From Spring Training.
Joba Chamberlain has been one of my favorite players for a while. I first started following him back when he was playing at Nebraska, and even wrote to him c/o the school (back when you could do that sort of stuff and actually get a return…). I was really happy for him when he was drafted in the supplemental first round, and even more happy when I found out he was going to be playing in Hawaii back when we had the Hawaiian Winter League.
In 2006 I had not really discovered sweet spot cards, and was not thrilled with the idea of getting autographs in person…but I still made a trip down to the stadium here on Oahua and got him to sign a ticket. We talked for a couple minutes–we were both in line to get hot dogs–and I remember him coming off as a really friendly, down to earth dude.
He was a very big prospect with the Yankees. He was there #5 prospect in 2006, and would jump to #1 in 2007. He was rated the #3 best prospect in the game after the 2007 season–that says a lot about the talent he had.
He would make it to the majors in 2007, and would find almost immediate success, going 2-0 in 19 games out of the pen, with a 0.750 WHIP and 34 K’s in only 24 IP. I remember him for not only the great season, but also the playoffs when he pitched against the Indians during the famous bug game. I was watching the game at work, and it was neat seeing one of my favorite pitchers (who I had met!) going up against my team in such a pivotal game.
Unfortunately Chamberlain has not found much sustained success since 2009. Mishandling by the Yankees (who could not decide if they wanted him to start or relieve), coupled with serious injuries (he had TJ surgery in 2011) have all had an effect on him. Still, he has stuck around and been a solid pen arm for the Yankees, Tigers, Royals and now Cleveland.
I actually got him in person a couple seasons ago when he was with the Tigers.
I am rooting for him to stick with the Tribe. He is 30, but I think he still has some gas in the tank and it would be nice to see him have a Jeff Manship-like revival with the Indians.