Saturday, August 18, 2018
Photo credit: Adam Greene

Bote Ready to Make Leap for Cubs

If the Arizona Fall League is the place where players separate themselves from the pack, then Chicago Cubs minor league utility infielder David Bote did that and more. After an All-Star season in Double-A with the Tennessee Smokies, Bote capped his 2017 with a .333 batting average, two doubles, four home runs and 14 RBIs with the Mesa Solar Sox right before winter.

Bote’s Smokies line? How about a .272 batting average, 30 doubles, three triples, 14 home runs and 59 RBIs? I had the chance to talk to Bote back in August, right before the Southern League season wrapped. Bote is a guy that’s been whiffed on plenty by the pro scouts. He wasn’t drafted or recruited by a college out of high school. He walked on at Liberty University and after that didn’t work out, he transferred to Neosho Community College in Kansas to finally get a chance to play. Luckily for Bote, one of his teammates at Neosho was Matt Strahm, currently with the Kansas City Royals. When scouts showed up to see Strahm, they got an eyeful of Bote too and liked what they saw. The former unknown walk-on was drafted in the 18th round of the 2012 by the Cubs.

“It’s something I didn’t dream would happen like that,” Bote said. “The way I’ve come around over these last five seasons, it’s just been and up and down roller coaster the whole way. It’s never how I would have imagined it.”

Bote’s not listed as a Top 30 prospect for the Cubs by MLB.com, but his path to the big leagues is arguably easier than all 30 of the guys ranked ahead of him. As a utility guy, the Cubs have already moved Bote all over the place. He saw action with the Triple-A Iowa Cubs in 2014 and 2016 thanks to injuries and player moves.

“Iowa was a great experience,” Bote said. “I went one as a 20 year-old. Manny Ramirez was there. I was playing with J.D. Drew and facing a former big league closer. That was a surreal moment. I did decent. I was like, I can do this. I could see myself playing there. I wasn’t ready for it then, but I could see it happening.”

Bote seems more than ready to make that jump for good, now.

“I’ve been up and down all throughout my career,” Bote said. “I’ve played once every four days and played every day. I’ve gone to Iowa for a week, to Double-A to Low-A. I’ve been grateful for it. My road is not the typical road, but every player has a different experience. I have to stay focused on the goal and that’s to be in the big leagues and stay in the big leagues. Wherever that road takes me, I’m grateful. No matter how long it takes.”

In fact, the only year Bote never moved was 2017 with the Smokies. While the team didn’t finish that well, especially in the second half, Bote impressed all the way through. His 10th place finish in batting for the AFL was just more of the same.

“My goal was to stay healthy for the full season and play the best I can,” Bote said. “I had some goals in my head in the mental skills program. I wanted to work hard and come to the field prepared every day,” Bote said. “I’ve seen guys go through that (theAFL) and move up. I tried to play the best I could to put myself in position to be there. I have so many teammates going too. I’ve come up with these guys and we’re going through that experience together.”

Bote wasn’t the only Cubs Double-A farm hand to get the call to Arizona, but he was the top offensive performer by pretty wide margin. Charcer Burks will likely return to Double-A for another season after batting .236 in Mesa. Jason Vosler, after a hyped up mid-season, wrapped his 2017 work with a .210 batting average in Arizona.

Bote’s faith has helped him keep perspective, especially during a career that’s seemingly gone unnoticed for the most part. When I talked to him, Bote was the first married minor league player I’d ever interviewed to my knowledge. He already had a daughter and a baby boy that was due in December.

“I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for them. My wife (Rachel) has supported me the whole way,” Bote said. “My daughter (Shayli) is one of the best things that’s ever happened to me. I get to go home and be a husband and a dad. I don’t have to be David the baseball player. It helps show me what’s most important. She’s always got my back and it’s not always easy.”

While the Cubs drafted David Bote the baseball player, David Bote the man was busy making the world a better place. He paid no attention to the draft as it was happening back in 2012. He and Rachel were in Africa on a mission trip. His brother had to call him and let him know he was a Chicago Cub.

“We went to the Kibera slums (in Nairobi, Kenya), which is one of the largest slums in the world,” Bote said. “It’s a million people in one square mile. I saw how little those people had, but the joy they had. Their love of Christ. They were so grateful that we were there with them. It was a humbling experience. It’s something my wife and I still think about.”

And it’s something that grounds the 24 year-old from Longmont, Colo. Maybe that’s why his trip through the minor leagues seems like no big deal.

AFL Top Offensive Performers

Eric Filia, RF, Seattle Mariners

BA: .406, 2B: 4, 3b: 4, HR: 1, RBI: 13

Nicky Lopez, SS, Kansas City Royals

BA: .383, 2B: 5, 3B: 2, HR: 2, RBI: 10, SB: 3

Will Smith, Catcher, Los Angeles Dodgers

BA: .371, 2B: 4, 3B: 1, HR: 2, RBI: 16

Francisco Mejia, 3B, Cleveland Indians

BA: .365, 2B: 1, HR: 2, RBI: 8

Andrew Knizner, Catcher, St. Louis Cardinals

BA: .358, 2B: 3, HR: 3, RBI: 12

Kevin Kaczimarski, CF, New York Mets

BA: .351, 2B: 4, HR: 1, RBI 11, SB: 2

Braxton Lee, CF, Miami Marlins

BA: .347, 2B: 2, 3B: 1, HR: 1, RBI: 7, SB: 8

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David Bote

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