The last time I saw Bubba Bell, it was late in Spring Training. At that time, he was still property of the Red Sox. Bubba, the MVP of the 2010 Pawtucket Red Sox, had an inkling that his days in the organization were numbered. Two organizations and three and a half months later, a member of the Buffalo Bisons, Bubba and I caught up in the wives’ lounge at McCoy Stadium. Seeing Bell put a genuine smile on my face. He seemed happy to see me too, as we caught up.
Bell didn’t even get off the team bus before the sentiments started to stir. “The bus came rolling into the parking lot at about 1:30 a.m. and immediately, I started getting butterflies in my stomach. Happy to see the area and happy to be back in the area. I’m really excited to see everybody and catch up with everybody a little bit.”
Billy Wayne Bell was given the nickname “Bubba” by his dad, even before he was born. It stuck and it fits. Bell was drafted by the Red Sox in the 39th round in 2005. It was no sure thing that he’d make it. In 2007, Bell was named the MVP of the California League after hitting .370 with 22 homers and 83 rbi in only 76 games. By 2009, Bubba had made it to Pawtucket and in 2010, when he was supposed to be an extra outfielder for the PawSox, he hit .293, with 6 HR and 49 RBI. He also swiped 13 bases en route to earning Pawtucket Player of the Year honors. Now he looks back on being with three different organizations since March. “I left the Red Sox and went to the Indians. I was over there for about a month and a half and ended up here with the Mets. I spent most of my time in Buffalo. I did have a four day stint in Double A (Binghamton). Whirlwind is a great way to describe it. It hasn’t been anything like I thought it’d be. It’s been a learning process.” Bostons’ Director of Player Development, Mke Hazen offered Bell a couple of options. He could have his release, or they would try to trade him. Bell opted for the latter. “I knew late in Spring Training, rosters were pretty well set. It would have been more risky to become a free agent, so I asked for the trade. At the time, I thought it was going to mean more playing time. A better situation, more of a chance to get into the Big Leagues. It didn’t work out that way. The season’s not over. I’m starting to heat up a little bit so I’d like to finish with a strong second half.”
In Columbus, Bell was stashed away on the “phantom disabled list”, kept in reserve, even though he wasn’t really hurt. After three weeks, frustration set in and Bubba asked to be moved. Several days later he was indeed, sent to the Mets organization. “It’s more packing up and learning a new system. It’s all fun and exciting, but at the same time, it takes a huge toll on you emotionally. Getting to know people. Leaving people that have meant so much to you. It’s all part of the game.”
Bell has persevered, although he concedes the trip back to Double A made him question his career path. There is one constant, however, that continues to drive him. “The obvious goal of playing in the Big Leagues. For having that dream for so long, it’s sometuing that you want to see through. A lot of time, it’s playing with a chip on my shoulder, to prove people wrong.”
Bell was reminded of a promise he made to a certain PawSox broadcaster a year ago. He made fun of my wardrobe and vowed that when he made the Big Leagues, he’d buy me a new suit. Does the offer still stand? “I think that we could still probably work that in. I see that your fashion hasn’t come along like I thought it was going to after I razzed you a little bit. You look like you are making some improvements. You’ve got some nice dress pants on. But yes. The offer still stands. I get up to the Big Leagues and you get a new suit.” I wasn’t sure if I should be happy or insulted.
When Bell was with the Sox, his dad Bill, and mom, Cynthia would frequently e-mail us. Bill would very often get our mouths watering, telling us about that evenings’ fare. I asked Bubba about the last great meal his dad cooked him. “He loves the fish fry. That’s probably the last home cooking I had from him. Fried fish. I’m looking forward to getting back there. I haven’t seen them in a while. I’ll tell him to shoot you a little email, just so you know he hasn’t forgotten about you.”
I sincerely hope that Bubba Bell makes it to the Major Leagues someday, and not just so I can get a new suit.