When Justin Bour played at , Billy Swoope, a long-time baseball scout for the Chicago Cubs, noticed. Swoope follows top amateur players in the mid-Atlantic region, and he decided then to keep track of Bour.
Later Bour played at Division I in Fairfax, and Swoope continued to follow the slugger. "The thing I liked about him was he was very agile for a big guy," said Swoope. "He was a very good contact hitter for a power guy."
“Justin is one of the few kids … who could really hit the ball to the opposite field as well as anyone we have had here,” said Billy Brown, the veteran head coach at Mason. “His approach was fantastic. The one thing that Justin shows is a really marketable commodity: power. The ball gets off his bat differently than others.”
Based largely on the report of Swoope, the Cubs signed Bour to their Class A farm team in the 25th round of the 2009 draft, after a standout career at Mason. And now Bour, a first baseman, is making that pick look like a steal.
Bour moved up this year to the Class AA Southern League after playing last year for Class A Daytona in the Florida State League, where he hit .277 with 23 homers and 85 RBIs.
In games with the Tennessee Smokies of the Class AA Southern League through Sunday, Aug. 19, the 24-year-old left hander was hitting .297 with 32 doubles, 16 homers and 107 RBIs.
He's on track to set a team record for RBIs in a season, and is among the leaders in RBIs for all of minor league baseball. He was named to the mid-season Southern League All-Star game, earlier this summer.
"They are quick to make adjustments," Bour said of Class AA pitchers. "You have to be able to do the same. I like going the other way (to left field). Lately they have been challenging me outside."
Bour said he learned a lot from his older brother, Jason, who played at Mason and in the minors with the Reds. "Every since I was little, I always looked up to him. I always tried to play up on his teams," Bour said of his older brother, who is now finishing his degree at Mason.
Now the younger Bour is trying to go further than his brother, be it Class AAA Iowa or the majors with the Cubs when the Major League rosters expand Sept. 1.
Swoope does not make personnel decisions, but believes Bour has a chance to make it to The Show. "Anytime you are in Double A and put up those type of numbers, people are going to notice," Swoope told Patch.
"I love the kid. The sky is the limit. He is first class. He comes from a good family," said Swoope.
"I feel I have done a good job," said Bour. "You have to expect every day it could happen [once you reach Class AA]", he said. "You have to stay ready. I try to focus on each day. As long as you play the right way, you will get noticed."