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The North Carolina Baseball Roots Of World Series Pitching Ace Madison Bumgarner

Madison Bumgarner in his 9/8/2009 Major League debut.
Art Siegel via Flickr/Creative Commons

In Major League Baseball,  the San Francisco Giants could clinch their third World Series title in five years with a victory over the Kansas City Royals tonight.  Leading the way for the Giants has been Madison Bumgarner. The pitcher grew up and learned the game in Hickory, North Carolina.

Jeff Parham is head coach at South Caldwell High School and he was one of the first to coach the future Giants' ace.  He first saw Bumgarner throw when the young man was in middle school. Bumgarner had come to a baseball summer camp.

How good was he?

"We had a lot of kids struggle to catch him," Parham recalls. "I knew right then that he was pretty special." Bumgarner was in 6th grade at that time.

Parham continued to work with Bumgarner. Parham recalls that Bumgarner's determination came to the forefront his junior year of high school. In the fall, Bumgarner worked out regularly in the weight room.

"He just got so much stronger and bigger. And I knew right then he was on his way," Parham said.

More Than Speed

If he hit you, he hit you, that was his mindset. He was going to dominate the inner part [of the strike zone], and that's what he did.

Bumgarner had a terrific junior year, and the scouts were buzzing. 

His coach remembers that Bumgarner had a lot of control as a high school pitcher, throwing mainly fastballs.

But it wasn't just that Bumgarner could throw hard, it was that he could place his pitches around the strike zone. He could move his pitches, inside out and upside down. Also, he wasn't afraid to pitch to the inside, something Parham calls "coming in." This set him apart from other pitchers in the region.

"You have a lot of kids afraid to come in. If [Bumgarner] hit you, he hit you, that was his mindset, he was going to dominate the inner part [of the strike zone], and that's what he did."

Going Pro

Madison Bumgarner at the end of Game 5, 2014 World Series
Credit San Francisco Giants via Twitter
Madison Bumgarner at the end of Game 5, 2014 World Series

Even though he was getting a lot of attention for his competence on the mound, Bumgarner's early plan was to go to college, to UNC.

"And then when he got picked as the 10th pick, major league draft 2007, I guess the signing bonus was a pretty good thing, you know?" Parham chuckles. The money was hard to turn down.

"People are proud in Caldwell County... in what he did and what he's done in his career," says Parham, noting that Bumgarner had the ability to listen to his coaches and incorporate their suggestions.

"When you see kids start to listen, it's an amazing thing to watch what they mature into. Watching him, where he's at and what he's doing now at 25, it's pretty impressive."

If the Giants win the series tonight, Madison Bumgarner of Hickory, NC will obtain his third World Series ring.

Gurnal Scott joined North Carolina Public Radio in March 2012 after several stops in radio and television. After graduating from the College of Charleston in his South Carolina hometown, he began his career in radio there. He started as a sports reporter at News/Talk Radio WTMA and won five Sportscaster of the Year awards. In 1997, Gurnal moved on to television as general assignment reporter and weekend anchor for WCSC-TV in Charleston. He anchored the market's top-rated weekend newscasts until leaving Charleston for Memphis, TN in 2002. Gurnal worked at WPTY-TV for two years before returning to his roots in radio. He joined the staff of Memphis' NewsRadio 600 WREC in 2004 eventually rising to News Director. In 2006, Raleigh news radio station WPTF came calling and he became the station's chief correspondent. Gurnal’s reporting has been honored by the South Carolina Broadcasters Association, the North Carolina Associated Press, and the Radio Television Digital News Association of the Carolinas.
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