In the Minor League, most players live in simple accommodations. A short-term apartment shared with teammates, a room in the home of a host family, or a hotel room if their stay with a team is not expected to last long. For right-handed pitcher Robert Broom, his seasonal residence is none of these things. Instead he lives in an old RV.
Broom is not the first player to do this. In 2015, pitcher Daniel Norris of the Detroit Tigers garnered a great deal of notoriety by living out of his VW van.
Broom’s situation is a bit different.
He has a truck mounted camper that is attached to the bed of his Dodge Ram 3500. It was his handyman nature and the encouragement of his parents that set him on this path for the current season.
“I’ve always kind of liked to work on things with my hands,” shared Broom with Did The Tribe Win Last Night. “Whether it’s with motors, any kind of engines or vehicles, that’s kind of my bread and butter, you can say.”
Broom’s RV began the season parked in the tiered lot of the High-A Lynchburg Hillcats, his first team assignment for the year. His parents drove it up from their home in East Ridge, Tennessee, about a half hour to the southeast of Chattanooga. In addition to being a unique and private residence, it arrived fully stocked thanks to his mother’s attention. It even has an air-conditioner, but Broom’s mechanical inclinations keep him working on the RV in the mornings when he does not have any direct baseball-related responsibilities.
“I’ll be doing something. Whether that’s spray painting on my truck, or I’ve bought like a generator for it, figuring things out for it, getting things situated inside,” said Broom.
He acquired his mechanical and engineering skills from his brother-in-law while Broom was in high school. Not only is it a practical skill, but it provides a means of support that can be somewhat lucrative.
“I buy used 4-wheelers for $300, around that range,” said Broom. “I’ll take them and I’ll strip their parts off and sell their parts individually. That’s been a pretty good business, just to make some side money.”
Broom’s skills are not limited to his engineering and mechanical aptitudes. He also happens to be an effective pitcher in the Cleveland Indians farm system.
On the mound, Broom is a submariner relief pitcher. At 6’1” and 190 lbs., he has a thin, wiry appearance, enhanced by his long facial features including a blond beard and mustache. His unusual pitching motion was developed working with his father growing up.
“My dad was a catcher in high school and he caught a guy who threw submarine, who ended up getting drafted and playing professionally,” recounted Broom.
The pitcher was Bob Long, a 24th round draft pick of Pittsburgh in 1976. Long would go on to pitch professionally for eleven years, including five games for the Pirates in 1981 and another 28 games for Seattle in 1985. During the 1983 season, Long’s home park was Chattanooga, Tennessee, a place Broom remembers well from his own childhood. There is even a family connection to the Lookouts.
As Broom tells the story, “My dad’s dad, when he was 16, he tried out for the Lookouts. I guess he was looking for a career, but the previous week, he’d enlisted for the Army. He found out he made the Lookouts, but had already gotten his notice for the Army, so that was ironic.”
Though his grandfather never suited up for the Lookouts, Broom made his way to many games at AT&T Park (formerly Bellsouth Park) during his youth.
Not drawing wide interest from colleges as he finished up his high school career, where he was mostly a starting pitcher, Broom signed on with Mercer University, where they assured him he would never start a game for them, instead being featured as a bullpen specialist.
“I’m really glad that I chose to go to Mercer,” said Broom. “It seemed like every game I came in runners on second and third with one out, and I had to find my way out of it.”
In three collegiate seasons with the Bears, Broom posted some impressive numbers out of the bullpen. He had a 22–9 record with a 2.40 ERA, making 103 appearances, even starting a single game in his junior year. What really attracted attention, though, were the 268 strikeouts he amassed as a short-relief specialist. Of course, it didn’t hurt that Kyle Lewis, Seattle’s first-round pick of 2016, was a teammate during Broom’s freshman year, so scouts already knew something about his pitching skills.
This got him selected by Cleveland in the 10th round of the 2018 draft, and his performance continues to improve.
“I guess every year I pitched in college I got better at it, and it’s helped me get to where I’m at today,” said Broom.
Where he is at now is Akron, where he is a member of the bullpen for the Double-A RubberDucks.
He began the season with his RV in Lynchburg, but on June 6 received notice to pack up his camper and head north to Akron, Ohio. As a professional, his performance on the mound has been strong.
In approximately one full year since signing a contract with the Indians, he has pitched at four levels. After five games in the Rookie-level Arizona League, he moved up to Low-A Lake County to finish out his first season and tossed 23 innings for the Captains, allowing only three earned runs while striking out 30.
His dominance has continued in the 2019 season. He features a sinker, slider, and fastball, and is working on a change-up. It’s the sinker that serves as his out pitch, made all the more effective with his submarine mechanics.
“It’s not what I do, it’s just how it comes out of my hand sometimes,” said Broom about his sinker. “I have the same grip, just a two-seam grip, as far as getting ahead in the count. That pitch has been the best for me.”
As much as the sinker has been good to Broom, it has not treated opposing hitters well at all. In 17 outings for Lynchburg, Broom posted a miniscule 0.36 ERA in 24.2 innings. In that same stretch, he mowed down 35 opposing batsmen, surrendering only eleven walks (two of those intentionally).
In the three weeks that he has been with the RubberDucks, Broom has toed the rubber six times, striking out eleven and walking only two. Equally impressive, in 62.2 innings as a professional, Broom has yet to yield a home run to opposing hitters, limiting them to a .151 batting average.
Wherever he travels, it is Broom’s skill on the mound that will continue to advance him up the ladder and closer to a shot at the Major Leagues. Until then, he will tinker with his RV and take in the comfort it provides during the rigorous baseball season.
“Coming home on the late bus rides, I think we got home at 3 AM the other night,” recalled Broom about a road trip back in mid-May. “I just got off the bus and went straight to bed. That’s just kind of ideal for me.”