Written by Scott Hoffman
Wedged in between first-round draft pick Matt Wieters and fifth-round pick Jacob Arrieta in the 2007 draft is one of the more interesting stories of the season in the form of fourth-rounder Tim Bascom. The 6’-2” right-hander’s baseball genealogy stretches back to the 1880’s when his great, great grandfather played semi-pro baseball out of
The love affair with baseball afflicted Tim’s father, John, as well. As luck would have it, his son now dons the uniform of the player he not only tried to emulate as a high school third baseman but admittedly “worshipped” in Brooks Robinson. Tim’s grandfather worked at the Pentagon from 1946 through 1958 and an O’s fan was born in John Bascom.
It was perceived as moderately peculiar when Bascom signed almost immediately following the draft while the fifth-rounder Arrieta held out and ultimately signed a few minutes before the August 15th deadline. After learning more about Tim and his long, tumultuous journey to professional baseball, his eagerness to get on with his career becomes understandable.
Tim holds the all-time single-season ERA record of 0.72 at
His stand-out performance in high school netted him a scholarship to play baseball at the
Entering his sophomore year, Bascom was added to the Roger Clemens Award watch list, an honor bestowed upon college baseball’s best pitcher every year. He went on to post one of the best seasons of any starting pitcher in school history. He ended the season with a 10-2 record and a 3.10 ERA in 113.1 innings of work. His 113 strikeouts led the team that year and placed Bascom sixth in UCF single-season history. He also ranked first on the club in wins, innings pitched, and tossed all three of UCF's complete games in 2005.
Bascom was clearly living up to the Roger Clemens Award consideration and making his way to the top of draft boards around Major League Baseball going into his junior (and likely final) season at UCF. During fall practice in October of 2005, though, he twisted a knee while fielding a ground ball and attempting a throw to second. It was the first injury of his entire baseball career, but was deemed by the UCF trainer and team doctors to be non-serious and not even worthy of an MRI. Knights’ head coach Jay Bergman even told the media that it was nothing and that Bascom could pitch in his next scheduled appearance if they needed him to.
According to John Bascom, Tim re-injured the knee in practice in January 2006 and it was once again diagnosed as minor and the medical staff opted not to have an MRI performed. Tim sucked it up and kept quiet despite being forced to run with the rest of the team during the “Hell Week” portion of camp.
The knee still didn’t feel right by February, but Bascom was once again UCF’s #1 starter and he wasn’t afforded time to rest and potentially heal the injury. After Tim confided in his dad the concerns he still had with the condition of his knee, John reached out to Knights’ pitching coach Craig Cozart several times via e-mail and voicemail to express his concern that the injury might be worse than the school thought, but never received a response.
Tough as nails, Tim tried to pitch through the injury during his “coming out” year. Said Bascom, “It was tough battling through it, I knew it wasn’t right, but I just tried to keep pitching.” Pitch through it he did. He was phenomenal, posting a 10.13 K/9 ratio and a miniscule 1.09 WHIP in 80 innings of work. Just five weeks before the draft, however, Bascom’s season hit a major speed bump on May 2nd when he re-injured the knee yet again, this time with just five weeks until the 2006 draft. He still received plenty of accolades for a season highlighted by tossing eight shutout innings to then-#1 Rice as well as a two-hit, complete-game shutout against perennial powerhouse East Carolina University. For the second year in a row he was on the watch list for the Roger Clemens Award and also for the Dick Howser Trophy, an honor that along with on-field accomplishments, gives heavy consideration to scholastic achievements and character.
Hindsight is always 20/20, but looking back the best thing might have been for UCF’s athletic training staff and doctors to opt for an MRI. According to John Bascom, “If he (Tim) had been provided proper medical treatment, he would have red-shirted his junior season, had the eventual surgery, re-habbed it, and instead had two years of college eligibility remaining.” John learned a valuable lesson from this experience as well, even to go as far as to offer advice to other parents of collegiate athletes. "Your kid's health is too important to leave in the hands of people with their own agendas. If an injury occurs, especially if it reoccurs, get your kid to an expert of your own choosing, to confirm or reject the medical findings of those provided by the school. It won't absolutely mean that you don't think the sports medicine department/trainers are competent, or that the coaches are looking after their own careers as a priority, or even that they are relying upon plausible deniability as they make decisions of import to their players' futures. It will simply alleviate the potential for this happening to you and your student/athlete."
Like most college baseball players considered to be a potential high-round draft pick, the Bascoms solicited the services of a family advisor and not an agent. It’s an arrangement similar to the relationship between Wieters and uber-agent Scott Boras. Officially,
At the suggestion of their advisor, the Bascoms were very forthcoming with Major League Baseball’s Central Scouting Department and anyone else who inquired about Tim that his knee hadn’t felt right in quite some time. They also explained that the decision to play through the pain was based largely upon the UCF training staff and doctors’ opinion that it was a non-serious injury.
