Former Blue Wahoos pitcher Dobnak completes improbable journey

In reaching Twins, Dobnak goes from Independent League to major leagues in two years

Randy Dobnak pitched parts of three months in Pensacola for the Blue Wahoos. Thursday, he was called up to join the Minnesota Twins and complete an incredible career odyssey. (Daniel Venn)

By Bill Vilona, Senior Writer / Pensacola Blue Wahoos | August 8, 2019 7:49 PM

Randy Dobnak has turned his improbable journey into the ultimate dream.

Dobnak, 24, who grew up in the Pittsburgh suburb of South Park, where he had only a small-college offer out of high school, then his only professional opportunity in an Independent League two years ago, has completed a meteoric rise into the big leagues.

The former Blue Wahoos pitcher, who won hearts with his arm and his connection with fans during the three-month span he pitched in Pensacola, was officially called up Thursday by the Minnesota Twins. He joined the team prior to their game Thursday night in Minneapolis against the Cleveland Indians at Target Field. 

Dobnak, whose image shared the cover of the Blue Wahoos' July program, becomes the team's fifth player to reach the Twins this season.

He joins pitcher Devin Smeltzer, who is scheduled to start for the Twins in Friday's game against the Indians, as former members of the Blue Wahoos starting rotation to attain the feat.

Smeltzer pitched five games for the Blue Wahoos, all in April. His journey has amazed from being a cancer survivor as a young boy, into a quick-throwing pitcher rising in levels to reach the major leagues.

The other three ex-Blue Wahoos from this season are infielder Luis Arraez, who has wowed the Twins with a .348 batting average in 48 games, reliever Cody Stashak, who appeared in relief Tuesday for the Twins, before being re-assigned back to Triple-A Rochester, along with Harvard grad Sean Poppen, who pitched in relief in four games. 

Dobnak was signed by the Twins on Aug. 1, 2017 - unexpectedly notified while having dinner as a player with the Utica (Mich.) Unicorns in the United Shore Professional Baseball League. Dobnak recalls that he began the conversation thinking the scout was joking.

An Independent League team was his only option after playing at Alderson Broaddus (W.Va.) University, a private, Baptist school of 2,306 students and NCAA Division II member, located in Philippi. W.Va.

Dobnak pitched the rest of the 2017 season for the Elizabethton (Tenn.) Twins, an entry-level, Appalachian League affiliate. He pitched most of the 2018 season for the Cedar Rapids (Iowa) Kernels in the Midwest League.

After beginning this season with Advanced-A Fort Myers Miracle, Dobnak was first elevated to the Blue Wahoos and the Double-A Southern League on May 2. In four starts, he allowed just seven earned runs, which earned a promotion to Rochester.

Dobnak returned to Pensacola on June 9 and started seven games. His final Blue Wahoos' start on July 12 against the Mississippi Braves resulted in a season-best eight innings, allowing just two hits, one run and nine strikes.

He was moved back up to Rochester and has since made three starts with the Red Wings, compiling a 4-1 record and 2.00 ERA.

In the 125 innings he's pitched across three minor league levels this year, Dobnak has posted a 2.02 ERA and averaged 7.3 strikeouts per-game.

Off the field with the Blue Wahoos, Dobnak was a willing participant in community service events.

He spent one Saturday morning after a game working with special needs participants from Pensacola's Miracle League in a baseball clinic. He then worked with youth players immediately afterward in the team's annual Chevrolet Baseball Clinic as part of the national initiative.

 

 

 

This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

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