West Virginia Power catcher Arden Pabst didn't have much of a choice whether or not he wanted to fall in love with baseball; he grew up five minutes away from his Little League field.
Arden Louis Joseph Pabst was born on March 14, 1995, the son of Tom and Dorothy Pabst. Growing up in Sherman Oaks, California, less than 30 minutes away from Dodger Stadium, Pabst began playing at the age of six. As Pabst grew in life and in talent, he began to find his groove. By the time he reached Harvard Westlake Prep, he had become a standout on the field.
Pabst was a four-year letter winner and two-time captain for the Wolverines. The baseball program's success exploded during his tenure with three Mission League championships and the 2013 CIF Southern Section Division 1 championship. After spending 12 years playing in California, from Little League to high school, deciding to go to Georgia Tech was a big life changing decision.
"It was actually the best thing for me I think. I got to get out of my comfort zone," Pabst explained. He found the transition helped him grow as a baseball player and helped him as a person.
When Pabst landed at Georgia Tech, he immediately made an impact on the field. As a freshman, he played in 44 games and started 38 of those as a catcher in 2014. He even ripped an RBI triple in his very first at-bat on Opening Day for the Yellow Jackets. Defensively, Pabst was one of the best behind the plate in his first year of college ball. Throwing out 16 of 39 (41%) potential base stealers was good for second-most in the ACC. His ceiling only grew higher as he matured.
During his sophomore season, Pabst's name became known nationally as he was named to the Johnny Bench watch list in 2015. The Johnny Bench award was created in 2000 to honor the best catcher in all of Division 1 NCAA play. Some of this generation's best have been handed this honor including Kurt Suzuki, Mike Zunino, and Buster Posey. While Garrett Stubbs of the University of Southern California ultimately was gifted the award, even being on the watch list as a sophomore proved to be an impressive feat. In the award's 16-year history, no one has ever possessed the accolade unless they were a junior or senior.
Pabst's defensive prowess and improvement at the plate saw him named co-caption at Georgia Tech his junior year. Under head coach Danny Hall, the Yellow Jackets finished 38-25 and qualified for a regional.
"It was fantastic. I wouldn't trade it for anything," Pabst praised. His time in Atlanta ultimately finished after his junior year when the Pittsburgh Pirates selected him in the 12th round of the 2016 First-Year Player Draft.
Looking back at his collegiate career, Pabst sees it as a stepping stone to where he ultimately wants to be: winning a World Series with the Pirates.
"When you play playoff baseball, it's not going to be in the sunshine," he said when asked why he decided to leave sunny California for the weather that comes to Georgia.
His professional journey began with the West Virginia Black Bears in Morgantown last season. Pabst now finds himself playing with the Power at Appalachian Power Park and right back behind the plate. In just his fourth game in Charleston, Pabst also found a familiar face staring him down from the mound.
On April 11, the Power hosted the Asheville Tourists, the South Atlantic League affiliate of the Colorado Rockies. Tourists starting pitcher Brandon Gold struck out Pabst in his first at-bat of the day. Gold was a former teammate of Pabst at Georgia Tech. They both began their careers with the Yellow Jackets in 2014 and were drafted in 2016. Gold was taken 350th overall, Pabst 375th. In the fifth inning of a game that saw the Power down 3-1, Pabst launched a two-run homer to left, tying the game at three.
"I'm just happy I didn't strike out again because if I struck out again… I would've heard that for a long time," Pabst joked. The home run was the first of his professional career.
The journey has just begun for Pabst. He's focusing on the task at hand because, in his words, if you, "try to focus long term in a baseball season, you can get wrapped up in the small things."
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.