Their honesty proved to be detrimental, as several teams expressed intentions to draft Tim as high as the second round of the 2006 draft should he be available, but he slipped to the San Diego Padres in the sixth round, #183 overall. It was during Bascom’s pre-employment physical with the Padres that their team doctors correctly diagnosed the injury deemed by UCF as “no big deal”. It turns out Tim had been suffering from a torn ACL and the resultant collateral damage to the meniscus cartilage. The diagnosis was confirmed via MRI, and that resulted in a contract offer well below what Tim expected, thus it was politely rejected.
San Diego’s offer was extended through the advisor, thus UCF claimed “agent contact” and, despite rejecting the Padres’ offer with the intention of returning to school for his senior season, he was denied his eligibility by the University based on NCAA rules about player interaction with professional organizations. Ordinarily it’s something that can be resolved via re-payment of expenses incurred on behalf of the athlete (travel expenses, accommodations, etc.), expenses the Bascom family was fully willing to repay. Such infractions also often come along with some number of games in which the player is ineligible, again a penalty Tim was willing to accept.
The University refused to appeal to the NCAA on Tim’s behalf according to his father despite their role in the course of events. John suspects liability concerns along with the embarrassment to their program and its staff is what drove the school to its decision. While feeling low-balled by the Padres, it was their medical staff that ultimately put Tim on the road to recovery.
When asked to comment, a representative from the
As far as the Padres are concerned, their decisions appeared to be all business. “As we do with every player we select in the draft, the San Diego Padres took great care and were diligent throughout the process,” said Padres Director of Scouting Bill Gayton. “We did our due diligence after drafting Tim and made a fair offer. He chose not to sign with our organization. We certainly wish him well as he continues his baseball career.”
Using his father’s medical insurance, Tim had his knee re-constructed in July of 2006 including the nine month road to rehab that would follow. Once he was cleared by doctors, John set up a series of bullpen sessions and communicated directly with scouts and their supervisors regarding Tim’s progress and also to ensure that the post-draft experience with UCF wouldn’t affect Bascom’s reputation and thereby his future in baseball. It turns out that, for as much as Bascom’s honesty hurt his draft status, John’s proactive approach with his son’s return to baseball played an equally positive role in the long road back. After talking with Tim and especially after watching him throw again, a number of Major League teams were interested and impressed with Bascom’s commitment to his own return.
During one such session in April, Orioles scout John Martin along with several other O’s personnel were impressed enough to follow him through his progress over the next several months leading up to the draft. That included a brief stint with an independent league team, the Bradenton Juice, as the final method in demonstrating that time away from the game didn’t diminish his skills. Obviously, they didn’t, as the Orioles used their second overall pick to select Bascom.
As for the long road to start Tim’s professional career, he’s quickly establishing himself as a legitimate prospect in the organization. His 3-3 record with a 3.74 ERA are nothing to sneeze at in his first work as a pro, nor the 1.25 WHIP and the 55 strikeouts he’s amassed in his first 67.1 professional innings. John Bascom is gracious in crediting the people and entities who’ve contributed to his son’s successful adjustment to life as a minor leaguer. “The support of the Delmarva coaching staff, the player relationships in Delmarva, the facilities, trainers, media contacts, the host family, the Peninsula as a community, the Orioles organization in total including the encouraging and continuing contacts from the area scout, John Martin, have all been positive experiences.”
So positive, in fact, that Tim was called up to
Keys’ pitching coach Blaine Beatty couldn’t say enough nice things about Bascom. “He’s a very mature guy very good, subtle approach. He has a plan and you can tell he has a good feel for his stuff and his approach to what he’s doing.” Tim’s been with the Keys for less than a week, but already Beatty says, “I like what I’ve seen. I really think if he doesn’t pitch here he’ll have a chance at AA Bowie next year. I think he’s got that kind of approach. He just stays within himself, he doesn’t try to do too much. He mixes it up and has a great feel for reading hitters and their reaction. I love what I saw the other night.” Tommy Thompson, Keys manager, sings a similar song. “Tremendous. He looks very composed, mature. He has a live fastball. He threw a breaking ball and a change-up when he was behind in the count which was nice to see, and he can throw two or three pitches when he wants. He looks like he’s going to be a good pitcher. I saw three quality pitches. And I saw quality makeup. For what he’s been through this year, from being in Independent ball, to Delmarva, to now here, he looks strong for this time of the year.”
Thompson had him penciled into the Keys’ post-season rotation before it started. “He’s gonna get the chance to pitch for us in the playoffs. I think he’s going to start. I’m not sure which game.” Bascom made his first Carolina League start August 30th at
Bascom and the Keys beat the Salem Avalanche to win the 2007 Mills Cup, awarded to the Carolina League champions. He threw a scoreless inning against the Wilmington Blue Rocks on September 5th, and followed a stellar start by David Hernandez with another scoreless inning to earn a hold on September 8th against
For Tim Bascom and his family, it’s been a long, hard road to professional baseball, and despite his first season having ended, it’s not over yet. Especially not with the support of his father and the rest of the family, and particularly with Tim’s work ethic, determination, and fearlessness in the face of adversity.
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