Grant Townsend’s mighty right arm has taken him from the Bonney Lake High School diamond to the ranks of professional ballplayers – with a couple of collegiate stops along the way.
The former Panther – he graduated in 2015 – was taken by the Toronto Blue Jays in this year’s Major League Baseball draft. He went in the 34th round, the 1,016th player taken overall. And, with that, the 6-foot, 190-pounder was immediately added to the roster of the Bluefield Blue Jays of the Rookie Appalachian League.
The minor league squad represents the twin cities of Bluefield, West Virginia, and Bluefield, Virginia. The Toronto affiliate plays its home games at historic Bowen Field at Peters Park, which opened in 1939. The park straddles the West Virginia–Virginia state line and is operated by the West Virginia city; however, Bowen Field lies entirely within Virginia.
Townsend boasts a three-pitch mix of a fastball, slider and changeup in his repertoire. The fastball hits between 90 and 94 miles per hour, with the slider and changeup in the 80s.
After inking a pro contract, he was quoted on the jaysprospects.com website: “I work primarily off my fastball,” he said. “Up to this point it’s been the pitch I throw the most. I can use it to put hitters away late in a count, but typically I use it early and use my off-speed to put hitters away. My movement helps me to get a lot of bad contact on my fastball.”
Townsend, who will turn 21 in August, was put to work immediately after arriving at his Rookie League destination. A relief pitcher, he appeared in six contests between June 20 and July 9, tossing a combined 8.2 innings. His stat line showed 11 strikeouts, six walks, six hits and five earned runs, resulting in a 5.19 ERA.
Bluefield competes in the Appalachian League East along with the Princeton Rays, Danville Braves, Pulaski Yankees and Burlington Royals. As of July 10, Bluefield led the division with a record of 16-4.
COLLEGE SUCCESS PAYS OFF
Townsend was drafted after one season at Oral Roberts University, where he excelled in the bullpen. During 23 mound appearances and 38.2 innings of work, the right-hander fanned 50 batters, good for an impressive average of 11.64 strikeouts per nine innings.
He started his Golden Eagles career in impressive fashion, throwing 14 innings before allowing an earned run. The season culminated with a 5-0 record.
Prior to landing at Oral Roberts, Townsend spend two seasons with the Central Arizona College. During season No. 2, he helped the Vaqueros to an ACCAC tournament championship on his way to NJCAA first-team All-America honors, as voted by the National Junior College Athletic Association. He finished the 2017 season with a 1.79 earned-run average and 119 strikeouts in 100.2 innings of work with only 24 walks.
Townsend had earned a college roster spot after setting a Bonney Lake High School record with a 0.77 ERA and 88 strikeouts in 54 innings as a senior. He was honored as a first-team all-state pitcher and also a first-team all-state designated hitter for the Panthers in 2015, hitting .337 with 10 extra-base hits and 31 RBI.