The meteoric rise of Nathan Bates continues on as he prepares to transition to professional baseball. In Wednesday’s 15th round of the Major League Baseball draft, Bates was selected by the Los Angeles Angels, bringing about an early end to his college days, but the start of a whole new journey.
Bates started playing baseball much later then most, but that hasn’t held him back. He didn’t even become a pitcher until he was 14-years old, and even split his time with basketball throughout high school. It’s been a quick progression from Starr’s Mill High School to Georgia State University to here. Now, he’s going to be pitching for a living.
“Out of all the years I’ve played sports, that’s got to be the most exciting moment that I’ve had,” said Bates of getting the call he was drafted by the Major Leagues. “That’s definitely one of the dreams I’ve had for a long time.”
Bates made up his mind fast, signing his Angels contract just two days after being drafted. He could’ve turned down a deal and returned for his senior season in college, but it was a quick call to make and one that his Georgia State coaches supported. He couldn’t pass up the chance to go pro, especially in an era of increasing arm injuries for pitchers.
“With all of these Tommy John surgeries you’re seeing, I would be kicking myself for a long time if I didn’t give it a shot now,” he said. “My coaches understand that. They’ve wished me the best of luck.”
The six-foot-seven, right-handed hurler just finished his junior season for the Panthers, and he’s already off to a new home. He finishes ranked in the top ten in school history in games started and with the second lowest career ERA at 4.07 in just three seasons. Only four days after he was selected, he headed to Arizona and the Angels complex for a physical and evaluation, then it’s off to Utah where he’ll join their Advanced-Rookie league affiliate, the Orem Owlz.
For as much as he owes to his own hard work and dedication, Bates also knows he wouldn’t be at the cusp of a pro career without his Georgia State family. They helped shaped him into a professional-caliber pitcher.
“I haven’t played baseball as long as most of the guys. I’ve only been playing since I was probably 11-years old, and I’ve only been pitching since I was 14,” he said. “The Georgia State coaches have kept me healthy and given me support. They’ve taught me about the game in general and mechanics and fine-tuning my skills. They’ve been great in teaching me all that and getting me where I need to be be and making me better along the way.”
Bates really built on their lessons this year, posting a 5-3 record with a 4.15 ERA. In fact, the campaign started off with his favorite Panther moment. He got the call on Opening Day against Fordham and dazzled the opposition, taking a no-hitter into the seventh inning, allowing just one hit in seven scoreless frames.
“It was all the work I’d done the two years before paying off,” said Bates, who had battled through back tightness the previous season. “Coming out the next year and doing that was really exciting.”
It is the relationships he has built with his coaches and teammates that will make it tough saying goodbye to Georgia State.
“They’ve done so much for me, and they’ve been such a huge part of my baseball career,” he said. “It’s bittersweet. It’s an exciting opportunity, but it is tough leaving the friends and coaches that have helped me so much.”
It wasn’t that long ago that Bates saw himself heading in another direction athletically. As good as he was in baseball at Starr’s Mill, he was just as at home on the basketball court. He finished his high school career as the program’s all-time leader in rebounds and blocks and was third all-time in scoring.
“In high school, I thought that’s what I wanted to do,” said Bates of potentially playing hoops in college. “I didn’t know which one I wanted to focus on. I couldn’t quit basketball because I loved it so much, but I also couldn’t give up baseball. As I went on, I realized I had more potential in baseball, but there definitely was a time when I thought I would give it a shot to play basketball at the college level.”
For the way it’s all played out, there’s no reason to second-guess himself now.
“I haven’t had any regrets with it,” he said, adding, “it hasn’t had any downsides so far.”
Even as he prepares for a pro career, he keeps close to his roots.
“It’s kind of tough with how busy we’ve been in school, but I try and keep track of the teams at Starr’s Mill,” said Bates. “I try to keep in touch with coach (Brent) Moseley and I talk to some of my old teammates.”
One former teammate he plans to catch up with soon is Myles Jaye. Bates played with him for one season at Starr’s Mill before Jaye was drafted by the Toronto Blue Jays. Jaye is now with the AA-affiliate of the White Sox and pitching well. He could be a valuable resource for a pitcher just starting out in the pro ranks.
“I do plan on reaching out to Myles and getting some advice from him because he’s been in it for a couple years,” Bates said. “I’d like to talk to him about what it takes and what works for him.”
Now, it’s time to focus on the journey ahead. The euphoria of getting drafted has come and it will soon sink in what he’s really accomplished making it to pro ball.
“I don’t think my feet have actually touched the ground yet, so it’s been hard for it to sink in,” he joked. “Maybe when I sign my name (on the contract) or when I throw on that jersey for the first time it will. I’m still pretty ecstatic. It’s an exciting time.”
At the rate he’s rising, starting a pro career is only the beginning for Nathan Bates. The hope is that getting the call is just the start of a long run ending up in the Majors. He’s eager to follow in the footsteps of David Buchanan, a Fayette County High School alum and the first GSU alum to reach the big time. “It’s a dream come true getting drafted and having this opportunity, but one of the dreams is to make it to The Show, so it’s not over yet.”