ST. LOUIS -- Baseball fans can rattle off big moments they remember about their favorite team, whether it’s an historic feat, an epic postseason game or an excellent single-game performance. Missouri right-hander Ian Bedell is no different.
The fourth-round Cardinals Draft pick says Game 6 of the 2011 World Series -- aka the David Freese game -- tops his list of favorite moments growing up as a Cardinals fan in Davenport, Iowa. He remembers a game he was at when Albert Pujols hit a grand slam into Big Mac Land off Houston’s Roy Oswalt. More recently, he was at Busch Stadium watching former Mizzou pitcher Max Scherzer face the Cardinals in Game 2 of the National League Championship Series last season.
Now begins Bedell’s journey to create some of his own moments in a Cardinals uniform.
“There are a lot of really good memories growing up with the Cardinals, and now to be a part of it is amazing,” Bedell said Thursday after being selected 122nd overall by St. Louis in the 2020 MLB Draft.
The Cards went local with Bedell, a 6-foot-2 starter for Mizzou, which is just two hours away from St. Louis. After dominating as a reliever for the Tigers during his sophomore season, with a 1.56 ERA last spring, he followed the performance up as a starter in the Cape Cod League. He had a 0.59 ERA, a .383 opponents' OPS and a 36/3 K/BB ratio. More than anything, Bedell learned about the mental side of the game with pitching coach Jim Lawler.
“We have this system where we count, and it takes us out of overthinking and purely into just freedom,” Bedell said. “You count, ‘One, two, three,’ and that’s where you’re in rhythm and in sync, you’re going to be right around the zone basically every time. It helps me get out of my overthinking stage at times. It gave me a lot of momentum coming into this. A lot of confidence when you go out there.”
Bedell's stuff might not have been as sharp to start the season this year, but he was pitching in cold weather and his stuff likely would have picked up had the season continued. The Cardinals were intrigued by his rising potential as a starter. For some, St. Louis is getting a value pitcher who could have gone a lot higher.
“It’s different this year, there’s not complete data, there’s not complete analytics, there’s not a complete scouting season,” Cards director of scouting Randy Flores said. “Our belief, and our scouts' belief, our analytics belief, and process belief is that the better days are ahead for Ian Bedell. At least better days compared to his first few starts his junior year. We would have assumed and anticipated and believed that his season would have turned around. That’s a make-believe season, and that’s what’s so fun about this job -- you’re projecting. You’re projecting the unknown and making a bet.
“And we wanted to make a bet on Ian Bedell.”
In Bedell, Mizzou baseball coach Steve Bieser says the Cardinals are getting a “student of the game.” In an era of hard-throwing electric arms, Bedell doesn’t get caught up in the radar gun, even though he can flash a 95 mph fastball. With an arsenal of four core pitches -- four-seamer, two-seamer, a low-80s changeup and a slightly slower curveball -- his goal is to read hitters, change speeds and feature good movement.
Bedell is one of the youngest college players in this year’s Draft class after enrolling at Mizzou a semester early. Not only has he grown into the leader of the staff, but he’s also grown into a pitcher who attacks hitters with ease because he can locate the ball so well.
“He has a good game plan of calling his own game,” Bieser said. “We do suggest pitches, but the ultimate responsibility falls on the pitcher to throw what they need to throw. And he really makes great decisions, which is why I say he reads hitters well. The role he was playing for us as a sophomore was a very big role. He was expected to hold the lead for four or five innings, or expected to keep it close for us to come back, and he just basically took that over to the Cape. He was on a roll at that time.”
There was a point Thursday when Bedell was ready to start looking for an apartment in Columbia, Mo., for another year of college. After the Royals selected at No. 105, Bedell lost hope that he was going to hear his name called, or at least get the slot value he wanted. Then his advisor texted him: The Cardinals at No. 122.
And now signing with the Cardinals? Really, Bedell says, it’s a no-brainer.
“It completely changed the day,” Bedell said. “It’s surreal. I grew up a Cardinal fan my whole life. The 1 in 30 odds of it actually happening came true. It’s amazing.”