At this time last year, pitcher Dylan Bundy was getting ready to write the final chapter of a high school career that would lead him to the first round of the Major League Baseball draft in June. A year later, he finds himself days away from boarding a flight to Florida for his first major league spring training camp.
After leading his Owasso (Okla.) High School team to a 37-2 record and going 11-0 with an ERA of 0.20 last spring, Bundy was named Gatorade National High School Player of the Year. The Orioles then selected him with fourth overall pick in the draft and signed him to a major league contract that is reportedly worth more than $6 million.
Now he gets ready to enter a big league clubhouse knowing he certainly won't begin the season in Baltimore, but that he will be rubbing elbows with the big leaguers as he gets set to take the first steps in his pro career.
"The excitement level is a 10 on a 10 scale," Bundy said by phone this week from Oklahoma. "It's a big honor to get to go to big league camp and I can't wait to experience it.
"They said I could get some innings in in a couple of spring training games. Then if they have to later in camp, send me to the minor league camp to get more innings."
Coming off a high school season where he pitched 71 innings with 158 strikeouts, there is no way the Orioles plan to pack too many innings on their prized young right-handed prospect this year.
"We had a meeting at the end of instructional league (in October) and they said their plan was about 120, maybe 125 innings this year. I'm not sure what level they are having me at yet," he said.
"They have told me that it means they may have to shorten the outings to five- or six-inning starts so I can throw the whole year. They don't want me to throw all seven-inning games then have to shut me down the last month of the season."
While he appears likely to start the season pitching for the Single-A Delmarva Shorebirds in the South Atlantic League, the Orioles apparently have not completely ruled out starting Bundy even a level higher with Single-A Frederick. That seems rather unlikely, though, and the 19-year-old said he has not been told yet where he will begin this season.
"No, they haven't (told me). That is where (Delmarva) I am expecting to go. If I make it out of the chute to Frederick, that would be awesome. But it's whatever the organization decides and that is fine with me," Bundy said.
It would also be an option for the Orioles to possibly keep Bundy at extended spring training the first few weeks of the season to continue to work with the coaches there, and then make his first outing of the year for an affiliate at that point to guarantee he will make it through to the end of the season before he reaches his innings limit.
Scouts say Bundy's makeup and work ethic are off the charts and that his delivery is very sound and effortless. He is known as someone with intense workouts and he spent time this winter working out daily with his brother Bobby, also a pitcher. Bobby was drafted by the Orioles in round eight of 2008.
I asked Dylan what he thought set his workouts apart from some other young players.
"The fact that I don't skip a workout. Even if you are tired, you have to get your work in each day. It's our job to stay in shape and perform at the highest level as professional athletes," Bundy said.
"My dad first and my brother second (push me to work out so hard). My brother is the one that taught me how to workout the most, but my dad is the one driving us to get better. Bobby is the same as me, if not working harder. We are very competitive. Me and Bobby try to outwork each other and see who can go the farthest. We compete every day, even at ping pong."
This winter, there were times when the brothers wanted to throw some but a catcher was not available. So they would catch for each other.
"We don't want to sit around the high school waiting for a catcher," Bundy said. "Me and Bobby decided to strap on the gear. We are athletes, we should be able to catch each other. I like it because we get better feedback than if a high school guy is catching us. What the ball is doing and where the location was. When we throw live, we always get another catcher.
"Bobby looks great, probably in the best shape I've seen him ever. His arm feels great. Going into spring, I think Bobby is going to have a great year. He is healthy and looks good, feeling good about himself and his stuff."
Bundy said he throws five pitches, counting his two-seamer, sinker, cutter, curveball and changeup. In blowout games in high school, he said he would work on his secondary pitches.
A pitcher that gave up just 20 hits and only two earned runs in 71 innings last season obviously didn't struggle much, if at all, on the mound. Bundy said he is aware that some struggles are coming as he makes the transition to pro ball.
"Even in high school, I had some failures in terms of walking people. My goal was to have zero walks in 11 starts last year. That didn't happen, I had five. Failure is what drives you to succeed. Learn what you did wrong and fix it in the next start. That is the good thing about pitching. You have four days to learn about what you did wrong in the previous outing," he said.
During a 20-minute interview, Bundy sure sounded like a down-to-earth kid that was not enamored with his impressive press clippings. He said his teammates won't have to worry about finding a player that expects any special treatment or that has any ego issues.
"Honestly, I really don't have to think about that. I try to talk to everybody and be as friendly as possible and be a good teammate. Most importantly, help the team win. I feel like that is all I need to do," Bundy said.
Coming soon: I'll post more from my interview with Bundy as he talks about his long-toss program, how he learned about the mental part of pitching and his outlook for the 2012 season.
Here is the video when Bundy was named the Gatorade award winner.
Here is the video of the coverage from MLB Network from the night the Orioles drafted Bundy.