At 6-foot-6 and 240 pounds, Brandon Poulson is not built like your typical pitcher. His journey to professional baseball wasn’t a conventional path, either.
“The first thing you see is his size,” said Henry Bonilla, a pitching coach for the Minnesota Twins. “He’s like a walking car through the door.”
Earlier this summer, Poulson was pitching for a collegiate summer league. Now, the 24-year-old kid who’s never been drafted has reached a $250,000 deal with the Minnesota Twins.
Poulson didn’t even make the baseball team freshman year and stayed away from the game for most of high school, dabbling in football and weightlifting instead.
After junior college, Poulson went to work for his father’s excavation business, pitching sparingly for a local men’s league.
But word of his remarkable fastballs traveled quickly, and soon Poulson was offered a scholarship to the Academy of Art University in San Francisco.
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“People would always tell me, ‘Brandon, you have a major league arm’ … But in my head I would just think, ‘Well, I can’t throw a strike.’”
And so the kid with a major league arm that couldn’t draw, paint or sculpt took a scholarship at an art school, and soon met the two men that changed his life: Joey Gomes, the manager of Poulson’s summer league, the Prune Packers, and pitching coach Caleb Balbuena.
Both were intrigued by the power athlete who, as Poulson himself puts it, didn’t know what he was doing.
“They saw that I had a lot of raw talent … it was just horrible mechanics,” Poulson said. “But they worked with me and stuck with it, and that’s got me where I am.”
After months of training with Balbuena, Poulson was armed with a weapon that finally worked, and he was consistently hitting fastballs at higher and higher velocities.
Before long, the bleachers at Poulson’s summer league games were filled with scouts and their radar guns, all watching the 24-year-old pitching prospect who throws triple-digit fastballs.
Poulson will now join the Twins’ Appalachian League affiliate where, in uniform, he may seem like just another minor leaguer biding his time until he makes it to the majors.
“It’s very, very rare,” said Bonilla. “The beginnings of a great story.”
First published August 6 2014, 1:28 PM