MACwood Squares is our summer reading series on the best athletes in Mid-American Conference sports history. This week features Ball State. Looking for your MAC school? Consult our schedule for other teams and please submit your nominees as well.
Ball State hasn't been great in many sports, baseball included. But they did have some guys with promise that were able to turn pro, with the latest being 2010 first-round pick Kolbrin Vitek of the Red Sox. And while so far none of them had a lasting image of greatness on people — Larry Bigbie, Thomas Howard, Merv Rettenmund — the one with the greatest promise was righthanded pitcher Bryan Bullington.
Bullington holds the Ball State record for career strikeouts with 357 — a hundred more than Mike Shebek, the person second on that list. And Bullington did it in only three years. He also holds the top two season totals of 139 and 119. For his career he averaged 10.8 strikeouts per nine innings. Three times he was named First-Team All-MAC, twice MAC Pitcher of the Year, and in 2002 he was First Team All-American by four different polls.
This was more than enough to have him drafted No. 1 overall by the Pittsbugh Pirates in 2002. He is the only MAC player to be drafted No. 1 in any of the "Big Four" sports.
That 2002 draft was a famous one, not only for being featured in the book Moneyball, but for several teams nabbing some All-Star talent. Cy Young winner Zack Greinke was sixth, and All-Stars Prince Fielder, Joe Saunders, Scott Kazmir, Nick Swisher, Cole Hamels and Matt Cain were all swiped in the first round. Others include B.J. Upton, Jeff Francis, Jeremy Hermida, Khalil Greene, Denard Span, Jeremy Guthrie, Jeff Francoeur, Joe Blanton, Sergio Santos, and James Loney.
Bullington was just one of the several busts in Pirates history. After six years of barely scratching the majors, he was waived and began circulating around the league, from Cleveland to Toronto and then to Kansas City, where he finally rose up and won his first career game in 2010.
Bullington's career numbers to date are 1-9 with a 5.62 ERA. His current whereabouts are in Japan, pitching quite well for the Hiroshima Toyo Carp. Turning 31 this month, Bullington is at the "hanging on" point of his career, so it's not fair to count him out, but what's painfully clear by the Pirates is that he's no Greinke.
Who are your nominees for Ball State's MACwood Squares? Comment below, tweet us at @HustleBelt or submit a FanPost making your case. The final nine will be revealed Friday.