BERLIN – Former Stephen Decatur High School pitching standout David Whigham recently signed to play professional baseball for the Herkimer Trailbusters of the independent New York State League.
Whigham, who dominated at times for Decatur during an outstanding high school career, went on the play at the next level, first at Guilford College in North Carolina before transferring to Virginia Wesleyan for his senior season. Whigham pitched in 14 games for the Marlins this spring, posting an impressive 2.00 earned run average while striking out 69 opposing hitters in 63 innings of work.
Opposing teams batted just .202 this season against Whigham, who was named Old Dominion Athletic Conference (ODAC) Pitcher of the Week in April after throwing a complete game 8-1 win over Bridgewater, during which he allowed just two hits and one walk while striking out a career high 11 batters.
His outstanding season at Virginia Wesleyan earned Whigham a tryout for the New York State League, a professional independent league open to players who recently graduated from college. He pitched well in his tryouts with the league and recently signed his first professional baseball contract with the Herkimer Trailbusters.
The New York State League is often a stepping stone for promising young players to a team affiliated with a major league baseball team and many of its players have gone on to play in the big leagues. Whigham’s father David Whigham said this week the New York independent league garners a lot of attention from big league scouts.
“It’s a developmental league and the players get a lot of looks from big league scouts,” he said. “The players are heavily scouted and already Dave has been contacted by the [Atlanta] Braves and the [Cincinnati] Reds.”
Whigham said it has always been his son’s dream to play professional baseball and signing with the Herkimer team has made the dream a reality.
“I’m not sure where this is going to lead, but he has signed a contract and is getting paid to play baseball,” he said. “The money isn’t great, but it’s a wonderful opportunity. If this is as far as he gets as a player, he will have lived the dream and it could be foot in the door for a career in baseball as a coach or a scout.”
The elder Whigham said his son first went to Detroit for a tryout with an independent league where he was encouraged to try out for the New York State league.
“He left with a bag of baseball gear and some clothes in a duffel bag and went to the tryout,” he said. “He doesn’t even have a car. A short time later, he called to tell me he had just signed a professional contract.”
Whigham is literally living and breathing baseball in New York. He lives in a house owned by the team with about 15 other promising young players. Life in the independent league is a far cry from the glamour of the big leagues with several players sharing a room in a team house or living with host families.
The Herkimer Trailbusters are one of four teams in the independent league. Others include the Rome Coppers, the Utica Brewmasters and the Oneida Bucs. The league is rich in baseball history with its first incarnation formed in the 1880s. It has gone in and out of existence over the last 120 years or so with new teams added and other dropped.
The league has produced hundreds of major leaguers including a handful of Hall of Famers such as Grover Cleveland Alexander, Johnny Evers and Bucky Harris. Currently, the most notable former big leaguer involved in the league is Dave Cash, who manages the Utica Brewmasters.
Cash, a three-time All-Star during an illustrious big league career, was most recently the first base coach for the Baltimore Orioles last year.