It may be the ultimate statement that you’ve “made” it in baseball: getting a bobblehead doll made in your own likeness.
So when outfielder Pedro Powell learned that not only had he been chosen to be the model for a Lynchburg Hillcats bobblehead doll, but that it would be given away on the team’s 2008 Opening Night, he was pretty stoked.
By that time, Powell was no longer playing for the Advanced A Carolina League affiliate of the Pittsburgh Pirates. But Ronnie Roberts, the team’s assistant GM, made sure that Powell received several of the dolls, which featured him holding up a base.
It seemed the fitting post for the first man in league history to win back-to-back stolen base titles.
But in the case of Powell, who is currently in Minor League camp with the Tampa Bay Rays organization, the Hillcats’ decision to immortalize him in … well, whatever they make bobbleheads out of … was about more than just his place in league history.
It was about his place in the hearts of Hillcats fans.
“When Ronnie told me I was such a fan favorite that they wanted to do something special for me, so they were going to give me my own bobblehead night, I was like ‘stop playing with me!’ and I figured I’d just wait and see,” recalled Powell, the Pirates’ 18th-round pick in 2003 out of Middle Georgia Junior College. “And then sure enough, Opening Night at Lynchburg was Pedro Powell Bobblehead Night.”
Indeed, Powell was a huge fan favorite in his two years there, though “huge” may not be a word commonly associated with the fleet-footed Georgia native.
Standing (officially” at 5-foot-7 and weighing 150 pounds dripping wet, Powell is one of the more diminutive players in the game of pro ball but most of that 150 pounds may be his heart and hustle and even that is depicted in the doll. <p.
“It looks a lot like me,” he said. “It’s got my pants all dirty and everything.”
Powell was making his brief Double-A debut with the Pirates’ Altoona club when 4,126 fans flocked through the gates in Lynchburg on April 11. He struggled with the move, hitting just .148 in 45 games before being released though his bat had seemed to finally come around in the week before the cut.
Within a week, though, the Rays had signed him and sent him to Advanced A Vero Beach for the season’s final few weeks, where he hit more than 100 points higher, at a .265 clip. He also batted .346 in August with 16 steals in 25 games.
Powell had spent both the 2006 and 2007 seasons with Lynchburg, topping the loop his first go-round with 63 steals in 131 games while hitting .263 before returning for a second year and batting .241 with 67 steals.
He knows his game … in his 1.884 career at-bats in six seasons he’s had one home run, a two-run shot with Class A Hickory on July 28, 2005. In his tiny high school in Hawkinsville, Ga., the muscular mighty-mite was his team’s power-hitting heart of the lineup but he knew that wouldn’t fly in the pros.
“When I got into pro ball, it was a totally different game for me,” said Powell. “There were no more home runs, there were better pitchers, and I just have to learn to put the ball in play.”
He also knows his chances of making it to the big leagues may not be very high but that doesn’t mean he won’t make the most of every minute he’s playing pro ball, both on and off the field.
He’s used his size to be an inspiration to the kids he visits at local schools, something he tries to do as often as he can, in-season and out.
“I let them know, “remember, never let anyone tell you what you can’t do in life,'” he said. “Always go for your goals. All through high school people would tell me ‘I don’t know how far you can go’ but I have a big heart.”
Though, sadly, I do not yet have a Pedro Powell bobblehead doll (though I have cleared a special place on my bookshelf between my Wilmington Blue Rocks Mr. Celery bobble-something doll and my very precious Altoona Curve Tony Beasley nesting doll), GotMilb was fortunate enough to receive a photo of the collectible from the amazing Eric Marinbach, who is the foremost bobblehead collector. You HAVE to check out his blog and bobblehead calendar!
MLB: Of what accomplishment, on or off the field, in your life are you the proudest?
Pedro Powell: Off the field I like to go and speak to the kids in the community and try to give back, to reach out to them. They look at me see a professional ballplayer and want to be in my shoes and I try to let them know they can do anything in life they want.
MLB: What do you think you’d be doing now if you weren’t playing baseball?
PP: I think I’d be coaching at some high school because I love working with kids.
MLB: Do you have other hobbies or creative outlets aside from baseball?
I like to dance, I like to cook and I love bowling. I like spending time with my family, shopping at the mall with my mom and dad (he’s an only child) and going out and having a good time.
MLB: Complete this sentence: It would surprise people to know that I …
PP: … am a big-time Georgia Bulldogs fan.
MLB: What reality TV show would you kick butt on?
PP: I’d like to have my own reality show. I’d call it “The Love of Pedro.”
MLB: If you could trade places with one person for a day who would it be and why?
PP: Champ Bailey. I love football. He’s a well-respected young man that likes to give back to his community. And he’s rich (laughs).
MLB: Which aspect of life in the minors do you find to be the biggest challenge and why?
PP: I think not moving up as quickly as you’d like to. And just playing hard and trying to put up the numbers but not getting where you want to be. But I believe if you keep playing hard good things will happen.
MLB: What is the best minor league promotion or visiting act you’ve seen?
PP: Well, my favorite was my Bobblehead Night. But if it’s anything to do with the fans, I love it, no matter what it is.