Wohlever signs, Garcia will follow
June 14, 2007
T.J. Wohlever has come a long way from last season when he pitched a grand total of four innings for the Western Nevada Community College baseball team.
Wohlever has gone from being rarely used in the WNCC bullpen to pitching professionally. Wohlever signed with the Atlanta Braves on Monday and reported to the Braves’ Rookie League team in the Gulf Coast League in Kissimmee, Fla., where he went through is first workout with the team on Thursday.
He will be joined shortly by WNCC teammate Justin Garcia. The right-handed pitcher will sign on Saturday with the Tampa Bay Devil Rays.
Even at the beginning of this season, Wohlever, a left-handed relief pitcher wasn’t that high on the depth chart in the Wildcats bullpen. But by the end of the year, Wohlever was one of WNCC’s key relievers and played a crucial role in the Wildcats reaching the JUCO World Series.
In the game that sent WNCC to the World Series, Wohlever struck out four of the five batters he facted with a fastball reaching 93 miles per hour in the district championship against Central Arizona College. The Wildcats went on to score seven runs in the eighth inning to come back for a 13-10 win to earn a World Series berth.
That effort in front of the Braves scout and a strong finish to the season convinced the Braves to draft Wohlever in the 32nd round.
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“I just kept getting better,” said Wohlever about the end of the year. “I was getting stronger. it made a huge difference.”
Wohlever received an outstanding package for a 32nd round draft choice. He received a $30,000 signing bonus, which is normally about what a top 20 round pick would be given or as Wohlever put it “really, really good money.”
The Braves will also pay for Wohlever’s last four semesters of college once he’s done with baseball “which was key for me to sign,” he said.
Wohlever finished the season with a 2-0 record and a 2.33 earned run average, holding opponents to a .177 batting average. He gave much of the credit for his success to WNCC coach D.J. Whittemore and pitching coaches Kevin Edwards and Dennis Banks. Wohlever said Edwards and Banks helped him become more advanced with his mechanics than many pitchers at his stage.
“I just wanted this and the coaches knew that and never letting me give up made a huge difference,” said Wohlever about how the WNCC coaches helped him.
The Gulf Coast League Braves play their games at the Braves spring training site at Cracker Jack Stadium at Disney’s Wide World of Sports.
“A dream come true,” Wohlever said. “I can’t be in a better place. You can’t get any better than this.”
Wohlever would obviously like to join his WNCC teammate, Cole Rohrbough as soon as possible. Rohrbough, a left-handed pitcher, also signed with the Braves, receiving a $728,000 total package.
Rohrbough has reported to the Braves advanced Rookie League team in Danville, Va., one step above Wohlever. Both the Braves Rookie League teams will open early next week.
“I’d love that,” said Wohlever about pitching with Rohrbough. “That woud be awesome.”
Wohlever, who attended Rancho High, was with his father, Terry, when he was drafted. “TJ and I were actually going to have lunch at the ESPN Zone in Las Vegas the day he was drafted. When I heard about the Braves taking him, there was a smoke trail to the restaurant. I am so proud of him.”
Garcia was taken in the 25th round by the Devil Rays. He will sign for a $25,000 signing bonus, which is also higher than normal for a 25th round pick. In addition the Devil Rays will pay for the rest of Garcia’s education as well.
He will likely report immediately after he signs to the Devil Rays short season Class A team, Hudson Valley, in the New York Penn League. Garcia will start at a level higher than most junior college players. The New York Penn League will also begin early next week.
“I’m pretty satisfied right now,” Garcia said. “It’s nice to get going on this and to start myh pro career.”
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