Richmond Flying Squirrel flew around the world to play ball: 'People said you're dumb for doing this'

Posted at 5:34 PM, Mar 28, 2024
and last updated 2024-03-28 17:34:14-04

RICHMOND, Va. -- Spencer Bivens is taking the long route to Major League Baseball.

Bivens has played ball for nearly a dozen baseball teams in the United States and overseas.

The Richmond Flying Squirrels pitcher hopes 2024 is the year his dream to play in the Big Leagues comes true.

"I've had plenty of people tell me you're dumb for doing this or have you ever thought about doing something else?" he said. "I know in me what I can do and what I'm capable of and I want to see this thing through."

As a college freshman and sophomore, Bivens pitched for Louisburg College.

He then transferred to Penn State in 2014.

He then transferred to Rogers State in Oklahoma before he transferred back to Penn State to graduate.

In 2019, he traveled to Europe to play baseball in France and then signed to play in the Czech Republic. But the COVID-19 pandemic canceled that plan.

"I lived close to Pittsburgh. The Washington Wild Things had a little pod league, like four teams all at their stadium. I played well there, then went to Lexington later that summer in a similar league," he said "I ended up getting a contract with the Wild Things for 2021."

After a couple of weeks playing for the West Virginia Power, he got traded to Gastonia where he finished the 2021 season.

Two years ago, when he returned to Gastonia, Bivens fastball hit the mid-90s for the first time.

His manager in Gastonia was former Squirrel Mark Minicozzi.

Minicozzi let the San Francisco Giants organization know about Bivens.

"Not a lot of guys can handle some of the things he had to go through," Flying Squirrels manager Dennis Pelfrey said. "Some guys, it takes a little longer for them to develop into what they're supposed to be."

"There was a tangible change from one year to the next and the strike-throwing was drastically improved," San Francisco Giants to Director of Player Development Kyle Haines said. "We don't care where you come from, your back story. If you're good, you're good."

Bivens appeared in 27 games for the Squirrels in 2023 where he maintained a 3.69 ERA and struck out 72 batters in 78 innings.

He has never pitched at or above the AAA level. But by the time he turns 30 later this summer, that's expected to change.

"I really can't put it into words that I'm still here and able to be here," Bivens said. "I know there are so many guys that want this opportunity and have worked just as hard if not harder. I'm extremely fortunate."

Bivens isn't likely to start the season in Richmond, but if he does, it may not be long before he gets into his first AAA game in Sacramento.

He has thought about writing a book on his experiences and has enough material now, but might be waiting for that final call-up to the Major Leagues to be the last chapter.

"People are going to talk about the journey, but that's not even going to do it justice," Haines said. "We're all rooting for him."

You can watch a preseason preview of this year's Richmond Flying Squirrels team on April 8 at 7:30 p.m. on CBS 6.

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