If you want to read a quick blog with a West Virginia connection to make you smile, you’ve come to the right place.
This is a story of perseverance. It’s one about grinding. And it’s also about success.
Allow me to introduce Randy Travis William Dobnak.
According to his Twitter handle (@Dobnak_), he is a professional thrower of @Twins baseballs.
Which he is. Dobnak, 26, is a 6-foot-1 pitcher for the Minnesota Twins.
But what makes this a cool story is how Dobnak became a professional thrower of @Twins baseballs.
See, Dobnak attended South Park High School in South Park Township, Pa., about a half hour outside of Pittsburgh, before deciding to play college baseball at Alderson Broaddus University, which overlooks “the picturesque Tygart River Valley in Philippi, West Virginia.”
“From what I understand, he had no other offers,” said AB sports information director Matt Mullen. “But go back and check his stats here. When it came to pitching, you name the GMAC statistic, and he probably has it.”
AB, which is now in the Mountain East Conference, used to be a member of the Great Midwest Athletic Conference. And, indeed, Dobnak is first in career strikeouts (284), first in shutouts (8) and complete games (20) and second in all-time wins (26) and innings pitched (272 1/3). Dobnak played for the Battlers from 2014 to 2017.
Until he didn’t. Until the grinding began.
Dobnak went undrafted out of college yet continued to play, hooking up with the United Shore Professional Baseball League, an independent baseball league in suburban metro Detroit.
According to Wikipedia, he also drove for Uber and Lyft. It says his LinkedIn profile once claimed him to be an excellent driver with a “4.99/5 Uber driver rating.” (The profile now simply says he’s from Hedgesville, the home of his wife.)
Anyway, Dobnak became arguably the best USPBL player in history and signed with Twins scout Billy Milos for a mere $500. The claim is he was offered off the strength of YouTube videos of his USPBL outings.
Dobnak played minor league ball for the Elizabethton Twins, Cedar Rapids Kernals, Fort Myers Miracle, Pensacola Blue Wahoos and Rochester Red Wings.
Then, on Aug. 8, 2019, the Twins promoted him to the major leagues.
Dobnak was even included on Minnesota’s postseason roster in 2019 and started Game 2 of the American League Division Series against the New York Yankees. He was only the fourth rookie in team history to start a postseason game.
Quite a story. But not complete.
See, the Twins just signed Dobnak to a five-year $9.25 million contract extension with three club options. The deal can max out at $29.75 million. He’s 8-5 in his career with a 3.12 ERA in 19 appearances, including 15 starts.
Minnesota manager Rocco Baldelli just confirmed he’d make the Twins’ opening day roster after he tossed five one-hit innings against the Red Sox. His spring training ERA? 0.66.
Oh, and the kicker is when Dobnak and his wife Aerial were married, and Twins fans shared the link to his wedding registry, the couple asked they donate to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital instead.
“Seems like a good guy,” Mullen said.
Indeed. A reason to smile for sure.
+ + +
Mitch Vingle covered sports in West Virginia for 38 years. Follow Mitch on Twitter at @MitchVingle and be sure to check out the rest of Wheelhouse Creative’s website for your marketing and advertising needs. If interested, call us at 304-905-6005.