David Wynn has a tattoo that says, “Walk by Faith”, and that is exactly what he has had to do in pursuit of his Major League Dream.
At 5’10” and 168 lbs, Wynn’s journey to what he hopes will someday be the mound at Citi Field almost never began. A long shot of long shots, the young lefty went undrafted out of college. For most players that go undrafted, their hope lies in going the Independent route and impressing enough scouts who are there to eventually be picked up. David’s journey took a different path from a very early age, and is one that he credits heavily to having a supportive single mother and an uncle that helped coach him.
David is a natural right-hander. He writes with his right hand and always threw with his right hand. It was when he was in T-ball as a very young child that his stepfather, figuring that a lefty had a better chance to make it, gave him a glove to place on his right hand and taught him to start throwing with his left. It took awhile for him to get the hang of throwing with his non-natural hand and after T-ball, when it came time start playing with live pitching, the coaches didn’t want him to pitch because he wasn’t able to reach home plate. He would come home from playing crying and upset, but he never quit. Before long that changed, and as he became more used to throwing with his left hand, he began to get better and stronger. After his best friend Marchello Howard was killed by a drunk driver, he was driven to pursue the game even more. While the loss hit him hard, he kept playing and improving and he eventually made the All-Star team.
As he got bigger and older his arm strength grew and by the time he reached high school, he was still small, but he threw hard. He loved baseball, but like a lot of young kids, he didn’t take it as seriously as he knows he should have as someone who had professional aspirations. He would show up late to practices, always having excuses, and by the time his high school career ended, he didn’t have any offers from any major colleges. Still wanting to play, David enrolled in Junior College at San Diego Mesa College, but still wasn’t fully applying himself.
Head Coach Kevin Hazlett knew that David had talent, but didn’t like his young pitcher’s attitude. Wynn was able to convince coach Hazlett to let him continue playing after his first year, but was warned to come back with a changed attitude and be ready to play. Still young and with a lot of growing up to do, David made one mistake very early during the spring season that made him grow up fast and made him realize exactly how much he wanted to play the game of baseball. The game was taken from him.
In the Spring of 2009, San Diego Mesa College was playing Bakersfield. David made the mistake of getting his hands on and using the bat of one of his teammates without asking. He was confronted about it and after giving his teammate an attitude – a scuffle ensued. Coach Hazlett had enough and kicked David off the team. He walked home that night, alone, afraid, and feeling very sorry for himself. He went from playing for a Junior College that had produced no less than a dozen future major leaguers to being entirely out of the game with no place left to showcase his talent.
Then his luck changed as one school expressed interested in him. Mid-America Christian University was a small, private school with less than 1,500 students in Oklahoma City, OK. They wanted him to pitch for them the next year. They weren’t exactly known for their baseball program, but they wanted him and David could continue to pursue his dream.
Wynn was honest with his new coach and explained all that had previously happened to Coach Paxon. If he was going to hear anything negative about him, he was going to hear it from himself first. His new coach said that if he applied himself, got his grades up, and stayed out of trouble, there would be a scholarship waiting for him in the fall and a spot for him on the team that following spring. At a crossroads in his young life, David accepted responsibility and made the choice to do exactly that and take his education, his career, and most importantly – himself, seriously.
Wynn pitched for two seasons at Mid-America, but there were no scouts that came calling. Only two players from the school had ever gone on to play professionally – Australian Kieran Bradford in the Independent Circuit, and Tim Mahler who went undrafted and played 7 professional games in the Toronto Blue Jays system. David found himself in the unlikeliest of places to ever been seen by a major league organization, but he was on the mound. He was pitching. And he had faith in himself and his abilities. His senior season in 2011 did not start well. He was in Mid-America’s starting rotation, but didn’t even make it out of the first inning in his first start and was shelled for a grand slam. His second start didn’t fare much better and he didn’t make it out of the second inning. It was not the way he wanted to start the season, especially when he knew he was already a longshot for the pros, but he believed in himself and he figured if he was going to have a few bad outings, he may as well get them out of the way early. By the time the season ended, he was going deep into games. But no one saw him. The draft came and went and he was uncalled.
