Former Surry pitcher signs with Dodgers
Former Surry Community College All-Region X pitcher Wes Helsabeck has graduated to the professional ranks as he recently signed a free agent contract with the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Helsabeck, who spent three years with the Knights from 2011-2013, signed the deal with the Major League Baseball franchise recently and pitched his first inning of minor league baseball Sunday for the Ogden Raptors, an advanced rookie affiliate of the Dodgers. The big left-handed pitcher worked out for the Dodgers on May 24. And while he said he was disappointed he was not drafted, he was not about to pass up the chance to sign with the Dodgers, one of the most storied franchises in all of professional sports.
“It felt really good to get the call. It didn’t happen in the draft, so I was a little bummed out, but when I got the call to see if I was still interested in signing, not many people get that opportunity. I was very grateful and blessed for them to give me this opportunity,” Helsabeck said. “Without a doubt, when one of the top five Major League Baseball franchises wants you to sign, you sign.”
A Rural Hall native, Helsabeck was an all-conference pitcher at North Forsyth High School before continuing his career with the Surry Knights. A 5-11, 195-pounder, he started at left field for the Knights as a freshman while pitching 20 innings on the mound. A stress fracture the following summer caused him to have to redshirt in 2012. He bounced back in 2013 as a sophomore, striking out 73 batters in 84 innings with a 2.74 ERA to earn All-Region X First-Team honors.
“I came back after I had surgery for my sophomore season, and I think without a doubt was one of the best pitchers in the region,” Helsabeck said. “I had a great season and (former Surry coach Jamie) Lowe gave me a chance to come back and pitch and get back in the swing of things.”
That propelled Helsabeck to bigger and better things as he went 6-1 with a 3.02 ERA as a junior to lead Winston-Salem State to an NCAA Tournament appearance in 2014. He spent this past season as a key member of UNC-Pembroke’s pitching staff, going 5-1 in six starts with a 4.82 ERA and one save in 46.2 innings. He stuck out 62 while only walking 16.
Things have moved quickly for Helsabeck since that time. He said the Dodgers flew him to Arizona on June 13 to sign his contract. From there, he flew to Utah for a practice and started playing on Thursday for the Odgen Raptors. Helsabeck recorded his first inning of relief work on Sunday, retiring three of the four batters he faced in the seventh inning. Helsabeck opened by getting the first batter to pop up to left before fanning the next batter. The next hitter blooped a single past third before he ended the inning with a grounder to second base.
Helsabeck said his biggest strength as a pitcher has always been his will to go out and compete really hard. He said he feels his best when he has good command of both sides of the plate.
“When I can work in and out is when I am most successful,” he said. “I have topped at 92 before (on the radar gun), but if I am hitting upper 80s and going in and out and changing speeds, that is when I am the most successful.”
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