North State Journal’s 100 in 100 series will showcase the best athlete from each of North Carolina’s 100 counties. From Alamance to Yancey, each county will feature one athlete who stands above the rest. Some will be obvious choices, others controversial, but all of our choices are worthy of being recognized for their accomplishments — from the diamond and gridiron to racing ovals and the squared circle. You can see all the profiles as they’re unveiled here.
It wouldn’t be a stretch to say that Bumgarner was born to be a baseball player. His first word wasn’t mama or daddy, as is the case with most children. It was “ball,” and by the age of four, he was playing in a youth league against players up to three years his elder.
A left-handed pitcher who does everything else right-handed, Bumgarner developed into one of the most dominant high school players in state history. He went 11-2 with 143 strikeouts and a 1.05 earned run average in his senior year at South Caldwell, and he also hit .424 with 11 home runs while leading his team to the 4A state championship in 2007. It was a performance that led the San Francisco Giants to select him with the 10th overall pick of that year’s major league draft.
Bumgarner advanced quickly through the minors, bursting into national prominence in 2010 at the age of 21 with several clutch postseason performances. He became the youngest Giants pitcher to start and win a playoff game when he beat the Atlanta Braves in the clinching Game 4 of the National League Division Series. He also won the series clincher against the Philadelphia Phillies in the NL Championship Series before throwing eight shutout innings in his World Series debut against the Texas Rangers.
It was the first of three World Series championships the Hickory native helped the Giants win. His memorable performance in the 2014 Series against the Kansas City Royals earned him MVP honors, and he was named Sports Illustrated’s Sportsman of the Year by going 2-0 with a save while allowing only one run in 21 innings.
In addition to his work on the mound, Bumgarner is also one of the best-hitting pitchers in the game. He has won two Silver Slugger awards and has 18 career home runs.