by Adam Gonzales
It is pretty rare to see a college baseball player have as many responsibilities as Bobby Dalbec has for the Arizona Wildcats baseball team, let alone a true freshman. Dalbec, the first baseman and closer of the team, is the first two-way player to put on an Arizona jersey since Eric Berger did it in the 2006 season, where he was the designated hitter and also pitched.
Dalbec has had a solid year in the box and on the mound this year, as he currently owns a .268 batting average and a 1.03 ERA, which is the lowest on the pitching staff. He is third on the team in RBIs with 23, is tied for the lead in home runs with two, leads the team in ERA and is third on the team in appearances on the mound with 15.
“It’s been a pretty good year so far,” Dalbec said. “I have been a little streaky here and there, but overall its been a good year.”
Dalbec has started 39 of the 43 games the Wildcats have played this year, and has played in 41 games, which is unique for a true freshman.
“I knew the game was going to be faster,” Dalbec said. “The only thing that really surprised me was the practices, because they are a little more intense than I anticipated. That’s good for me though.”
The freshman committed to play for head coach Andy Lopez and the Wildcats at the end of his junior year in high school.
“I committed right after the National Championship in 2012,” Dalbec said. “I always wanted to play for a Pac-12 school and Arizona really stuck out to me.”
Dalbec came into a profitable situation for his skill set. Lopez has utilized a handful of two-way players in his career, perhaps most notably Brad Wilkerson, who played under coach Lopez at Florida from 1996-1998.
In the 1998 season, Wilkerson, who went on to have an eight-year Major League career, became the first collegiate player in history to hit 20 home runs, steal 20 bases, and win 10 games as a pitcher in the same season.
But being a two-way player is not always a walk in the park. Dalbec would be the first to tell you that having pitching and hitting duties at the same time is not necessarily easy, especially during practices.
“It’s pretty tough,” Dalbec said. “I do more of the hitting stuff in practice though. I don’t throw too many bullpens because most games I don’t have to throw a lot of pitches. I just keep my arm in shape and know what to do late in games.”
It is pretty standard to see Dalbec go straight to the mound in the middle of an inning from first base. If he figures to pitch in a game, the coaches will advise him when and if he should start throwing some warm up pitches in the bullpen.
“I will normally talk to one of the coaches in the fifth inning and ask when I need to warm up,” Dalbec said. “Sometimes if I’m not hitting that inning, I’ll go to the bullpen and start warming up. But it’s not too tough, because I did it in high school. I was a starting pitcher in high school, so I’m used to it already.”
Lopez loves having a guy like Dalbec on his team. He knows that it is a bonus to have a player that you can depend on, not only in the batter’s box, but on the hill as well.
“It takes a special kid (to hit and pitch), especially nowadays,” Lopez said. “Any college coach in America would tell you this, but you want as many options as possible, and he gives us some options. He looks like he’s in a bad mood out on the mound, and he goes out there with a little bit of a chip on his shoulder, which I like, because he doesn’t really have a reason to. He’s just a freshman.”
Dalbec will be even more of a contributor after his freshman season because of the experience he already has. The future of the Arizona baseball team is very bright, and Dalbec will be looking to lead the way.
Arizona will take on Oregon this weekend in Eugene, Ore, and all games will be live on the Pac-12 Networks.
Friday, May 2 // 7 p.m. PT
Saturday, May 3 // 3 p.m. PT
Sunday, May 4 // 4 p.m. PT