Tate Budnick’s first week of June was validation life can change in an instant.
The former Edmonds-Woodway baseball standout didn’t have any expectation when the Major League Baseball draft got underway June 4. He had filled out a MLB prospect questionnaire but wasn’t certain he would be drafted.
Budnick, a pitcher and catcher at the University of Portland, had just concluded his collegiate career two weeks prior and was back home in Snohomish County with his family. The draft’s first 10 rounds went by June 4-5 and Budnick heard nothing. Drafting concluded the following day with rounds 11-40. Still, Budnick heard nothing.
“I didn’t have a feeling of yes or no,” said Budnick if he thought he’d be selected. “When talking to my college coaches, they were telling me that scouts called about some other guys, and they said they were bringing my name up to them to be drafted or signed as a free agent.”
Budnick’s mild disappointment following the draft pivoted to hope after receiving a text from his Portland coach stating he’d received a call from a Milwaukee Brewers scout inquiring about Budnick.
“I got a call four or five hours after the draft ended from the Brewers scout,” Budnick explained. “He called and said, ‘Hey, we want to let you know you are on our radar.’ He said I was someone they were really interested in, but he didn’t know if it would happen. He said if it did, it would happen quick.”
Budnick hung up the phone. Nothing happen Thursday. No action Friday.
Saturday morning Will Budnick, Tate’s dad, said Tate came running out of his room just after 8 a.m. saying he missed a call but had had a voicemail from the Brewers scout.
“My wife and I listened in,” Will said. “(The scout) said, ‘Hey, Tate, this is Shawn. We got word from Milwaukee. It’s a go. How would you like to be a Milwaukee Brewer?’ Tate said, ‘Heck yeah. Thank you so much.’”
The next day Tate boarded a flight to Arizona where his professional career began with the Arizona League (AZL) Brewers, a rookie affiliate of the big-league club.
“It was unreal,” said Tate of the whirlwind week. “It’s always been my lifelong dream to be a pro baseball player and play in the major leagues one day. Getting the phone call saying, ‘Congratulations, we want to sign you,’ I can’t even explain. It’s one step closer, one step closer to completing my dream.”
Tate’s path to professional baseball was somewhat unorthodox, although perhaps an unusual path is fitting for a ball player who is an anomaly himself.
Tate has pitched and caught ever since he first started playing ball. He did so in little league, while earning all-state honors at Edmonds-Woodway, at Everett Community College and even at Division-I Portland.
Even the Brewers were a bit confused by Tate’s abnormal dual positions.
“He was signing the contract and all of a sudden stopped,” Will explained. “He said, ‘Hey, Shawn, did you see this? We’ve been talking about being a pitcher, but this contract says catcher.’”
Tate was told to report to Arizona with his catcher’s mitt just in case, but since he’s arrived, Tate has worked exclusively with the Brewers’ pitching staff.
And Tate has been building off his strong senior season at Portland since arriving in Arizona. Tate recorded a 3.65 ERA last year, pitching 61 2/3 innings of relief work. He struck out 61 batters while walking 11.
Tate compiled a 3.24 ERA in 8 1/3 innings while making five appearances with the AZL Brewers before receiving a promotion three weeks ago to the Helena Brewers, an advanced rookie affiliate.
“The head coach down there pulled me and two other guys into the office, and he gave us a piece of paper with an itinerary on it and said, ‘Congratulations, you’re being called up to the Helena Brewers.’ The pitching coordinator shook my hand and said, ‘Hey, we really liked what we saw, and we think you will do really well up there.’”
Tate’s ability to attack the strike zone and limit walks undoubtedly helped him land the promotion. He throws a fastball, change-up, curveball and slider and said he has strong command of each.
While Tate is enjoying the early stages of his baseball career, it is just another chapter of Budnick family baseball.
Will, who coaches at Edmonds-Woodway, went to 50 of Tate’s 53 games at Portland last year. Tate’s older brother, Ryan, who also starred at Edmonds-Woodway, is playing independent ball for the Windy City ThunderBolts in Crestwood, Illinois. And if Tate does realize his dream and makes The Show, he’ll etch his name alongside his great grandpa, Mike Budnick, who pitched two seasons for the New York Giants during 1946-47.
“It’s just kind of something that has brought all of us together and a lot closer,” said Tate of the game’s impact on his and his family’s life. “My brother and I, ever since we could walk, even before that, we have always had a bat and ball in our hands.”