So how does a player jump from the 46th round to the first round of the Major League Baseball Draft in a span of two seasons?
"I guess it was hard work and the right coaches there to support me," said Bowling Green pitcher Jeff Ames, a 6-foot-4, 225-pound right-hander from Vancouver, Wash.
Ames has a history with the Draft -- he was selected in the 46th round by the Phillies in 2009, in the 30th round by the Rockies in 2010 and in the first round (No. 46 overall) by the Rays in '11.
"When I was in high school, I had an injury my junior year [right elbow tendinitis] from overuse," Ames said. "I took that whole season off. My senior year, I put in a lot of hard work with my high school coach and we ironed things out to solidify my delivery.
"I ended up going to a junior college, and after my freshman year there, my velocity came up a little bit," he added. "I got into an intense program of lifting and running. I really bought into the program, and it helped me. My sophomore year, I saw gains in velocity and my ability to throw strikes."
Ames is a key force on Bowling Green's drive for a Midwest League crown. He is 8-4 with a 3.13 ERA, 77 strikeouts and 34 walks. He's allowed 81 hits in 103 2/3 innings a year after leading the Rays organization with a 1.92 ERA.
"Jeff is a fierce competitor, and he has a mid-90s fastball," Bowling Green manager Jared Sandberg said. "He goes right after hitters. His slider has shortened up a little bit, and he made a huge adjustment with his change-up. He used to work underneath it quite a bit and really show the hitter what was coming. Now, he's throwing it off his fastball. He has the ball going all over the place. He also added a little two-seam fastball as well. Now with his repertoire, if one pitch isn't there, he's got something else to go to."
Ames has shown his development this season, winning Midwest League Pitcher of the Week three times: April 22, May 20 and June 17. He threw five innings of a combined one-hitter against Great Lakes in April, part of a hot start to the season.
"Jeff wants to win, and he set some high goals and high standards for himself as a player and personally. He goes out there to beat the other team and also to achieve his goals. It's hard to take the ball from him when he's out there competing like he does."
Ames said he didn't always bring a warrior's mentality to the pitcher's mound.
"I wasn't always considered a fierce competitor," Ames said. "My college coaches pounded that into me. The college I went to, I had coaches who were very old-school in the way they do things. They'd get in your face and scream at you. They would demand a certain kind of attitude. I bought into it. That approach hasn't left me. I try to play the game hard."
Ames also credited the pitching coaches in the Rays organization for helping him develop.
"In junior college, I was facing hitters who weren't as disciplined as the hitters I'm facing now, so I was able to get away with throwing a ball way up in the zone, and they would swing right through it," Ames said. "My first year with the Rays [in Princeton], the aggressiveness got the best of me. I was leaving balls over the plate and guys were hitting them all over the field. It was a big learning curve. My pitching coaches helped me hone in and channel my energy in the best way.
"The ability to throw a changeup is the biggest key for me, to get some separation from my fastball. My other key is throwing the ball down in the zone."
Almora done: Kane County center-fielder Albert Almora, the Cubs' No. 1 Draft pick last season, is likely finished for the season. The 19-year-old center fielder hasn't played since Aug. 6, suffering from a bruised bone in his groin. He was hitting .329 in 61 games after missing the start of the season with a broken bone in his wrist.
Hot Kernels: Cedar Rapids won its seventh game in a row after beating Peoria on Tuesday night. In their four-game sweep of Peoria, the Kernels outscored the Chiefs, 19-6, and only allowed them to lead once: a 2-0 advantage in the second inning of the last game of the series.
Many miscues: Fort Wayne committed seven errors in a 12-5 loss to Great Lakes on Monday, adding up to seven unearned runs in a 12-5 loss to the Loons. Jose Capellan tied a franchise record with six RBis after hitingt a two-run double in the second inning, a three-run double in the fifth and a sacrifice fly in the seventh.