Staring at another crossroads in his life, David decided he wasn’t ready to give up on his pursuit of pro ball. He kept on attending tryouts. He kept working on improving his velocity and got his fastball up to 92 mph. He was told by some of the coaches at the tryouts that they’d see if they could get him a tryout with some Indy teams when in the fall of 2011, he received a call from Mets scout Steve Gosset. David didn’t believe he was from the Mets at first. He thought Steve was one of his old college teammates playing a prank on him, but it wasn’t. David was being offered a professional contract and an invitation to come to minor league spring training.
The California kid was getting ready to attend spring training when he received another call. There had been some changes in the Mets scouting department at the end of 2011 after he signed his contract. He wasn’t going to be reporting to spring training and instead would be attending extended spring training beginning in April after the regular season had started.
When he reported to Florida, he knew he was a long shot to make one of the squads. As an undrafted free agent, his Uncle reminded him he had to pitch with a chip on his shoulder and outwork everyone else that was in camp that had been drafted and the team had invested some money into. He would do whatever the team asked of him and he was told entering camp that the goal of camp was for players to get their feet wet. But David knew he had to prove he belonged at every step.
He saw cuts being made in camp every day. Players that had the lockers all around him were getting called into the offices and would disappear. He was scared every day that today would be the day that it would be his turn to be called into the office and his dream dashed. That day didn’t come.
He found out from John Mincone (a fellow lefty and former Cubs farmhand who himself had been cut after two minor league seasons and was scratching his way back after playing in Indy ball) that both he and David had made the cut. They were both on their way to Brooklyn to play with the Cyclones.
David got into his first game in professional ball at Richmond County Bank Ballpark against the Staten Island Yankees. He was nervous as he came in from the bullpen. He had never pitched in front of so many people before and he didn’t want overthrow the ball and miss home plate. He thought of his grandmother, who had passed away the night before he was about to pitch a game in high school. Back then, his coach asked him if he still wanted to pitch and he remembered Grandma’s words, “Do it for Grandma.” He felt like he couldn’t be stopped then, and he felt the same when he stepped onto the mound for his debut. He felt a calm come over him. He knew this was his chance. He felt sharp and as he threw his warm up tosses in front of everyone, he knew his stuff was nasty. His curve and slider felt really good and locked in. The nerves gave way to confidence and he felt like a hunter on the mound that was about to go after his prey. He locked in on the catcher’s glove and proceeded to strike his first batter out.
He was one of the big surprises in the 2012 season coming out of Brooklyn. He appeared in 21 games for the Cyclones and allowed just 12 hits with 13 walks striking out 21 and allowing only 1 home run. He finished with a miniscule ERA of 1.44 to go with a WHIP of 1.00 in 25 innings.
With his first professional season under his belt, Wynn felt confident and ready for the upcoming 2013 season, where he wanted to build on his first campaign. It was also his first March spring training experience, and he stayed in extended spring training until the start of the Brooklyn Cyclones season began again in June 2013. He followed up his successful 2012 season with another solid 2013 campaign, appearing in 21 games, pitching 27.2 innings allowing 20 hits, walking 16 and striking out 28 while just allowing just 1 home run. While he was disappointed that his WHIP increased to 1.30 and that a home run he allowed at the end of the season brought his final season ERA over 2.00 (still finishing with a solid 2.28), pitching coach Marc Valdes said that he had improved over 2012 and his off-speed stuff was sharper and he had better command of the strike zone, as evidenced by his increased strikeout rate. He had even increased his velocity and hit as high as 94 on the radar gun with his fastball.
Heading into the 2014 season, David Wynn is feeling fit, strong, and confident. His goal is to continue building upon his first two seasons, perfecting his mechanics, commanding the inside of the plate more and ever improving his four pitch repertoire of fastball, curve, slider, and change up. He’s not the same kid who got into the scuffle on the fields in Bakersfield. He’s been given a second opportunity, and as the numbers have shown, he’s not going to leave the field until the jersey is ripped off his back.