Andrew Bechtold didn't travel his intended path to professional baseball, but the Elizabethton Twins third baseman is quite sure the route proved beneficial.
Along the way, he took part in a National Junior College Athletic Association national championship with Chipola College in Florida and found appreciation in the way his development played out.
Because of it, he said his early days in the Appalachian League have been part of a smooth transition after the Minnesota Twins picked him with the first selection of the fifth round in last month's Draft.
"Chipola is a small, tight-knit community, so coming here wasn't really a big transition for me. I was kind of already used to it," Bechtold said. "At Chipola, we had some international kids and guys from all over the country, so it was basically like being in a Rookie-ball system while I was there. Just from the personnel we had around, definitely made the transition a lot easier. I've molded right in here pretty easily."
That has shown at the plate and in the field.
Yet during the first few weeks with Elizabethton, Bechtold has rarely played on consecutive days because of the Twins' overflowing roster. He also has been pegged in the unfamiliar No. 9 spot in the batting order.
"Hitting ninth is definitely new to me, but again you get the opportunity to play and show what I can do," he said. "Things will work themselves out over time. Hopefully, I don't expect to be there much longer, but have to keep hitting the ball. It's definitely an adjustment phase -- that's just all part of it."
Elizabethton manager Ray Smith said Bechtold's defensive work at third base has caught his attention, though he sees a player athletic enough to be valuable in numerous positions. The offense appears in good shape at this point, too.
"That means you have some juice in the bottom of the order," Smith said. "He has some sting in his bat."
Bechtold batted .333 with a pair of home runs in his first 13 games with nine walks pushing his on-base percentage to .449.
Bechtold was a 34th-round pick of the Texas Rangers coming out of Garnet High School in Pennsylvania. He didn't sign then, instead arriving to play in college at Maryland as a shortstop. He didn't win that job but found his way into the lineup as a first baseman until an injury in the opening weeks resulted in a redshirt season. The next year, he played as a third baseman but sensed there wasn't a good fit with the Terrapins.
He moved at Chipola and thrived in part because he was pushed by the talented players around him.
"Things completely turned around after that," he said. "Going to Chipola was the best thing I ever did. I love that place. I love the way they do things. Everything about it was just perfect for me."
He made headway last fall and accepted a scholarship offer from LSU for 2018. But by the time Bechtold, 21, powered his way through the NJCAA season, he was high on Draft lists.
"We had a bunch of studs on our team," Bechtold said of Chipola. "It made it easy to want to get better because you wanted to be better than the guy next to you. Constantly pushing from the guys around me made me that much better."
He has brought an attention to fitness and nutrition to the pro level, something he said he takes pride in. While he's anxious to see what happens in this next stop, he said he can appreciate going through the process.
"There's kind of a patience that I have to have with the whole thing," he said. "I understand everybody needs a shot, everybody needs an opportunity to get out there and play and show what they can do. When I'm in there every other day for now, I just have to do what I can to try to make an impact.
"I try to have a good attitude about it and support the guys around me. I think being a good teammate is a big part of that, too."
Hit after hit: Bluefield Blue Jays first baseman Ryan Noda has become the league's leading batter through his first 25 games with a .456 average -- thanks in part to 16 multiple-hit outings. During his first three weeks, he never had consecutive starts without at least one two-hit game. And the 15th-round Draft choice out of the University of Cincinnati isn't just slicing singles -- he 16 of his first 41 hits went for extra bases. "You like what you see from him so far," Bluefield manager Dennis Holmberg said.
Taking the role: Pitcher Jacob Patterson of the Johnson City Cardinals has made the most of his role as a closer in the opening weeks of his professional season. In 29 college relief appearances this year with Texas Tech, he notched two saves, and he's 5-for-5 in save chances with Johnson City. "I love it. I go out there and get my one inning," the side-arming left-hander said. "It's more exciting because you know the game is on you."
Back at work: Nolan Watson was a compensation-level first-round pick in 2015, beginning his career with the Burlington Royals in 2015. Now the right-handed pitcher is back in the Appalachian League on a rehab assignment after rough outings with the Lexington Legends and a shoulder ailment. He's regained his command, though it's not been a smooth a road so far. "It hasn't been the easiest," Watson said. "I don't know anyone who has had an easy road all the way to the big leagues."