Sunday, June 1, 2014

Interview Part 1: Lorenzo Bundy, Come True

Dodger Stadium in 2012. Lorenzo Bundy is patrolling the third-base coaching box for Los Angeles in 2014. (G21D Photo)
Part 1: Come True | Part 2: Good Things

Note: Special thanks to former Marlins minor league coach Randy Hennis for making this interview with 2014 Los Angeles Dodgers third base coach Lorenzo Bundy possible.

Lorenzo Bundy was managing winter ball in Mexico when the call came.

The call was from John Boles, Marlins vice president for player development. Bundy and Boles had worked together previously in the Expos organization. Now both were with the Marlins.

Boles' question: Where would Bundy be in 15 or 20 minutes? Because Bundy should expect a call from Marlins GM Dave Dombrowski.

"I got the call from Dombrowski and he pretty much offered me the job with the Marlins," Bundy recalled to The Greatest 21 Days. "It was kind of like a dream come true."

The job was as a major league coach with the 1998 Florida Marlins. It was Bundy's first big league job after more than 15 years in the game.

Bundy is now back in the majors for 2014, as third base coach for the Los Angeles Dodgers.

The former Pro Player Stadium in 2011. Lorenzo Bundy got his first major league coaching job in 1998 at Pro Player. (G21D Photo)
Bundy spoke with The Greatest 21 Days by phone from Los Angeles on a recent off day, before the team traveled to Arizona.

Bundy traced his life in baseball from his youth in Virginia, to college and the pros. For Bundy, though, just getting to the pros ended up being more of a struggle than he expected. Bundy had to visit tryout camps just to get his shot. He then had to try again, to get his second shot.

Bundy took that second shot to seven more seasons as a pro player, then to his long career as a coach and the major leagues.

Bundy's start in the game came as a youth in Virginia, playing in back yards and in local leagues and on the travel all-star team.

In high school, Bundy played well, well enough for scouts to come by. Scouts were a rare sight, usually, Bundy said. His high school only had 500-600 students, grades 8 to 12.

They came as Bundy won some district honors and some state honors. He also got drafted. The Orioles selected the graduating high school senior in the 22nd round.

Centennial Field in Burlington, Vt., in 2011. Lorenzo Bundy played at Centennial early in his career with visiting AA Nashua. (G21D Photo)
"It was a thrill," Bundy said of getting drafted. "It kind of puts you one the map."

Helping him get there, he recalled, was his high school coach Henry Ashton, and the coach at his rival high school, Ken Blackley. Blackley coached Bundy in summer Babe Ruth ball.

Instead of going to the pros, though, Bundy went to James Madison University. His selection in the draft, he recalled, opened up a scholarship for him. He also got to play under coach Brad Babcock, another early influence in his career.


After his junior year, Bundy had the chance to sign with the Dodgers. Bundy had played well in the summer Shenandoah Valley League, setting the hitting record. The offer, though, wasn't enough to pull Bundy away from his senior year.

After his senior year, though, the offers didn't come. He had had probably his best year as a senior, but he didn't get drafted. There was no one waiting to sign him.
Instead, if Bundy wanted to play as a pro, he was going to have to work harder.

"I ended up going to tryout camps, driving around the country on the east coast trying to get signed," Bundy recalled. "It was pretty frustrating."

It took all of June and most of July. On the final day of July, Bundy found himself in Asheville, NC, at a tryout for the Rangers at the home of their single-A team.

East Field in Glens Falls, NY, in 2013. Lorenzo Bundy played at East Field early in his career with visiting AA Nashua. (G21D Photo)
The scout for the Rangers, Joe Branzell, called. "He said take enough clothes to stay, which I did," Bundy said, "and I was able to get that first contract."

"It was just one of the hurdles that I had to climb as I tried to get my career started professionally," Bundy added.

In that final month of the season, Bundy hit well. He also got an invitation to spring training, where he hit well again. He also got released.

"That was a tough pill to swallow," Bundy said, "because it really didn't come down to my ability, per se, because I played pretty well in spring training. The biggest thing was they didn't have any money invested in me."

So, Bundy didn't play at all in 1982. Instead, he took the time to finish his degree at James Madison. Bundy saw that as a positive, at least. His parents got to see him walk across the stage to get his diploma.

He also stayed active, playing in the summer leagues. And he went to tryouts. He went to one in Alexandria, Va., home of the Pirates' Carolina League entry.

There, he met Alexandria manager Johnny Lipon, "the guy who probably kept me in baseball."

The former Reading Municipal Stadium in 2010. Lorenzo Bundy played at Reading in 1984 with visiting Nashua. (G21D Photo)
Bundy worked out for him, showed him what he could do. Lipon was impressed enough to get Bundy to spring training in 1983.

He got the invite, but there were definitely no guarantees.

"I had to pay my way down to spring training," Bundy said. "I had to pay for my hotel. I had to sign a waiver saying that if I got hurt, they weren't responsible."

Bundy signed the waiver. The Pirates also signed him. Soon, it was the Pirates who were signing Bundy.

"I tried to maximize my opportunities by doing the best I can," Bundy said. "Basically, I was trying to keep proving to people that I could play."

Bundy then showed he could play by hitting .291 at Alexandria, with 25 home runs and 88 RBI.

Soon, though, Bundy would be taking advantage of different opportunities, ones that would eventually take him to the major leagues.

Part 1: Come True | Part 2: Good Things

Go to Part 2: Lorenzo Bundy, Good Things

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