After eight seasons and 11 teams while toiling in the minor leagues, Dave Kubiak still has the drive, desire and determination to reach his ultimate goal:
The former Southold High School standout who lives in Riverhead has demonstrated much perseverance during his career in his quest to pitch in the major leagues. When he was asked what kept him going, Kubiak responded, “Not wanting to get a job.”
He laughed just a bit and then became serious.
“I love this game,” he said. “It’s been fun. I’m having success. So I think that’s a big part of it. Sticking around and being able to say I come out here and compete at a high level every time, just keeping it rolling.”
Kubiak kept it rolling on Friday night at Bethpage Ballpark in Central Islip, starting, hurling five innings and picking up the win for the Somerset Patriots in an 8-3 victory over the Long Island Ducks.
Kubiak, who turns 29 on Aug. 3, has been trying to reach the top since he was taken as a 36th-round draft pick in the 2011 MLB Draft by the Tampa Bay Rays out of the University of Albany.
That Kubiak is still able to pursue his dream of playing in the majors that many young boys have is precious to him.
“I wouldn’t be playing this long if that wasn’t the biggest thing to me,” he said. “That’s obviously dream No. 1.”
The 6-7, 230-pound right-hander has been buoyed by the fact several thirtysomething players have reached the majors in recent seasons.
“It’s nice to see some of the older guys now — they’re guys 30, 31, 32 — making their debuts,” he said. “That kind of keeps you going a little bit. I think [the] majority of it is having success. I’m just trying to build off every start. Obviously getting to the big leagues is a goal.”
And then there’s the love of the game.
“It is a very team-oriented game,” he said. “You saw it tonight. We battled as a team, we got a win tonight. I do like the kind of one-on-one of pitching against the hitter. You’re your own worst enemy out there.”
On Friday his only enemy were the Ducks. He estimated it probably was the fifth or sixth time he had pitched on the island.
“It’s been great,” he said. “I always love being on the schedule for this one. It’s nice.”
Kubiak admitted he might have gotten just a bit more pumped up more for this game than others for obvious reasons.
“I guess nervous,” he said. “I don’t want to stink in front of them. I’ve gotten lucky out here. I’ve pitched pretty well on Long Island.
“They’re always really supportive. I’ve got a great unit back in Southold whenever I am on the island. They’re, ‘Great job.’ ”
To which Kubiak responded, “Ah, too many pitches.”
He added to a reporter: “It’s great they’re here. I love ’em.”
Kubiak threw well enough to earn his sixth win of the Atlantic League of Professional Baseball season against one loss. It was far from a gem, but most importantly, he gave the Patriots innings. Kubiak allowed one run on eight hits during his stint, striking out eight and walking one.
Despite the win, Kubiak was critical of his performance.
“I battled,” he said. “Too many pitches, really. I got deep into counts for the first three or four innings. It kind of hurt me a bit. Gave up some knocks and some long counts, but I battled. We battled. The bullpen did a great job, shut down everything. So it was good.”
After Kubiak left with a 4-1 lead and four Patriots pitchers allowed two runs over the final four innings. He and the bullpen combined for 15 strikeouts.
Leftfielder Ramon Flores clubbed two home runs, four hits and drove in three runs to lead the assault. Designated hitter Endy Chavez had three hits and two RBIs and catcher Yovan Gonzalez added two RBIs.
“These guys usually in the first three innings give me three, four runs when I’m out there,” Kubiak said. “So that’s a big weight off your back when you’ve got a three-run lead in the second inning.”
In this modern age of baseball in which a 100-pitch count can be king, Kubiak would have liked to have stayed in longer. He threw 96 pitches, of which 61 were strikes, a pretty decent ratio. However, he totaled 42 pitches in the first two innings, which spoiled any attempts of going further.
Still, managed Brett Jodie appreciated the effort and Kubiak’s fortitude and competitiveness.
“What I like about him is that he always works fast, throws a lot of strikes,” Jodie said. “He uses his defense behind him. Very much a competitor. I really think he wants the ball, and he wants the whole ballgame. Tonight he only threw five innings. He wants to stay out there. He wants to throw how many pitches as he has to, throw eight or nine innings. There’s something to be said for that. He kind of wants to put the team on his back and say, ‘This is my start day and I want to carry us today. That is the kind of attitude I get from him and I love it. It’s not arrogant. He looks confident … We love having him pitch for us.”
Kubiak’s pro baseball career has been a combination of persistence and patience. It has taken him to Venezuela for winter ball, Mexico for Triple-A baseball and even to Taiwan.
“It’s been nice to travel,” he said. “I love traveling.”
His stint with Pericos de Puebla in Mexico was short and bittersweet.
“My first two starts were a little rough,” he said. “My third start was great. Pitched against Yucatan, probably the best hitting team in the league. I went six strong. I think I gave up one on a sac fly, a couple of hits. There is a little of a hierarchy down there. Our owner had the same [players] as another team and they brought some guys over and it just didn’t work out.”
Kubiak, who pitched for Somerset last season, found his way back to the New Jersey ball club in May.
“I came back for about two weeks, but really didn’t have a spot because these guys were full and everybody was pitching well,” he said. “But luckily we had a guy picked up and [it] opened up a spot right when I needed it.”
Kubiak hasn’t disappointed. In 10 games, he has made nine quality starts, going at least five innings but once (his lone loss of the season), recording a 2.28 ERA while striking out 68 and walking 19 in 59 1/3 innings. He had lasted at least seven innings in his last three starts, so Kubiak fell short of the mark this time around.
“We feel good about his starts,” Jodie said. “We feel like we’re going to have a good chance when he’s out there.”
While he dreams of bigger things, Kubiak is focused on Somerset. No one has to remind him and his teammates that he is only as good as his last game. The Patriots, who were 43-30 after Friday’s game, finished as first-half Liberty Division champions.
“Everybody’s goal is to get out of here,” he said. “For the time being when we’re all here, we’re trying to win a championship. It’s trying to go out every night and win.”
Photo caption: David Kubiak turned in another quality start for the Somerset Patriots Friday night against the Long Island Ducks at Bethpage Ballpark. (Credit: Bill Landon)