Every Major League baseball player takes a unique path during his career. Some players are drafted out of high school and head right to professional baseball, while others go on to college and hone their skills before being drafted. No matter which path is taken, all players have to start somewhere. For members of Baseball Factory’s Exclusive Program, their start came with a little more guidance and perhaps a leg up on their competition. The Exclusive Program is Baseball Factory’s most involved package, providing a personalized service to college-bound student-athletes. The experts of the program offer guidance to these players in order to help make their dreams of playing at the collegiate level come true. The Exclusive Program has proven to be very successful, placing hundreds of high school players at their ideal college, in addition to those who go on to play professionally. Currently there are seven Major Leaguers who are alumni of the Baseball Factory Exclusive Program.
Texas Rangers starter Derek Holland is one of the current MLB players who participated in the Exclusive Program. After joining the program in 2004, the undersized southpaw from Newark, Ohio chose to play his collegiate baseball at Wallace State Community College in Hanceville, Alabama. During his freshman season, Derek’s hard work and fierce competitive spirit led him to an 8-2 record for the Lions, sporting an ERA of just 2.69. His success continued during his sophomore season as he dominated NJCAA Division I with a 9-2 record and 1.82 ERA before the Texas Rangers drafted him in the 25th round of the 2006 amateur draft.
Derek continued to work hard and came out of nowhere to quickly become one of the Rangers top prospects. In 2008, just his second minor league season, Derek compiled a 2.27 ERA to go along with a 13-1 record between Single and Double-A. These numbers led to a mid-season promotion in 2009 and although his rookie numbers (8-13, 6.12 ERA) were nowhere near what they were in the minors, Derek had the earned the confidence of the Rangers and was able to earn a spot in the starting rotation in 2011.
Derek has blossomed into arguably the best pitcher on a potent starting rotation in Texas. Even though he is the No. 2 starter, Holland has shown the potential to be the ace of a staff. He had a sub-4 ERA in 2011 and racked up a 16-5 record, not to mention 162 strikeouts in 32 starts. With all of this success, the most impressive part of Derek’s game was seen in his performance during the 2011 World Series: his ability to perform under pressure. Even though last season was his first as a Major League starter, he earned a win in the series, and in two starts had an ERA of just 0.87. Even though the Rangers did not win the series, they knew they had a star in the making with Derek Holland. Check out what Derek's father had to say about Derek getting his opportunity with Baseball Factory.
Another pitcher who participated in Baseball Factory’s Exclusive Program is Indians closer Chris Perez. Before his senior season at The Pendleton School, Chris joined Baseball Factory’s Exclusive Program with the hopes of one day playing college baseball. As a senior, Chris posted a 7-2 record and 3.30 ERA (not to mention a .548 average while playing first base) and decided to join the University of Miami. He steadily improved during his three seasons at Miami and became the primary closer during his junior year, notching a 4-1 record with 12 saves in 37 appearances. His ability to close games and the development of secondary pitches to go along with his blistering fastball caught the eye of the St. Louis Cardinals and they drafted him in the first round (42nd overall) of the 2006 amateur draft.
Chris moved quickly through the St. Louis minor league system, earning a big league promotion in 2008 after a Jason Isringhausen injury. He served as the Cardinals closer from the day he was called up, earning seven saves during his rookie season. In 2009, St Louis was desperate for offense, so they traded their closer of the future to the Cleveland Indians for utility player Mark DeRosa. In Cleveland Chris took a step back as he was forced into the setup role for then closer Kerry Wood. Eventually Wood was traded and Chris became the Indians closer. He had a breakout season last year, compiling 40 saves and earning the first All-Star appearance of his young career.
Astros starter Bud Norris was also a participant in the Baseball Factory Exclusive Program. After his junior season at San Marin High School, Bud joined the program on his way to a college baseball career at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. Although Bud always loved baseball, he didn’t realize his full potential as a pitcher until he began his college career. Throughout high school, Bud was the everyday third baseman for San Marin, but the coaches at Cal Poly took one look at his build and knew he could be a dominant starting pitcher. During his sophomore campaign, Bud posted a 5-0 record as a reliever for Cal Poly while tallying 38 strikeouts in 33.2 innings pitched. Bud finally became a starter during his junior year, and his 8-6 record during 110.2 IP made him a serious prospect for Major League teams to consider. The Houston Astros ended up drafting him in the 6th round (189th overall) of the 2006 amateur draft.
Although Bud only had a 12-15 record during his minor league career, his raw numbers showed that he was a much better pitcher than his record suggested. He had a 3.68 ERA and 361 K in just 340.2 IP, so the Astros knew that his record was no indication of the kind of pitcher they had. Bud continues to be one of the bright spots in a struggling Astros organization, and he has established himself as one of the best strikeout pitchers in the game. During his first big league season in 2009, Bud posted a 6-3 record and showed the Astros what the future could hold. Although his record has been below .500 the last two seasons, Bud is still showing the raw talent and putting up numbers that should allow for a better record. In 2011, although he only had a 6-11 record, Bud’s ERA was just 3.77 and he had 176 K in 186 IP. As the Astros look to turn their organization around Baseball Factory Exclusive Program alum Bud Norris could be a great cornerstone to build around.
A few Baseball Factory Exclusive Program alumni have just recently made a splash in the big leagues. Arizona Diamondbacks OF A.J. Pollock was called up this month as insurance for injuries to Baseball Factory Alumni Justin Upton and Chris Young. A.J. was a standout at RHAM high school in Connecticut and with guidance from the Baseball Factory Exclusive Program (Check out his Exclusive Program video) he went on to play baseball at Notre Dame. His success continued in college, earning All-Big East 3B as a freshman and first-team All-Big East OF as a sophomore and junior. After his junior year, A.J. was drafted by the Diamondbacks in the 1st round (17th overall) in the 2009 First-Year Player Draft. He made his MLB Debut against the Pittsburgh Pirates On April 18th of this year. (Read more on A.J.’s debut and first big league hit here.)
Current Giants reliever Dan Otero got his start with the Baseball Factory Exclusive Program as well (Check out Dan's video). He joined the Exclusive Program in 2006 while attending Ransom Everglades High School. After a stellar senior season, Dan went on to play at Duke University. Although he started his career at Duke, Dan finished his college career a little closer to home, transferring to the University of South Florida for his senior season. He was then drafted by the San Francisco Giants in the 21st round of the 2007 amateur draft and made the opening day roster as a reliever this season. Another former member of the Exclusive Program is Rays outfielder Stephen Vogt. You can read more on Stephen in this article about his recent MLB promotion and view his video here.
The seventh alum of Baseball Factory’s Exclusive Program is Cubs outfielder Tony Campana. Tony joined Baseball Factory’s Exclusive Program while enrolled at Springboro High School in Ohio. He was an all-around athlete, being named a three sport all-conference performer during his time in high school. After hitting .418 and stealing 35 bases as a senior, Tony saw his future in baseball and looked to go to a local school where he could thrive. With the help of Baseball Factory, Tony was accepted to the University of Cincinnati where he really transformed into an all-around player. In 2008, he was named to the All-Big East First team and was drafted in the 13th round by the Chicago Cubs. Tony still holds the Cincinnati record for career stolen bases (104) and after making a splash with the Cubs last season, he was recently called up to fill Marlon Byrd’s spot on the roster. He will now be patrolling center field and showing off his speed in the big leagues for the foreseeable future.
Do you want to Build Your Way to Greatness? Get started with Baseball Factory at an Under Armour National Tryout and join the program that’s placed over 40,000 players in college.