(Citynet Statewide Sportsline interview with ABU head coach Matt Yurish)
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — In 2017, Randy Dobnak wrapped up a solid four-year career at Alderson Broaddus University in Philippi. He posted a 26-12 record with an ERA of 2.61 and 20 complete games in 43 starts.
Those numbers however did not yield a call on draft day or a free agent contract with an MLB-affiliated team. His first professional baseball stint came with the Utica Unicorns and the United Shore Professional Baseball League.
Two years later, Dobnak pitched in nine games and made five starts for the 2019 AL Central-champion Minnesota Twins.
“It has been a lot of fun to keep up with him as he moved on from our program. At every turn he just took off and his success hasn’t stopped yet,” said ABU head baseball coach and former WVU pitcher Matt Yurish.
“As his career developed, we all thought he was a pro, and we all hoped he would get a shot. Now with what he is currently doing right now, I would be lying if I said a wasn’t a little surprised especially how fast it all happened. Especially by the end of his career, his velocity was up and he was a pretty dominant guy at our level. We thought he had a chance to at least go on and play and get a shot at pro ball. The rest of it has kind of been like a movie.”
Dobnak’s accelerated rise through the Twins’ minor-league system began in late-2017 with their Appalachian League affiliate in Elizabethton, Tennessee. After quick stops in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, Fort Myers, Fla, Pensacola, Fla. and Rochester, N.Y., Dobnak compiled a minor league record of 24-9 with an ERA of 2.57. He was promoted to the Twins last summer and settled into their starting rotation with a 1.59 ERA in 9 games.
“It wasn’t by accident. He put a lot of hard work, time and effort in. He developed a better breaking ball and a little bit of a splitter changeup that he used when he was with us and that kind of set him apart. He came in as a kid that was 86-88 (mph). The last start he made for us, I don’t think he threw a pitch below 90. That was the jump that got him on people’s radar.”
On Wednesday, the South Park, Pa. native tossed six shutout innings while allowing just three hits in a 5-2 win over the Pirates at PNC Park. In 15 innings of work this season, he owns the second-best ERA in the American League at 0.60. In 43 innings at the big league level, he has walked just 9 batters.
“Ever since he was a freshman, this is something he has always had, is that he just hates to walk people. It really bothers him. I think the fact that he forces action and really keeps the game going at a fast pace, I think that really helps him.”
Sporting quality facial hair and spectacles, Yurish says the former Uber driver has always been a light-hearted presence in the dugout.
“He kept it entertaining when he was with us and that really hasn’t changed. The facial hair is new. That wasn’t a thing forever. He has found a niche there.
“I don’t think the moment is ever going to get too big for him. That’s another thing that is really, really helping him right now. His mentality and his demeanor are big pluses for him.”