When Lance Odom finished his pitching career at Daytona Beach Community College, he wasn’t highly-scouted. The 6’1″, 210-lb righty didn’t blow many people away, but he’d had some success in the Mid-Florida Conference.
Enough that, after he fell through the draft without hearing his name called, the Minnesota Twins agreed to terms with him as an undrafted free agent.
What ensued may be the worst pitching career of the modern era, and I’m not exaggerating.
The Twins first assigned Odom to the Gulf Coast Twins, a Rookie-level team in, you guessed it, the Gulf Coast League. It wouldn’t be fair to categorize his 1999 season as awful. In 23.1 innings pitched, he went 0-0 with a 5.87 ERA, 1.74 WHIP, 13 strikeouts, and just 7 walks. But he did lead the team with 5 saves (for those of you who wonder why saves are considered an over-rated stat, look no farther).
That prompted the folks in Minnesota to retain Odom’s services, and begin the long saga that is his horrible (though relatively long-lived) career.
For the 2000 season, Lance was promoted to the Single-A Midwest League’s Quad Cities River Bandits in Davenport, Iowa.
Lance pitched just 7.2 innings that season in Modern Woodmen Park (I admit I just wanted to squeeze the name of that stadium into this story), but found time to give up fourteen hits and allow seven earned runs, giving him a 7.87 ERA, an abysmal 2.38 WHIP, 6 K to 5 BB, and not even a save to show for it.
He was promptly released.
Life was good for four years, but Lance felt that familiar itch to compete. So in 2004, convinced that his mediocrity was behind him, Odom tried out for the New Jersey Jackals of the Northeast League, an independent league that now makes up the majority of the Can-Am League. He somehow made the team and promptly went to work, throwing 2 innings in 2 games, walking four and allowing 4 hits and 5 runs, all but one of them earned. He recorded zero strikeouts.
He and his 18.00 ERA were traded to the Bangor Lumberjacks, where he threw three more innings in four games, allowing 6 hits and 3 walks, but no runs this time around. He did strike out three.
Bangor set him free, and he used the opportunity to show off his wares elsewhere. He was signed, in that same season, by the Atlantic City Surf of the independent Atlantic League. He pitched 9.2 innings for the Surf, giving up 12 hits, 4 walks, and 9 runs, all of them earned. He did strike out 7, but he ended the season with an ERA of 8.39
The following season, he found himself in yet another independent league, the Frontier League, where he was able to somehow secure a spot with the Windy City ThunderBolts. He threw four innings in three games, allowing 9 hits and 10 runs (8 of them earned), walking two and striking out zero for an ERA of 18.00 and a WHIP of 2.75.
Odom took 2006 off. With a career record of 1-2, 5 SV, 40 IP, 7.65 ERA, 2.175 WHIP, 22 K, 21 BB over four seasons, six teams, five leagues, and seven years (that’s forty innings pitched in seven years, gang!), he was no doubt readying himself for the grueling process of induction into Cooperstown.
But that wasn’t the last we’d ever hear of Lance Odom. In 2007, he made his way onto the roster of the Lancaster Barnstormers, back in the familiar Atlantic League.
He was brought in for his first relief appearance, and the second pitch of his Barnstormers career was sent over the fence for a home run.
Now, to be fair, with all of his pitching woes, that was only the fourth home run he’d ever given up. Two had come the season before and one the season before that.
So much for new beginnings.
Lance’s second game as a Barnstormer was July 2, 2007. The Barnstormers were playing the Somerset Patriots, and it was the bottom of the 12th inning, tied 6-6.
The perfect situation for the Gulf Coast Twins’ saves leader in 1999, right? Not so fast. This sequence is what followed:
- He began by hitting the leadoff man, former Mets 2B Danny Garcia.
- Odom commited an error on a pickoff attempt; Garcia advances to second.
- Garcia advances to third on a sacrifice bunt
So now there is one out and a runner on third base.
Then the fun begins. His catcher (who I’m guessing is former Tigers prospect Russ Cleveland) asks Odom to try and intentionally walk the bases loaded to get the force at home. There are some issues with the first batter, and then former Athletics outfield Mike Lockwood comes to the plate. Take a look:
That was the last we’d ever see of Odom. He was released by the Barnstormers on July 19, and hasn’t been heard from since.
His final stat line:
1-3, 8.09 ERA, 5 SV, 51.2 IP, 27 BB, 29 K, 7 WP, 2.13 WHIP
I don’t normally link to other blogs, but Bengie Molina posted a very good entry that I think we could all stand to read.
subject: Failure. Learning to cope with it, learning to understand it,
learning to even expect it. Failure, as he points out, is a big part
of baseball. It’s an even bigger part of Spring Training. While our
Astros are mired in a terrible Spring Training right now, this becomes
an even more important lesson to remember.