Bubby Rossman's nickname was inspired by a guy who once quarterbacked the Philadelphia Eagles.
"My dad was Buddy and my grandfather was Bud," Rossman said with a laugh. "I was Charles III. One day when I was little, my dad saw Bubby Brister playing quarterback on TV. He started calling me Bubby.
"It ended up on trophies in Little League and soccer, though sometimes it was changed to Buddy or Bobby. I started writing Bubby on my papers in school. Some of the teachers thought it was a joke, but I said, 'No, that's my name," and from age five until now, I've been Bubby."
Two years ago, Bubby was a Nerd.
An opportunity to pitch in Mexico dried up when Covid hit and the league went on hiatus.
Trying to keep his dream of pitching in the major leagues alive, Rossman accepted an invite to play in the City of Champions Cup, a six-week independent pro league outside of Chicago.
The league consisted of four teams, the Slammers, the Monsters, the Deep Dish (yum) and the Nerds.
Rossman ended up on the Nerds and though the team finished in last place, he was able to take the ball regularly and keep his dream a-flicker.
"It was a pretty crazy season," he said, "but with Covid, you had to take what you could get. We made like $100 a week before taxes and had to pay for our own hotels. They made up some cheap jerseys and gave us trucker snapback hats to play in. But I can't complain. It was a good experience for me."
Rossman's time with the Nerds is just one chapter in a pro baseball odyssey that began when he was picked in the 22nd round of the 2014 draft by the Los Angeles Dodgers. After being released from the Dodgers system in 2016, he chased opportunities in Mexico, Canada and several independent leagues. Last fall, he pitched internationally for Team Israel, helping the team win a silver medal (the country's first in baseball) at the European Championships.
He's made all these stops with the hope of one day returning to affiliated ball.
In November, his wish came true.
He signed a contract with the Phillies and, at age 29, will head to Clearwater for minor-league spring training camp in early March.
"This is what I've been working for the last five years," the right-handed reliever said in a recent phone conversation from Southern California.
He couldn't take the call at first because he was working out. Once he was finished, he was eager to talk about his journey, where he's been and where he hopes to go.
"I was really happy when my agent told me there would be a chance with the Phillies," he said. "But it also made me want to work harder and walk in and earn a spot on the team and work my way up.
"I just want a chance, A-ball, wherever. If I go to the Dominican Summer League, it doesn't matter to me. I know that I'm going to put up good numbers and hopefully get people's attention to move me up. My goal is to put myself on the map, finish in Double A or Triple A and maybe have a foot in the door for big-league camp next year."
Rossman is very much a today's athlete, hungry for and dedicated to cutting-edge training methods, techno-savvy and skilled in the ways of social media.
He's even vegan.
Rossman was mostly an outfielder at Division II Cal State Dominguez Hills and led the team in homers his senior season. When the team ran low on pitchers his senior year, he picked up a few innings on the mound and caught the eye of scouts with a lively 92 mph fastball and an arm that worked well, as they say. Several teams invited him to a pre-draft workout in 2014. The Dodgers picked him but eventually let him go when his velocity was slow to return after a triceps injury in 2016. He got no higher than High A ball.
While bouncing through independent leagues to keep his career alive, Rossman worked with several data- and technology-based training outfits, including Driveline and Tread Athletics. He refined his mechanics and got in better shape. He worked with throwing guru Tom House, whose clients include Tom Brady and Cole Hamels, and lately has trained with ageless former big-league pitcher Joe Beimel, who made a comeback at age 44 last season.
All this work and dedication helped build a fastball that now sits in the high 90s and reaches 99 mph.
Teams will always take a look at an arm like that.
Especially when the arm comes to them.
A couple of years ago, at the suggestion of friend and pitching instructor Alan Jaeger, Rossman started his own website. It features background about the pitcher, videos of his work on the mound and advanced data readings for progressive, data-driven front offices to dive into.
"It doesn't hurt to get your name out there and have as many people as possible see you," Rossman said.
After pitching independent ball in York, Pennsylvania last summer, Rossman got a little more aggressive getting his name out there. He made a scouting video and his agent, Sid Lopez, sent it to teams.
The Phillies signed him off that video.
"I'm excited to get to Clearwater," Rossman said. "Obviously everyone's goal is to play in the big leagues and I'm not getting any younger. I'm 29. But I've never had a serious injury and I feel like I've done everything I can to prolong my career and play as long as I can."
That includes becoming a vegan two years ago. The change resulted in his dropping nearly 30 pounds and the 6-6 reliever now weighs in at 230. Rossman said going vegan has helped his pitching. He struck out 13 batters per nine innings with York last summer. However, he walked 6.8 per nine.
"There's a lot of meat and dairy that causes inflammation, that's why I looked into it," Rossman said. "It's really helped my conditioning. It's helped me throw back-to-back days more often. I did it more than I'd ever done last year, and my velocity never dropped between the two games. If anything, I threw harder the second day. Maybe it helped in my recovery."
Rossman was asked if he'd ever been to Philadelphia.
"I have," he said with a laugh. "On a seventh-grade class trip. We did all the touristy things like the Liberty Bell."
And, yes, in his pre-vegan days, he did sample the famous local delicacy.
There are no cheesesteaks in Bubby Rossman's future dietary plans. But, you know, he'd love to catch a whiff of them sizzling on the grill from the bullpen at Citizens Bank Park if the latest chapter of his baseball odyssey ends up where he hopes.
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