By Adam Biggers/@AdamBiggers81
FLINT, Mich.--A year from now, Mott Community College Bears baseball coach Roger Christensen will know more about Traverse City Central pitcher Dawson Rabb.
Right now, Rabb is a tall, slender kid who throws in the lower 80s. He's raw, but he has a tremendously high ceiling. With a few mechanical adjustments, that ceiling could be somewhere near the high-80s for the 6-foot-4, 205-pounder. He expects to grow another inch and has already gained 20 pounds during the past year.
"He's going to come in, he's going to work hard and he's going to add a lot of muscle," said Christensen, who signed Rabb, four other scholarship players, and accepted two walk-ons during Saturday's signing day event at Ballenger Fieldhouse. "He's going to see that really make him a better ball player. With us putting that weight training program in place, and Dawson coming in and following it to a T, he'll get a lot better."
Months ago, Christensen got Rabb's number from a connection tied to the Bears staff. He thought he'd take a chance.
"Little does Dawson know, I've had his number in my phone a lot longer than he's probably had interest in Mott," said Christensen, who guided the Bears to a 25-19 overall record, 17-9 mark in the MCCAA Eastern Conference and postseason berth during his debut season.
Those were resume points, he thought--ones good enough to get a player such as Rabb.
However, due to distance and the lack of strong ties up north, Christensen wasn't sure if he could get the TC Central standout to venture south to Flint. Luckily for Christensen, he found out that Rabb had family in Montrose, which is just minutes away from Mott's main campus.
Christensen's efforts worked.
"And now we're sitting here," he said, smiling while sitting on the bleachers in Mott's Steve Schmidt Gymnasium.
He had other offers, sure. And yes, some of them were quite appealing and difficult to refuse. At one point in time, Grand Rapids Community College was actually Rabb's favorite. Mott was one of the schools on his mind--and one of the last to contact him. But there was something about the Bears' recent success and energetic coach that grabbed his attention.
"I love it. I love the ambition," replied Rabb when asked about having a 25-year-old head coach. "I'm a really competitive person. I really love the ambition I see in the coaching staff here, and the fact that they want to win a national championship--I have my eyes set on the same thing," later adding: "(Christensen's) ambition to win really sold me."
Did he mention he likes to compete? Rabb, who has developed through a competitive Traverse City-area scene, can't wait to play some of his friends who chose to play at Kellogg (Kalamazoo), Lansing and Grand Rapids.
"I can't wait to put a whooping on them all season long," he said with a grin.
Should he hit expected strides, that just might be the case next spring. Rabb reports improvement throughout his arsenal; he likes his two- and four-seam fastballs and continues to perfect his 12-to-6 curveball.
"(The curve) has probably been my best pitch my whole life," Rabb said. Control has never really been an issue, but he would like to throw harder.
"In order to get to the next level, I think I need to get up in velocity,' he said ."There's no reason why I won't be able to do it here at Mott. I think that in this fall, and over the summer in the (spring) high school season, if I really put in the work, there's no reason why I can't do that at this time next year."
Hearing those words were music to Christensen's ear.
"Absolutely," he said. "That's why he signed today. He knows how much work is going to have to be put in, but he's willing to put it in--that's something that you don't see--that mental maturity--with a lot of kids Dawson's age. He has it, and that's why I expect big things from him."
Mott Bears Baseball 2016-2017 class:
Trevor Wright, P/INF--Lake Fenton
Justin Simpson, C--Davison
Jonathon Hock OF--Royal Oak
Ryan Murphy, C--Anchor Bay
Zachary Bolton, OF--Lapeer (preferred walk-on)
Kyler Lambing, P/OF-LakeVille (preferred walk-on)