Well before Walker Buehler emerged as an ace for the Los Angeles Dodgers, he was developing a passion for competition in Lexington, Ky. Buehler’s upbringing and rise to stardom was featured in the debut episode of the “Dodgers Hometown Series.”
Buehler provided the Dodgers with a tour of Lexington, visiting Ecton Park, where he played in the ballyhooed Eastern Little League, to the baseball field at his Henry Clay High School, and Suggins Bar & Grill, a local establishment he visited as a child and still frequents.
After his success in high school, Buehler committed to Vanderbilt University, where he helped the Commodores reach the College Baseball World Series. From there came being selected by the Dodgers with the 24th overall pick in the 2015 MLB Draft.
Scout Marty Lamb explained the Dodgers drafted Buehler with his upside in mind, via Rowan Kavner of Dodger Insider:
“It was a pure projection type guy, but everything worked real easy, arm was really loose, had the arm speed,” says Marty Lamb, the Dodger scout who eventually drafted Walker out of Vanderbilt in 2015. “He could spin the ball and he commanded the ball, which for a high school young kid you don’t see happen very often.”
Buehler underwent Tommy John surgery two months after being drafted, delaying the start to his professional career. It’s been about the only blip on the radar for the right-hander since joining the Dodgers organization.
The 25-year-old made his MLB debut in 2017 but exclusively pitched out of the bullpen. He joined the starting rotation last year, though on an innings limit. Buehler nonetheless was entrusted in big moments.
As the Dodgers worked to chase down the Colorado Rockies, they aligned their rotation so the rookie could take the ball in a potential Game 163 to decide the National League West. That manifested, and Buehler turned in a gem to help clinch the division.
He went on to start Game 7 of the NL Championship Series — which saw the Dodgers defeat the Milwaukee Brewers on the road — and Buehler held the Boston Red Sox scoreless over seven innings in Game 3 of the World Series.
That success served and third-place finish in Rookie of the Year voting served as a springboard for 2019. Buehler earned a first career All-Star Game selection and received votes for the Cy Young Award.
Of course, as is evident throughout the Hometown Series feature, it’s not much of a surprise as Buehler long seemed destined for stardom.
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