I apologize. That will be the last pun I use for a blog headline. I hate puns, but I felt the need.
In case you missed it, David Bote hit one of the most exciting home runs in recent Cubs history. A walk-off grand slam on national television on a two-strike pitch with two outs. Far outshining the actual home run was Bote’s trot around the bases. From bat flip, to waving his arms out like a spread eagle, to the mob scene at home plate where Albert Almora ripped off Bote’s jersey it was the home run celebration for the ages.
But David Bote is a modest kid. He actually apologized Monday morning for flipping his bat, saying he didn’t realize what he had done until watching the replay.
That all reminds me of the time I met David Bote in 2015. He was still toiling away in low-Class A three years after being drafted by the Cubs as an 18th rounder in 2012. The same draft that was the first masterminded by Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer, and whose number one draft pick that year was the guy waiting at home plate to rip off Bote’s jersey: Almora.
As a minor leaguer in South Bend, the Cubs visited the Beloit Snappers for a series that summer of 2015. Beloit is about an hour away from me, and I try to catch a couple games each year, especially when the Cubs affiliate is in town. There were two prospects that I was after to get baseballs signed by. You may have heard of them: Ian Happ and Gleyber Torres. I was successful in getting baseballs signed by two of the top prospects in the Cubs organization.
And then there was David Bote. A player striving to stay rostered, and was not even considered to be a top-50 prospect….in the organization. David Haugh of the Chicago Tribune wrote an excellent story regarding Bote’s perseverance. I walked up to David and asked if he would sign my baseball. He looked up at me with the same quizzical look that I would give someone if they asked me to sign a baseball. Bote’s demeaner was not of a professional baseball player, but more like the fellow baseball nerds asking for his autograph.
“Where do you want me to sign?” he asked. I replied, “can you sign on the sweet spot.” For those not familiar with the autograph game, the sweet spot is intended for the manager of a team if the person is collecting a team signed ball. Otherwise, only top prospects are usually asked to sign the sweet spot. “Really?!? You want me to sign the sweet spot?” Bote excitedly asked me. Of course, I replied.
Two firsts may have happened this night. Certainly one of the following occurred: it was the first time a pro baseball player grinned ear to ear after me asking him to sweet spot a baseball for me. Due to that reaction, it may have been the first time David Bote had been asked to sign the sweet spot of a baseball.
Fast forward to 2018, a whole six years since Bote was drafted by the Cubs and he is a big leaguer. Six years in the minor leagues is like eternity. That’s a lot of miles on a Greyhound…err whatever charter buses they drive these days. It’s so exciting to see a guy have this much success. Just a few years ago he acted more excited to be signing a baseball for me, than I was of getting that ball signed. Well, the tables have certainly turned.
Unfortunately, Bote is such an under-the-radar player (he has never appeared on any Cubs top 30 prospect lists) that he doesn’t have any baseball cards other than the 2018 Bowman autograph that was included in retail boxes only. Fortunately, I was able to snag a base rookie autograph for $7.50. After last night’s big hit that same card has been selling for about $75. That would be a nice return, but the card is staying in my collection.
As of today, Bote is batting .329 (25-for-76), with three home runs, 18 RBI, 12 runs scored, and three stolen bases. And of course the thrilling walk-off grand slam against the Washington Nationals.