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Ep. 11: ‘Every Dollar I’m Worth’

The following is an excerpt from the script to Episode 11. Click on the embed above to listen to the full episode, or you can subscribe to Razed Sports on your favorite podcast app.


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The Arizona Fall League was a dream opportunity for Cole Uvila, a chance to test himself against top minor league competition.

But when he arrived there in mid-September, the former 40th-round draft pick quickly found out there was another benefit to it all – all of a sudden, he was getting noticed. And he wasn’t just getting noticed by his peers, or by coaches, or by reporters. He was getting noticed by the agents.

This was a pretty new and exciting experience for Cole. Aside from a hint of interest here or there during the regular season in Down East, he hadn’t really had much interest from anyone who wanted to represent him. He thought that might change in Arizona, he even thought there was a chance he would come away from the whole experience with an agent. But he didn’t expect it to get quite as wild as it did. All of a sudden, they were – if not everywhere – at least a pretty constant presence. All of a sudden, simply by being on a roster in the Fall League, Cole was a hot commodity.

COLE: “They’re not like running you down as you walk in the locker room, but it’s like I’ve probably got 10-15 messages on Instagram like ‘Hey Cole I’m going to be out in Arizona on the 8th and 9th and 10th, I read a lot about you, I heard a lot about you, I heard good things. Let’s meet for breakfast and let me tell you what I can do for you.’ And again I respect it, 100 percent, but at the end of the day it is kind of like a hustle.”

Cole quickly recognized this hustle for what it was, an important step for him, but also sort of a mixed bag. On the one hand, it was thrilling. It’s flattering to be wanted, after all. But there was also a part of Cole, the “I’ll-show-them” part that wondered where they’d been all along. That part made him question if they really had read a lot about him, if they really had heard good things, or if they’d just been going down the list of names on Fall League rosters, and his name happened to be there. And his skepticism grew as he began taking these breakfast meetings, and started hearing pitch after pitch after pitch, that all seemed to be kind of the same.

COLE: “…it was cool at first, when the first agent reached out it was ‘wow this is cool. Maybe I’ll come out of the fall league with an agency.’ But then it was just so repetitive and essentially they all have the same pitch. Because basically the people are just cold calling the players that they see on a roster out of the Fall League. And don’t want to talk bad about them because I totally understand, they’re trying to make a name for themselves, but they’re essentially just throwing a dart at a dart board and hoping that … there’s no relationship, they don’t know anything about me other than the fact that I’m in the Fall League. … And you know in a way they’re kind of just, they don’t have, sports agents in general don’t have the best reputations. They kind of get that like, they’re kind of like vultures, you know, in it for the money.”

This is how Cole started to feel after hearing the same pitches over and over. The same slick talkers telling him all of the wonderful things they were going to do for him. How much they loved him. How impressed they were by his story. How they couldn’t wait to be BFFs — you get the idea

So one morning, Cole was in another one of these breakfast meetings. And he excused himself to use the restroom. And while he was away, he checked his phone and noticed he had a text from one of his college coaches.

COLE: “My head coach, Brad Stromdahl from Georgia-Gwinnett was like ‘hey, good friend of mind and someone I really trust is going to reach out to you, he’s an agent with Ballengee Group, his name is Scott Barber, he’s going to take good care of you.’ And I texted back ‘oh I’m actually at a meeting with an agency right now.’ And then he texted back, ‘well tell him you’re going to sign with Scott and you can just leave the meeting.’ He was kidding obviously, but…”

This was a game-changer for Cole. The whole thing had been a bit of a whirlwind, and it was hard to know who to trust. Now, with a recommendation from someone he knew he could rely on … it brought a little bit of sanity to the whole process.

Cole did hear from Scott Barber of Ballengee Group. And he liked him. Still, he was going to take his time with it. He was excited about the possibility of having someone on his personal team, but there was no need to rush. There were still games to play in Arizona, and the competition didn’t care if he was shopping agents, they just wanted to hit his pitches. Like him, they were there to prove themselves. He needed to focus on the task at hand – playing baseball.

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And the baseball was going very well, thanks to a tweak in strategy. Hitters in the AFL had achieved acclaim, first and foremost, by being able to hit fastballs — even good ones. So Cole was relying more on his curveball and changeup, and it was working.

