Five former University of Oklahoma baseball stars have continued to develop their talent on the diamond since leaving Norman and were given the opportunity to display their skills at the Major League level this season. Jeff Bajenaru (Chicago White Sox), Jason Bartlett (Minnesota Twins), Kyle Denney (Cleveland Indians), Greg Dobbs (Seattle Mariners) and Valentino Pascucci (Montreal Expos) all made their Major League debuts this past season, with three of the five being called up within the last month.
Pascucci, a Sooner letterman on the 1997-99 squads, was the first of the quintet to make his 2004 debut back in late April as a reserve outfielder for the Expos. After being sent back down to Triple A with the Edmonton Trappers, he was recalled to “The Show” at the beginning of September where he has seen regular action in 14 games down the stretch. It only took him seven games back with the parent club before he hit his first career Major League home run, a three-run shot, against the Florida Marlins on September 15. He collected his first Major League hit on April 30 against the Los Angeles Dodgers and went on to hit .333 over eight games during the month of May.
After hitting .331 with 54 runs scored and 29 RBI for the Rochester Red Wings in Triple A, Bartlett was the next Sooner to make his Major League debut when he joined the Twins in early August. Although he went hitless in a brief two game span with the team before being sent back down to the minors, he was recently recalled in mid-September where he collected his first Major League hit and RBI against the Chicago White Sox in his third game back. He is seeing time at shortstop while with the club.
Bartlett was a two-time All-Big 12 Conference selection at third base in his two seasons in Norman from 2000-01.
A former teammate of Bartlett’s on the 2000 squad, Bajenaru made his first appearance in the Major League’s at the beginning of September. Still the owner of Oklahoma’s single-season and career saves records, Bajenaru has seen middle relief action on the mound for the White Sox in seven games since his call up. After giving up runs in three of his first four outings, the 1999-00 Sooner letterman has only surrendered one run over his last three games. Bajenaru tallied 22 saves and recorded a 3-1 record as a closer between the White Sox’s Double A and Triple A teams before being called up.
Dobbs made the most impact of the group in his Major League debut as he hit a solo homer in his first at bat for Seattle which made ESPN Sportcenter’s “Top 10 Plays of the Day” highlight list. Seattle’s backup third baseman has picked up five more hits and driven in five more runs in the following nine games since his debut.
Dobbs rocketed through the Mariners’ system since joining the organization following his brief one year standout career with the Sooners in 2001. After missing the 2003 minor league season due to a ruptured Achilles tendon, Dobbs rebounded to bat a combined .305 with 13 home runs, 52 runs scored and 65 RBI between Double A and Triple A this year.
While at Oklahoma, Dobbs garnered Big 12 Conference Newcomer of the Year honors in his lone Sooner campaign. He also racked up second team All-America and first team all-league honors after leading the conference in hitting with a .428 batting average and recording 10 home runs, 53 runs scored and 62 RBI. Dobbs is a former junior college teammate of Bajenaru’s at Riverside Community College and a former OU teammate of Barlett’s.
Denney was the most recent Sooner to be called up to the Majors for the first time when he joined the Indians’ staff on September 14. He has earned decisions in his two starts going 1-1 on the mound and was credited with the win in his latest effort after allowing only one earned run in five innings with six strikeouts.
The Prague, Okla., native pitched for the Sooners during the 1998 and 1999 seasons. He tied for team top honors in starts with 16 as a senior and also posted a 4-6 record and 6.78 ERA that year.