Derrick Loop Joins ‘From Phenom To The Farm’: Episode 106


Image credit: Derrick Loop (Photo by Hector Vivas/Getty Images)

Eighteen years after the fact, pitchers from the 2006 draft are largely unaccounted for in professional baseball.

No. 1 overall pick Luke Hochevar hasn’t pitched professionally since 2016. The same goes for the 41st pick, Joba Chamberlain. Tim Lincecum last pitched in 2018, and Andrew Miller hung it up after the 2021 season.

But what about Cleveland’s 23rd rounder, lefthander Derrick Loop, who was released less than a year after signing? At 40 years old, Loop is still toeing the rubber in the Saraperos de Saltillo bullpen in the Mexican League.

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In terms of long shots to still be playing pro baseball in their 40s, Loop is the longest of long. He entered Division II Cal State LA in the fall of 2002 as a converted first baseman with very little pitching experience. He molded himself into a pro prospect thanks to being able to sink and cut his fastball and drew the attention of pro organizations heading into 2006 draft.

Despite good numbers in his short-season debut with Cleveland, Loop quickly learned the business side of baseball. When the Cleveland front office that drafted him was jettisoned, so too was Loop, and he was released towards the end of his first spring training.

“That was earth-shaking for me” said Loop. “Going from my first year, having a good year, to now I’m not even in professional baseball.”

Loop remained undeterred no matter what baseball threw at him. His next job was with the independent Chico Outlaws of the Golden League. He parlayed success in Chico into another chance in affiliated ball with the Red Sox. Then came stints in the minors with the Phillies and Dodgers, as well as Camden of the Atlantic League and the Aguilas Cibaenas of the Dominican Winter League, all in a four-year span. Loop found out after the fact while speaking with a trainer for the Dodgers when the team had chosen not to re-sign him that he had just missed the elusive call-up in 2012.

“He said, ‘Hey I can tell you this because we didn’t re-sign you, but you were this close to making it to the big leagues,’” Loop recalled. “So that was almost a bittersweet thing to hear, that I was that close. And that was my last year in affiliated baseball.”

After four seasons in the Atlantic League—and a summer pitching in Japanese independent baseball—Loop took a chance and returned to Latin America with Culican of the Mexican League and instantly found himself at home. He carried a 0.55 ERA during his first year in the Culican bullpen, cementing himself as a regular in the Mexican Winter and Summer Leagues as he adjusted his craft to fit his new home.

“I’ve had to evolve many times,” said Loop. “Once guys knew I had a good slider, I had to start throwing more sinkers. I learned a split, threw it in the bullpen for two years before I started using it in games. And now it’s one of my best pitches.”

After a decade of searching for stability in baseball, Loop found his home outside of America. He’s pitched full time in Mexico since the winter of 2016, winning three championships, pitching in three Caribbean Series and even meeting his wife. Currently in his 19th season of pro baseball, the lefty competes with the same vigor that made quitting after being released at age 23 not an option.

“I know how hard I’ve worked to get here, so to know that I’m still playing and still doing what I love, it’s pretty awesome.”

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