Over his first five outings in Arizona, he pitched seven scoreless innings with 12 strikeouts. And along the way he was mowing down top-level draft picks – guys who’d received huge signing bonuses, guys who’d been on every prospect watch list, guys drafted 30, 35, even 39 rounds ahead of him. The best of the best? He was getting them out. He was proving not only that he belonged among them, but that he was capable of dominating them.

COLE: “It’s gone really well. I’d be lying if I told you I thought it’d be going this well. And I’m just trying to ride that momentum. I mean I’m not, it’s been great for my confidence. It’s been eye-opening to me. I’ve made some adjustments on how I pitch to hitters, which I think has also been eye-opening to me, which is something I’ll take into Frisco next year or take into Double-A or wherever I’m at. It’s just the fact that when I get on the mound and I see someone in the batter’s box that I really, really respect or I know about or is a big prospect, I pitch a little different, and how if I would’ve probably just done that all year and given every hitter that respect, I probably woulda had a significantly better year.”

As things were going well on the field, they were also progressing at the breakfast meetings. Cole had been in contact with Scott Barber, the agent from Ballengee Group he was considering hiring. In addition to the recommendation from a former coach, Cole had also spent some time with a friend of his, a pitcher named Nathan Bates, who was also represented by Ballengee. And thirdly, Derrick Tucker, the Rangers scout who had signed Cole, also put in a positive word. Those three recommendations gave Barber and Ballengee an edge with Cole, and he signed with Ballengee Group on the morning of Oct. 7. I spoke to him later that day.

COLE: “It was kind of an easy decision, they’re the only group right now with a winning arbitration record. They have a ton of resources. They have multiple equipment managers, they have a social media team, a PR team. They’re a big group but they have a lot of firepower, a lot of resources and they’re just a no-brainer when I combined all of that with all of the referrals about Scott. So yeah I’m really excited, just literally just left the house, that’s why I’ve been kind of hard to track down, it’s been a busy day.”

One of the big reasons Cole liked Ballengee was that they were honest in telling him they wanted him to sign because they thought they would be able to make money off him. To Cole, that meant they believed in his potential and weren’t just throwing a dart at a board. Ballengee had a belief that investing in Cole, the 40th round pick who was drafted at the age of 24, was going to pay off for them. That’s exactly what Cole wanted to hear. Because this long and sometimes painful journey was not a lark for him. He had real goals and a real belief that he would reach them. He wanted an agent that shared that belief.

COLE: “I mean when I had surgery in 2016, the reason I got surgery rather than just hang it up was not because I felt like I could get drafted or not like I felt like I could play a little bit in the minor leagues, it was because I felt like I can pitch in the big leagues. And Adam Scott, my pitching coach was the first guy to ever tell me that. He’s like ‘listen, you’re not a guy who can pitch in pro ball, you’re a guy who can pitch in the big leagues. And that’s what I’ve set out to do ever since I had surgery. If I didn’t believe that then I wouldn’t have gone through with it all. I would’ve just finished my degree and then moved on.”

But Cole wasn’t moving on, he was moving up. And a couple of days after signing with his agent, he received news that only confirmed to him that everything he was doing had him on the right path. He was in the Saguaros clubhouse, and he got word that the manager, Scott Thorman, wanted to speak with him. Cole had a feeling this was a good thing, and with the Arizona Fall League’s All-Star game coming that Saturday, Oct. 12, and since he had pitched so well, he hoped that he would be included.

COLE: “And sure enough I mean I get dressed and I go in and sit down and Mike Anderson was there, the pitching coach, Scott Thorman was there, the manager and he was like ‘hey, you got any plans on Saturday?` And I was like ‘nah not really.’ And he was like ‘Well you know, you’ve been selected to the All-Star game. Congratulations. You’ve been throwing the, you’ve been throwing the ball really well and it’s a great opportunity for you. … I was like ‘awesome.’ That was pretty much it. It was pretty cool, for sure. Pretty exciting.”

… “It was like, yeah, guys, I’ve said it a couple times to other people here. It’s like the Fall League is an All-Star Game, just as itself. but the actual Fall Stars game means like (laughs) those dudes like, every guy in the lineup is either their leadoff or 3-hole for their Fall League team, which their Fall League team’s already like an All-Star team (laughs).”

*** *** ***


Written and produced by Bob Harkins.


Theme song: “Rip My Jeans” —

Broke For Free — “If”, “Warm Up Suit

Nihilore — “Satellites and Waterfalls

Plumtree — “Depp

(All music edited for time purposes)


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