DURHAM — After being shot in the face, hand and shoulder during a traffic stop on U.S. 70 in Durham on Feb. 18, state Trooper Michael Potts has been big news. But he had an earlier brush with fame.
Back in 1992, Potts was a 22-year-old pitcher for the Durham Bulls looking to make the roster for the Atlanta Braves.
On a Class-A team that boasted names like Carlos Reyes and a baby-faced Larry “Chipper” Jones, former Bulls manager Matt West remembers the power that the 5-foot-9 Potts possessed.
“There’s an old adage that once you wear a uniform together you’re only a phone call away from being right back where you were,” West said of his relationship with Potts. “Mike was a very talented left-handed pitcher. Not a big guy, but had a strong arm.”
With the Bulls in 1992, Potts pitched in 30 games, starting 21, and went 6-8 with a 4.02 earned run average. Four years after that season in Durham, the southpaw made it to the major leagues as a member of the Milwaukee Brewers.
He made his big league debut on April 6, 1996, against the Seattle Mariners. Potts pitched in one inning, allowing two hits and no runs.
His luck would quickly run out, though, as Potts appeared in 24 games, allowing 58 hits in 45 1/3 innings and finished with an ERA of 7.15 and a record of 1-2. He played his final big league game on July 15, 1996.
Even at the height of his career as a pitcher, West remembers discussions he had with Potts about his future. “Even during that time, believe it or not, he would have conversations with me about his passion for law enforcement,” West said. “Here was a guy with his entire career ahead of him in his 20s, and he already knew what he wanted to do when it was over.”
During the major league baseball strike in the 1994-95 season, Potts returned to Durham and took a part-time job as a security guard just a season before he would be called up to the big leagues.
By 1998, Potts made the decision to end his baseball career and began his career in law enforcement.
Now, 15 years after hanging up his cleats for the final time, the 42-year-old Potts was shot four times during a traffic stop. Authorities arrested a Vermont man with a long criminal record, wanted for escaping from a prison furlough program in that state, and charged him with Potts’ shooting.
Though he has been released from Duke University Hospital, Potts is still recovering from his wounds.
West said he has tried to reach out to Potts’ former teammates from the Bulls, and he plans to reconnect with him at his home. “He and I have reconnected a number of times over the past few years,” West said. “I couldn’t be more proud that not only had he achieved his goals, but that there is someone like Mike Potts out there protecting us.”