The always-spectacular Tim Keown has a phenomenal write-up of UCLA pitcher Trevor Bauer in Friday’s ESPN the Magazine, and I was lucky enough to see a sneak preview and share some of it here. Bauer, who I wrote about last week here, is just a fascinating figure, and Keown gets some fascinating stuff on the recently crowned Pac-10 Pitcher of the Year.
Here’s an excerpt:
By the statistical measures that portend professional success, Bauer is the best pitcher on the board for the June 6 first-year player draft. He leads the country in strikeouts with 175 in 118 /3 innings and has a 1.37 ERA in the Pac-10, one of college baseball’s toughest conferences. His name has been on a steady rise up draft boards, from potential first-rounder at the beginning of the year to potential top five in June. Yet this kid, the most dominant college pitcher since Stephen Strasburg, whose style and stuff evoke legitimate comparisons to Tim Lincecum–isn’t even in the mix to be the top pick. Why not? It seems baseball still doesn’t know how to handle guys who march to their own drum.
Here’s a story: During one of Bauer’s three years at Hart High in Valencia, Calif., before he left for UCLA halfway through his senior year because he was too mature to deal with another semester of high school silliness, he had an off-season routine of taking a bucket of baseballs to a local park to throw long toss as part of his arm-strengthening regimen. He walked to the park alone because he couldn’t find anyone to throw with him. “I didn’t have any friends,” he says with the emotion of someone reading a grocery list. He threw baseballs from one side of the park to the other, each ball smacking a wooden fence surrounding a tennis court. He did this for close to a year, until a tennis coach decided to hold lessons on that court while Bauer did his throwing.
This was a problem. The tennis coach told him to stop. He refused. The tennis coach sent a letter to his baseball coach, who suggested Bauer stop. He refused. He told his coach, “Sorry if I wasn’t taught to be blindingly allegiant to authority.”
But that wasn’t Bauer’s main gripe with the tennis coach. The letter to the baseball coach included the phrase, “The unexpected repetitiveness of the ball hitting the fence.” This upset Bauer’s sense of order. His eyes widen, his voice rises. “How could something be repetitive and unexpected at the same time?” he asks. “If it’s repetitive, don’t you come to expect it?”