Left Hand Valley Courier - All Local, All The Time

By Bruce Warren
Sports@lhvc.com 

David Bote's Special Season

 

December 2, 2016

Photo by Bruce Warren Former Niwot area resident David Bote with the Chicago Cubs in spring training.

It was quite a year for Chicago Cubs prospect David Bote, son of former Niwot High baseball coach Bob Bote. The younger Bote began the season as the fifth infielder for the Class A Myrtle Beach Pelicans of the Carolina League. Bote, who has played every position except catcher in his pro career, was a super utility player, with most of his playing time coming at second base.

After seeing action in only six games in April, the 23-year old was placed on the disabled list for a month, with no official word on an injury. When he was activated 30 days later near the end of May, he was assigned to the AAA Iowa Cubs, one step removed from the major leagues.

There he played with catcher Willson Contreras, pitcher Carl Edwards and outfielder Albert Almora, Jr., all of whom ended the season playing for the Chicago Cubs in the World Series, including important roles in the game seven victory, which ended 108 years of frustration for the Cubs organization and its fans.

Bote hit .364 in 12 games at Iowa, but was sent back to Myrtle Beach just before Iowa came to Colorado Springs to play the Sky Sox. He played one game for the Pelicans before being moved up to AA Tennessee to fill in for another injured player. Bote hit .200 for the Smokies in seven games before again heading back to Myrtle Beach where he played the rest of the season. After two pinch-hitting appearances, he started at second base and went 3-3 at the plate with an RBI, raising his average to .300 on June 25.

All of the moves weren’t easy on his family, Bote said, noting that his wife Rachel moved with their daughter each time he was reassigned. “I can’t say enough about her,” Bote said.

Bote hovered around the .300 mark for most of the season, but a 4-game stretch in late August where he went 11-17 at the plate pushed his average up to .346. He finished the season at .337, easily tops in the Carolina League, but he was 62 plate appearances short of qualifying for the league title, won by Mason Robbins at .314.

Bote’s body of work for the season was one of the top offensive performances of the entire Cubs minor league organization. Without considering Willson Contreras and Dan Vogelbach, who both finished the season in the major leagues, Bote had the second-highest batting average at .328, the highest on-base percentage at .399, and the second-highest slugging percentage at .492, among all Cubs minor league players with at least 100 at bats.

But Bote wasn’t done. He led the Pelicans to a 46-23 second half record, which put them in the playoffs as the second-half title winner. There he was on fire, earning the Carolina League MVP Award for the post-season after hitting .577 with 15 hits in 26 at bats, helping Myrtle Beach win the championship.

And the 18th-round draft choice didn’t go unnoticed. On the Sept. 21 broadcast of the Chicago Cubs-Cincinnati Reds game, the Cubs’ broadcast team summarized the seasons of the minor league affiliates, and talked about the best young players in the minor league system between batters. Cubs broadcaster Len Kasper described the high Class A Myrtle Beach Pelicans, saying, “David Bote, first-baseman, playoff MVP, hit .577, 15 out of 26 in 7 games to help the Pelicans win the title.”

Bote’s play in the field was exemplary as well. His catch of a foul popup on July 17 while playing first base earned him the national MiLBY Award for Play of the Year in all classes of the minor leagues in 2016. The extraordinary catch began with a foul pop-up down the right-field line. Bote took off on a full sprint with his back to the ball, heading for the opponents’ bullpen, which includes a mound in the field of play. With the ball directly overhead, he had to find the ball, then glance at the approaching mound while running full speed. As he entered the bullpen, he went into a slide on the mound, catching the ball just before he hit the bench. The play was nominated for Play of the Year, and won the online vote by a wide margin, 42% to 13% for the runner up out of the six nominees.

With the parent Cubs making the major league playoffs, Bote was able to travel to Chicago with his older brother, NHS grad Danny Bote, to take in the Cubs’ 5-2 win over the San Francisco Giants Oct. 8 in the NL Division Series, then returned to Wrigley Field for game 5 of the World Series, where the Cubs beat the Indians, 3-2 on Oct. 30 on their way to their first World Series victory since 1908.

Two other Niwot High grads who were part of Niwot’s 2000 state championship team with Danny Bote, under head coach Bob Bote, also made the trek to Chicago for the World Series. John Hake, who lived in Chicago before moving back to the Denver area, and Michael Warren, both long-time Cubs fans, were part of the Wrigleyville celebration when the Cubs won game five to send the series back to Cleveland.

“It was quite an experience,” David Bote said, describing the World Series. He didn’t catch up with any of his former teammates who were playing for the Cubs, as he just wanted to “let them do their thing” as he put it, without distractions.

He wasn’t especially a Cubs fan growing up. “I remember watching the Cubs on WGN with my dad,” Bote said. But after joining the organization, “I’ll always have a spot in my heart for the Cubs.”

Being a part of the World Series Champions’ organization, he’s been part of the culture. “It’s all about when it [a World Series title] happens.”

Though he always put up solid numbers before the 2016 season, Bote had a breakout second half. He didn’t make any radical changes, but attributes his success to picking up things from a variety of coaches in the Cubs organization. “I had all sorts of hitting coaches along the way, including Brian Harper, Desi Wilson and Mariano Duncan,” he said. “We had a new hitting coordinator this year, Andy Haines. Last year it was Jesus Feliciano at South Bend, and Anthony Iopoce, the minor league hitting coordinator, who’s now the Texas Rangers’ hitting coach.”

“We go over video, mechanics, approach,” Bote said. “They can give us input, but it’s up to us to decipher how it’s beneficial to you. There were no radical changes, just simplifying the moving parts. They always say, ‘Don’t change what got you to this position.”

For Bote, the most important changes were not taking a 100% swing every time, and his two-strike approach, which was to “just put the ball in play.”

Bote is working out this winter, back at his home in the Denver area, after taking a few weeks off to follow the major league team’s World Series run. He is eligible for the MLB Rule 5 draft, where another major league organization can select him for a nominal price, but would have to keep him on the major league roster all season. Barring that he will be back in spring training with the Cubs in March, expecting to move up to the next level.

 

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