Trevor Lubking’s diamond dreams are coming true.
Three years removed from a prep career with the White River Hornets – and just weeks following another stellar collegiate campaign – Lubking was selected in the 14th round of the recent Major League Baseball amateur draft.
He was picked by the Tampa Bay Rays, the 427th player taken. There are some contractual terms to be worked out, but the 21-year-old, left-handed pitcher is soon headed to his first pro assignment.
Lubking makes it clear he’s not about to be a difficult signee for the Tampa Bay Rays. He’s going to put his name on the dotted line, he said, as soon as some contract formalities are ironed out.
“I’m pretty pumped, I’m ready to go,” Lubking said last week, conducting a phone interview while sitting in the stands at White River High, watching his younger sister’s fastpitch game.
As soon as the ink dries on his pro pact, Lubking will be headed for the Appalachian League East, where he’ll toil for the Princeton Rays. The Appalachian is a rookie league that includes the Pulaski Mariners – a Seattle farm club – along with the Bluefield Blue Jays, Danville Braves and the Burlington Royals.
Following a dream
Lubking played his high school ball for White River High under the tutelage of coach Mike Williams. He did his part for the successful Hornets, earning Most Valuable Player honors from the South Puget Sound League 2A following his senior season.
“He is possibly the most dominating pitcher we have had here,” Williams said, noting that Lubking averaged 10 strikeouts per game during his final year as a Hornet.
Williams said the coaching staff knew “the sky would be the limit” for their ace, once he learned to keep his emotions in check.
“Early on he grew frustrated easily and displayed emotion at times which negatively affected his overall performance,” Williams said. “Now he seems to be outwardly more polished.”
His high school exploits landed Lubking a roster spot at Pacific Lutheran University.
This spring, Lubking stepped into the role of staff ace and played the part perfectly for the Lutes. He led the nation in strikeouts with 111 and broke his own program single-season record (set in 2013 with 102). Five times he allowed three hits or fewer and three times he struck out 13 batters in a game. He compiled a 6-2 record with one save in his lone relief appearance and his 2.12 earned-run average was the fourth-lowest by a PLU starter since 1972.
His success caught the eye of major league scouts, who made themselves known earlier this spring. It was clear the pros were interested, Lubking said, adding that it was the Milwaukee Brewers and Los Angeles Angels who showed the most interest.
His final season at PLU certainly did nothing to dissuade those who hold the future of young pro prospects in their hands. He was named to the American Baseball Coaches Association All-America third team and also was named to both the ABCA and the d3baseball.com All-West Region teams as well as the All-Northwest Conference first team.
With those lofty honors under his belt, Lubking became the seventh Lute selected in the MLB draft and the second-highest selection in program history.
The man who watched him most closely, Lute coach Geoff Loomis, had nothing but good things to say.
“I’m obviously excited for Trevor, because I think he has a real shot at making it,” Loomis said. “I’m equally as excited about what this says about our program. It’s a great day to celebrate Trevor and Lutes baseball.”
With an eye toward continued improvement, Lubking has spent the past three summers playing in leagues designed for college standouts. He spent the 2011 and 2012 seasons somewhat close to home, pitching for the Wenatchee AppleSox of the West Coast League, but this year headed to the Northwoods League. The Northwoods has clubs scattered throughout the upper Midwest and Lubking filled a roster spot with the Mankato MoonDogs.
He made the most of his time in Minnesota, going 2-0 during the young season. He went six innings on May 27, earning a win over the Wilmar Stingers, then pitched into the sixth on June 2, leading the MoonDogs to a resounding victory over the Alexandria Blue Anchors.
During those two starts, Lubking did not allow a single run.
What comes next?
With the Appalachian League season kicking off next week, Lubking will join a team that finished in the cellar a season ago. During home games, he’ll take the mound in Hunnicutt Field in Princeton, W.V. He’ll find his new home turf by driving past Arby’s, turning left at Kitts Tire Service and cruising past the local primary school.
The former Hornet hopes to make an immediate impact and a quick climb up the organizational ladder. If things go as he hopes, Lubking will be promoted this summer to the Hudson Valley Renegades, the Rays’ squad in the New York-Penn League. The Renegades are headquartered in Wappingers Falls, N.Y., play short-season Class A ball and host home games in Dutchess Stadium.
The New York-Penn League has three divisions and the Hudson Valley squad is joined in the McNamara Division by the Brooklyn Cyclones, Staten Island Yankees and the Aberdeen IronBirds.
Professional organizations are known to move pitchers from starting jobs to relief roles and Lubking isn’t sure what his future holds. He has a preference – he wants to remain a starting pitcher – but knows his level of work could dictate a short-term change.
Lubking has logged more than 100 innings this spring and is aware the Tampa Bay brass might want to give his arm a rest.