Nov. 23, 2011
By Amy Hughes
As 2011 winds down, Trevor Bauer has finally had some time to rest and recover from the whirlwind of his final collegiate season, the Major League Baseball entry draft, winning the Golden Spikes Award and experiencing his first foray into professional baseball.
After leading UCLA to the championship series of the 2010 College World Series, Bauer pitched a team-leading 136.2 innings for the Bruins in 2011, finishing with a 1.25 ERA and 10 complete games in his 16 starts with three shutouts.
UCLA was unable to make it out of NCAA Regional play last June. Bauer pitched a complete-game win in his one postseason start, a 3-1 win over Fresno State, striking out 14 and walking two while allowing six hits.
"It was a really tough way for it to end," said Bauer of the close to UCLA's 2011 season. "We were fighting our way back from the losers bracket. I had a tough time right after it ended. I didn't really want to leave the field because it was my last time in college.
"I'd had so much fun, and my career at UCLA had been so enjoyable. It had been such a big part of my life for the last three years, and it was hard to say goodbye to that."
"He was one of the most consistent starters in Division I baseball," said John Savage, Bauer's head coach at UCLA. "He was exceptional his entire career. We threw him out there on Saturday, and it got to the point where we expected a win and a complete game. He had a great career."
The day after UCLA was eliminated from postseason play, Bauer and teammate Gerrit Cole became the third and first picks in the 2011 Major League Baseball Entry Draft, respectively, with Bauer selected by the Arizona Diamondbacks and Cole going to the Pittsburgh Pirates.
"It was almost a bittersweet feeling to be at the draft party because I would have rather been playing on Monday night," said Bauer. "But it was fun watching the draft and sharing it with the people that have been there the longest in my baseball career, including my mom and dad, my sister and Jim Wagner, my pitching coach from Little League."
From that moment on, Bauer hardly stopped moving. He flew to Arizona to tour the Diamondbacks' complex and for press conferences as the team's top draft pick. From there, he headed to the Texas Baseball Ranch in Houston, Texas, to continue training for his upcoming professional debut.
"I knew I had a while before contract negotiations would be completed," said Bauer. "I knew I wanted to get out and play as quickly as possible and get the remainder of my innings in."
After a nearly four-week stay in Houston, Bauer was headed to New York City for the Golden Spikes Award banquet. That trip required a suit, which was a test of Bauer's Texas wardrobe.
"I didn't have a suit with me, so I had to buy a suit here in Texas for that," said Bauer. "I went to Men's Wearhouse and told them I had an awards ceremony coming up. They got me all hooked up with a suit, and it pretty much emptied all of my accounts at the time. That was a little bit of an experience, but I got a nice suit out of it."
From there, it was off to the Big Apple with the other two Golden Spikes finalists, Virginia's Danny Hultzen and Taylor Jungman of Texas. The trio visited the MLB Network studios as well as the MLB Fan Cave, where Bauer crossed paths with a fellow UCLA alum, Chase Utley of the Philadelphia Phillies.
After the Golden Spikes trip, Bauer was able to take a short vacation, flying to Hawaii where he stayed with a friend who was playing in the Hawaii Summer League.
"I'd go out to the field with him and get some throwing in, some sprints, bullpen work, whatever I needed to do," said Bauer. "Then we'd have the rest of the day to just hang out. It was kind of a split vacation where I got my work in to stay in shape but also got a break from everything.
"That four or five weeks was not a long enough break," he continued. "I wanted a little bit more time. I was happy to get back to playing, but it was definitely a very emotional year. It had been an emotional rollercoaster at UCLA. The draft was a high, and the season ending the way it did was very low."
"He strives to be the best," said Savage of Bauer. "He's an exceptional competitor and those two things are very powerful. There was a lot of strain mentally and all the pitching he and Gerrit [Cole] were getting was a grind emotionally and mentally. As their coach, I was very proud of how they both handled it and performed at a very high level. There aren't many times where you see guys get that type of attention and perform to that level of success."
Bauer signed his contract with the Diamondbacks on Saturday, July 24. Two days later, he was on his way to Visalia, Calif., for his professional debut.
"It was an odd, interesting experience to walk into a clubhouse at the end of the year," said Bauer. "I didn't know anyone there. Don't know the coaches. Don't know the players. It was odd walking into the clubhouse and saying `How are you? I'm here to play for you guys. I'm Trevor and where do I go from here?'"
Bauer's stay in Class A was short, but solid.
"It was fun," said Bauer. "Everyone in Visalia was very helpful, and it was a really good experience with the fans and staff there. I had three starts, then they flew me to Mobile."
In his Class AA debut for Mobile, he threw five scoreless innings and struck out eight batters. Two weeks and three Class AA starts later, Bauer got rocked.
Facing the Chattanooga Lookouts on Aug. 30, he surrendered 10 runs, all earned, and eight hits in a 1 2/3 innings in a 14-2 loss.
"I hadn't gotten lit up that bad since I was about 11," said Bauer. "It wasn't the best experience, but everything up until that point had just gone so smoothly that I guess it was bound to happen at some point. I had been throwing well up to that point. My bullpen that week went really well, but I woke up that morning and everything was just bad. My body was dead. My legs were weak. I couldn't repeat my delivery or locate anything. I was just hoping to throw strikes. That may have been a culmination of a long physical and emotional year."
A rainout meant that Bauer didn't have another chance to pitch for well over a week, and that was another rocky start in a playoff game.
"I was definitely a little rusty after not having pitched to hitters in so long," said Bauer. "I had missed basically two starts time-wise and that was another rough one. I don't know if I'd ever lost a playoff start before in Little League or Pony Ball, so that wasn't a fun thing to endure either."
Bauer was able to redeem himself in his final start for the BayBears, earning the win in what was the clinching game of the Southern League Championship. In five innings on the mound, he struck out seven batters, walked two and allowed one run on three hits for the win as Mobile won, 6-4.
There had been talk of Bauer possibly joining the Major League club at the conclusion of the Class AA season, but he had reached his target for innings and the Diamondbacks finished the regular season strong, capturing the National League West Division title.
Now, Bauer's focus is on the 2012 season, his first full year as a professional baseball player.
"I have already taken my rest," said Bauer. "That's out of the way. I'm in Texas working out and throwing and trying to find a way to get better, which is a constant struggle. If you don't do anything you go backwards, so you have to work hard to maintain and find a way to get better. It's a lot of work, and that's what I'm doing right now."
Savage is not surprised by Bauer's work ethic.
"He's going to be prepared," said Savage. "The one thing Trevor has always been is prepared. It will be a whole new experience for him, as this past summer was. Professional baseball is always a period of adjustment, but that's why you go to college. To learn the ups and downs and learn your position and how competitive it is out there.
"Trevor has a unique drive, and that's what makes him so great," said Savage. "He has the competitiveness to make pitches and wants to win. It was a pleasure to be a part of [Bauer's career], and hopefully we added to it. He will go down as one of the best college pitchers of our era."
As for what comes next, Bauer doesn't have the specific details quite yet, but he will be ready.
"I understand that they usually mail something out in December or January letting you know when you report and those details," said Bauer. "I'm kind of in limbo right now, but I'm enjoying life and trying to find a way to get better."
He is also looking forward to finding more of a routine in his professional career in 2012.
"I've never been through spring training before, but once this thing gets going, you kind of know the routine of minor league baseball," said Bauer. "I'll know where I'm going to be for the year, so I can get an apartment taken care of and really be able to settle into a routine. Then it will just be a struggle to make it through a hundred and however many games I end up playing."
If his past success is any indication, that should be just a small bump on the path to Bauer's future success.