropped Division I sports. In that lone season with the Bisons, Bond registered the tenth-most hits and third-most stolen bases in program history for a single-season.
His performance on the field made him a 25th round draft pick of the San Francisco Giants in 2007 and he played in the Giants minor league system for two years. After being released in 2009, rather than signing with another team, Bond began pursuing another dream – acting. He moved to Hollywood and within six months found himself back on a baseball diamond again, this time though in his first movie role as Chad Bradford in the star-studded film “MONEYBALL” along-side Brad Pitt, Jonah Hill and Philip-Seymour Hoffman.
In addition to an appearance on ABC’s ‘NASHVILLE,’ Bond has also starred in the baseball themed movies ‘Ring The Bell’ and ‘Undrafted’ while also taking on a role in the upcoming Don Myer movie, highlighting the life and career of legendary former Lipscomb basketball coach Don Myer.
While other programs in Nashville, like NCAA National Champions Vanderbilt, have a number of high profile MLB prospects year in and year out, they are certainly not the only program in Nashville sending guys to prominence on the sport’s grandest stage.