Cade Bunnell can’t wait to get started on his professional baseball career.
The 2015 Stoughton High School graduate was selected by the Atlanta Braves in the 40th round of the Major League Baseball draft Wednesday, June 5.
Bunnell, who had played two years of baseball at Indiana, graduated this spring with a liberal studies degree. He was huddled around a TV with his Hoosier teammates at an apartment in Indiana watching the draft.
Indiana had a record six players selected in the draft.
“It was a dream come true,” Bunnell said in a phone call from the Braves’ spring training facility in Naples, Florida. “Once I heard my name called, it was unreal. I worked my whole life to play in the big leagues.”
Bunnell has been going through a draftee mini-camp workouts since being drafted, and by the end of the week, he will be designated with most of the other players drafted to rookie ball. He expects that to be in either the Advanced Rookie-level team in the Appalachian League in Danville, Virginia, or in the Gulf Coast League in Naples, Florida.
The son of Tina and Rick Bunnell, his competitiveness apparently runs in the family. Rick played golf at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater.
“He understood what it took to take my games to the next level,” Cade said of his father. “He sacrificed a lot of time and money to help me live out my dream.”
Cade Bunnell was drafted as a second baseman, where he said he feels comfortable. But he’s open to playing some third base.
“I have played in the middle of the diamond my whole life,” he said. “I feel like I can show my athleticism more.”
A lefty hitter who throws right handed, he enjoyed a record-breaking season at Indiana this season.
He hit .182 with one home run and two RBIs in 28 games and seven starts as the Hoosiers won the Big Ten championship.
Bunnell said one of the biggest lessons he learned playing baseball in college was to have a “learning mentality.”
“It’s a game of failure,” he said. “You have to have the right mentality to have success.”
As a 40th round pick, a pro career might be a long shot. But he’s persevered through long odds before, having to start over after leaving his first Division I school.
As a shortstop in high school, Bunnell led the Vikings to back-to-back conference titles and a WIAA state appearance in 2013.
Bunnell earned first-team Badger South All-Conference as a junior and senior at Stoughton for coach Jeremy Dunnihoo.
“He (Dunnihoo) taught me the love of the game and how to play free,” Bunnell said.
Bunnell then played at Kansas State as a freshman.
“I didn’t think it was the right fit for me at the time,” he said.
He transferred to Madison College, where he played one year. That is when he started getting some interest from scouts.
At Indiana, Bunnell played second base and some at third base. When he played fall ball the past two years, he said it became more real that he could get drafted.
He also played in the summer of 2016 with the Rockford Rivets in the Northwoods League.
The next level
Bunnell, who had a .974 fielding percentage at Indiana, said he is confident in his hands. But at the next level, he said, his footwork at second base and getting more accustomed to third base will be a key in his development.
“A lot of coaches will tell you that you field with your feet and not your hands,” he said.
He said coaches and instructors at the spring training facility in Naples, Florida, have told him he could see time as a second baseman and third baseman in rookie ball.
After a rookie ball season, Bunnell may be required to stay in Florida for instructional league before playing fall ball.
His college teammate with the Hoosiers, Tanner Gordon was a sixth-round pick of the Braves, as was his former Kansas State teammate Davis Schwab, who is a pitcher who transferred to Missouri State.
“It would be exciting if I got to play with Tanner Gordon,” Bunnell said.