Ask Nate Bumstead how he feels about being a top-20 prospect in the Tigers' organization. He'll tell you that he doesn't care, that those sorts of things don't matter. "No matter what, you still have to show it [on the field,]" he'll say. "Reputation doesn't matter. It means nothing."
Ask Nate if he was angry about being taken out on April 11, after five solid innings in which he struck out eight batters, gave up no runs and only one hit. "No way," he'll tell you. "It's a long season, and I understand pitch counts and that stuff." What mattered to him is that the team won the game.
Ask Nate if he gets discouraged watching other pitchers getting called up before him, or if he ever complained while spending all last season in Lakeland. He'll just laugh and shake his head. "I know my stuff and I know where I sit. I know there are guys ahead of me; I just have to wait my turn."
And it's Bumstead's "stuff" that has the Tigers so excited. He relies on control and movement much more than power. He uses his head to judge hitters, finding holes in their swings and pitching to them. He feels that he is able to mix up his pitches, giving batters different looks that they may not be comfortable with. He says that the pitcher in the majors he would most like to emulate is Paul Byrd, someone who pitches more with his head then his arm. Despite similar styles, he refuses to compare himself to Greg Maddox.
Bumstead has been below the radar for a while. He started out at Louisiana State as a fifth starter, a guy trying to see some playing time.
Despite having success there, he wasn't drafted until the 32nd round by the Tigers in 2004. But he never minded. He feels perfectly comfortable with the odds against him. He credits his oldest brother Kevin teaching him his solid work ethic and for giving him what he calls his "underdog mentality." As kids, Kevin would make Nate play with the older guys, not letting him be intimidated. Because of this, has learned to stand up without fear to any size or shape of competition.
Nate has been able to translate this fearlessness onto the mound. His game is to challenge hitters, no matter who they are. "I see hitters. I see stances. I see holes, not the name on the back of the jersey." He treats every hitter, and every game, the same way.
Bumstead uses his toughness to deal with even bigger issues. As a student at LSU, he became very close with teammates from families all over the state. That made the terrible destruction of Hurricane Katrina, and the storms aftermath, that much harder to deal with. Baton Rouge, though it didn't get hit as badly as other places, became very over-crowded as a result of the disaster. As the pitcher says, "It was rough on the whole country, but especially on Louisiana."
Number 23 understands how lucky he is to be playing baseball, and how important it is to remember that it is a game. He still gets butterflies before every start. He looks up to guys like George Brett, who have "that mindset and look" of what a "ballplayer" should be. When asked about getting a Major League team in his home town of Las Vegas, he goes from 24 year-old pitcher to 14 year-old baseball fan, saying with a big smile that he knows the area and how much it loves the sport of baseball.
Nate Bumstead is a rising star who cares more about playing the game then getting recognized for his achievements. His humility and toughness will surely make him a fan favorite for years to come, once he makes it to Detroit. He's just what baseball needs.