David Bote’s Resilient Path Speaks to Those with “Less of a Shot” to Make it in MLB
Chicago Cubs up-and-coming infielder David Bote is a testament to what working hard and keeping your head up can do.
Bote also exemplifies how, though baseball is arguably the hardest to make it in professionally once drafted, it’s possible for even the smallest names.
The Longmont, CO native was an 18th-round draft pick by the Cubs in 2012 who struggled for the majority of his first four minor league seasons.
Now, Bote is a household name and fan favorite in Chicago. Even though Bote turned things around and was successful in the minors from 2016 until now, he wasn’t really on anyone’s radar. That’s because he was never a sought-after prospect.
Regardless, Bote is showing that anything is possible. The 25-year old was in an airport in Kenya ready to begin a two-week Christian mission trip when he was drafted by the Cubs. Bote didn’t even receive a call about being drafted. His brother found out and congratulated him while they were stuck in the airport.
Bote was playing for Neosho County Community College in Kansas at the time, but baseball was not really on his mind. Bote still went on the mission trip and put prioritizing baseball on hold for the time being.
He came back and was sent to Chicago’s Rookie League team in Arizona where he hit just .232. In 2013, Bote bounced around the lower levels of the minor leagues. The result was no different. Bote mainly played for Short-A Boise that season and hit .250, a somewhat respectable number for MLB, but not for A-league baseball. Bote also saw playing time with Full-A Kane County and Advanced-A Daytona in 2013. Overall, Bote hit .227.
It was more of the same for Bote in 2014. He did have a brief 10 at-bat stint with AAA Iowa that season in which he went 4-10 at the plate. But, overall, Bote hit .235 in 2014 while once again moving between Kane County and Boise.
You wouldn’t even imagine Bote would be where he is at now by looking at his 2015 numbers. Though 2015 represented somewhat of a turnaround, Bote still only hit .251 in 315 at-bats with Full-A South Bend that season.
2016 was the year that Bote started to look like the player he is right now. This is when his confidence started building. Bote went 8-22 in Iowa and hit .337 in 276 at-bats in Advanced-A Myrtle Beach. Bote also had a stint in AA Tennessee and hit .328 overall.
Bote’s hitting coordinator in Myrtle Beach, Andy Haines, is someone who significantly helped Bote develop a positive mental approach. Haines is now the Cubs’ assistant hitting coach.
The utility-man carried this newfound confidence into the 2017 season. He hit a respectable .272 over 470 at-bats in Tennessee.
In addition to Haines, Bote gives credit to a number of minor league managers he played for along the way. However, it’s worth noting that maybe no one deserves more credit than Bote’s wife, Rachel.
While struggling for four full seasons of minor league baseball, Rachel believed in her husband more than he did. In fact, Bote even considered hanging up his cleats. But, Rachel didn’t let him. She believed that struggling through low-A ball for so long would have been a waste of time if Bote didn’t give it everything he had.
Well, flash forward to now. The struggle definitely paid off for Bote. The infielder made his MLB debut two weeks after his 25th birthday on April 21, 2018. Fittingly, it was against the Colorado Rockies in his home state. Bote recorded his first professional hit that game, a double.
Getting your first hit in your first-ever MLB at-bat in your home state?
— MLB (@MLB) April 22, 2018
Bote was initially called up for an injured Ben Zobrist. The stay was not permanent though. Bote has since been sent to and from Iowa five times. He is now in the majors for injured Kris Bryant.
The Cubs may never have planned on having David Bote in Chicago for long. But, what he did last Sunday night essentially guaranteed he won’t be back in Des Moines any time soon.
Down 3-0 with two outs and two strikes in the ninth inning against the Washington Nationals, Bote did something usually only seen in the movies. He delivered the 29th “ultimate grand slam” in MLB history.
An ultimate grand slam can be defined as a game-winning, walk-off grand slam when a team is trailing by three in the ninth inning. Bote was down to his last strike before crushing one to dead center, sending the fans at Wrigley into a frenzy.
Bottom of the 9th, two outs, two strikes, bases loaded, down three, rookie pinch-hitter:
— Chicago Cubs (@Cubs) August 13, 2018
Though Jason Heyward also hit a walk-off grand slam with the Cubs trailing by two, this was by far the most significant hit of the season for Chicago. And even if Bote ends up having a stellar career, that still might be the biggest hit of his life.
This was the most recent of three gigantic plays Bote has made so far this season. Bote also hit a game-tying two-run home run against Arizona with one out in the ninth on July 26th. Anthony Rizzo then launched a solo HR to win the game.
In addition, Bote also fired a strike to the plate to throw out San Diego’s Cory Spangenberg with a 5-4 ninth-inning lead on August 3.
I’m sure Bote didn’t even believe he would eventually be a crucial piece to the Cubs when he was at Wrigley Field for game five of the 2016 world series. He was in attendance to cheer on former minor league teammates Addison Russell, Kyle Schwarber, Albert Almora, Willson Contreras, and Bryant. Cheering is probably the only thing he’d think he would be doing for those guys in the near future. Not being mobbed at home plate.
Nevertheless, that is the case. Who knows where Bote’s career will go from here. But he has provided Chicago with a huge spark while Bryant’s injury lingers. Bote’s overall numbers look pretty impressive as well.
In 76 at-bats with the Cubs, Bote is hitting .329 with 18 RBI, 11 walks, and a .418 on-base percentage. Bote’s hard-hit ball percentage of 62.1 is also the best in the majors.
Even if Bote experiences some regression, which he most likely will at some point, his story should provide hope to struggling minor leaguers who don’t think they have a real shot at making the majors. Whether or not Bote pans out, he has already proven that anything is possible in baseball.
- Born and raised in the suburbs of Chicago, Eddie Herz is a senior journalism major at Colorado State University. He has been a beat reporter for CSU's newspaper, the Rocky Mountain Collegian, since he was a freshman. Eddie has also contributed to the BTPowerhouse.com, a sister website of SBnation. Eddie will be the CSU Football beat reporter for the Rocky Mountain Collegian this coming Fall.
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