Derek Holland, major league starting pitcher.
On May 20, 2006, Derek Holland was two weeks off his final
freshman appearance for Wallace State-Hanceville Community College, pitching
six innings of relief (two runs on five hits and two walks, seven strikeouts)
in a 5-2 Lions win over the Bevill State-Fayette Community College Bears. Whether he had it marked on his calendar or
not, he was also 18 days away from Day Two of the MLB Draft, a day on which his
name would be quietly called by Texas in the 25th round, 748th
overall, right after Arizona selected East Tennessee State University outfielder
Shane Byrne and just before the Cubs chose Hargrave High School (Huffman,
Texas) righthander Jamie Bagley.
May 20, 2007 was 16 days after Holland’s
final Wallace State start (one run on four hits and no
walks in seven innings, seven strikeouts), a 5-1 win over the Calhoun Community
College Warhawks. It was also the day Holland sat down with
Rangers scouts Rick Schroeder and Jeff Wood and signed as a draft-and-follow with
the Rangers for a reported $200,000, an amount generally appropriate for the
fourth or fifth round.
On May 20, 2008, Holland
pitched in his 24th pro game, improving to 4-0, 2.45 with Low A Clinton,
holding the Beloit Snappers to two runs (one earned) on five hits and no walks,
fanning three in six innings of work.
went to bed on May 20, 2009 as a major league relief pitcher.
On May 21, 2009, one day after the two-year anniversary of
his age 20 decision to make his next stop Surprise, Arizona rather than Arizona
State University, Derek Holland was told he was a major league starting
Even if Holland
weren’t as unassuming as he is, there’s no chance as he sat down in May 2007 to
sign a couple papers and shake hands with Schroeder and Wood to seal his
decision to go pro, that in two years he’d be a major league fixture. Or that as he sat in the stands in May 2008 in
Alliant Energy Field in Clinton, Iowa, charting his LumberKings teammate Blake
Beavan’s fifth pro start, he’d be on the verge of making a start for the Texas
Rangers one year later. No chance.
In this photo, courtesy of Paul Gierhart, Holland
is thinking about locating a warmup pitch in the bullpen, and making sure he
holds his end up as part of a Clinton
rotation that included Beavan, Neftali Feliz, Kennil Gomez, and Fabio Castillo. It was four uniforms ago for Holland, but just one year.
A storybook year that, tonight, has Holland in charge of the
decision of which Rangers uniform he and his teammates will wear, as they get
set to take on the Houston Astros and try to maintain a two-game division lead.
In two years, Holland
has been a Lion and an Indian and a LumberKing and a Blaze and a RoughRider and
a Redhawk and a Ranger. It’s pretty clear
that he’s through changing team names for a while. Tonight may be the night, as his parents Wendy
and Rick look on from their seats in Minute Maid Park, deprived of the chance
to see him toting the Pink Backpack, that Holland starts out on a yet another new
path, that of a big league starting pitcher, one that I wouldn’t bet against him
staying on for good.