It's fitting that the surnames Bundy and Bunyan are so similar. In two brief minor league outings, 19-year-old pitcher Dylan Bundy is burnishing a legend among Orioles fans that's roughly equivalent to Paul Bunyan's place in American folklore. However, there's a distance between the developing Bundy legend and the actual Bundy reality I witnessed firsthand this week in Kannapolis, N.C. (You can see photos and video of Bundy's start on Roar From 34.)
Let me be clear from the outset that I'm impressed with Bundy. I'm no scout - far from it, in fact. Nevertheless, I didn't need to be versed in the finer points of pitching mechanics Wednesday night to appreciate the distinct pop Bundy's pitches produced in the catcher's mitt. Nor was it necessary for me to identify specific pitches and variations in their location to recognize that hitters were off balance or, more often, flat-out overpowered. If the Kannapolis Intimidators players weren't in fact intimidated by Bundy, they were certainly humbled by him. And quickly.
So, yes, it was worth it for me to skip out of work a little early, pack up the family in the minivan, and drive two hours south to see the No. 4 draft pick toss three innings in a chilly minor league park. Optimism has been in short supply in Baltimore for years now, so each glimmer of hope is worth capturing while you can.
There's reason for the hope surrounding Bundy. He earned a string of high school accolades including being the 2011 Gatorade Athlete of the Year (that's for all sports, not just baseball), the USA Today National Player of the Year and the only three-time Gatorade State Baseball Player of the Year. Meanwhile, Bundy has pitched six perfect innings with 12 strikeouts in two brief outings for the Single-A Delmarva Shorebirds.
One O's fan in Kannapolis yelled to Bundy "See you in Frederick," a statement that reflects the growing belief that the kid's promotion is only a matter of time, if not already overdue. Dave Cameron suggested as much in a FanGraphs article following Wednesday's game titled "Too Good for A-Ball."
Here's an excerpt: "I've seen some really good performances in the minors. This topped them all. This was a man-versus-boy scenario. It took about 15 pitches to realize that Bundy does not belong in Delmarva. He probably doesn't even belong in A-ball."
No matter whether it's 140 characters on Twitter or more than 900 words on FanGraphs, the virtual ink being spilled about Bundy is fueling anticipation among seamheads in general and Orioles fans in particular. Daniel Moroz of Camden Crazies joked on Twitter that Bundy's first major league start would be a perfect game in 2013 featuring 18 strikeouts.
Moroz created the popular Matt Wieters Facts Web site, and one senses it's only a matter of time before Dylan Bundy Facts emerges. Nationals fans had their Strasmas; will Orioles fans celebrate the Easter Bundy?
The point is, hype takes hold early for baseball prospects nowadays, and it's already begun for Bundy. But just as the pop of the mitt and discomfort of the batters signaled to me Wednesday night that Bundy has good stuff, the sparsely populated ballpark and baby-faced players who occupied the diamond served as a reminder that the kid's journey is only beginning. He is, as Cameron wrote on FanGraphs, a man among boys, most of whom will never step foot on big league grass.
Over time, as he traverses the minor leagues, Dylan Bundy will have the opportunity to prove himself against better competition, and the gap between legend and reality will begin to close. It's going to be something special if the two ever intersect, perhaps even the stuff of tall tales.
Matthew Taylor blogs about the Orioles at Roar from 34. His ruminations about the Birds appear as part of MASNsports.com's season-long initiative of welcoming guest bloggers to our site. All opinions expressed are those of the guest bloggers, who are not employed by MASNsports.com but are just as passionate about their baseball as our roster of writers.