It happened at almost every Westminster Christian Academy baseball game in 2009: Scouts--sometimes as many as 25 of them, all behind home plate--pointing their radar guns at the pitcher. He stood 6 feet, five inches tall. He rarely changed expression. He never smiled. He was 17 going on 27. Jacob Turner was locked in. He knew Major League Baseball would be timing and watching almost every pitch he would throw his senior season.
Pitchers like Turner don't come along very often. He threw five different pitches for strikes. His fastball was clocked between 90 and 95 miles per hour. He had everything working for him. Besides a steely demeanor and special right arm, he had some coaching that few high school players get to enjoy. Todd Worrell, Andy Benes and Mike Matheny were always around to assist head coach, Rich Gilst.
Turner put the package all together and turned himself into one very polished pitching prospect. He signed to play baseball at North Carolina. However, when the Tigers selected him with the 9th pick in the draft and offered him about $6 million, Turner knew college had to be put on hold. He had a rapid rise through the minor leagues, consistently ranking as the No. 1 prospect in the organization. However, when the Tigers needed immediate help this summer, they traded him to the Miami Marlins. Turner is now in the Marlins' starting rotation; and on Sept. 14, he shut out the NL Central-leading Reds for a career-high seven innings, allowing only two hits. It's the beginning of something special.
Jacob and I talked recently:
Roger Clemens. He had fire on the mound.
Favorite Cardinal player growing up?
Albert Pujols. I have faced him twice in the big leagues. He homered off me, too. I got a few texts from my friends giving me a hard time.
Biggest thrill in baseball?
Major League debut as a Tiger.
What are your goals?
Biggest goal is to get better every day. I don't set numbers goals. I don't set statistical goals. I just want to get better. If I can do that, the numbers will eventually come.
How has the money impacted you?
Obviously, it's an outstanding opportunity to be able to do stuff and help other people less fortunate. It really is a blessing from the Lord. It also takes the pressure off of baseball. It allows me to just focus on trying to improve.
How did the trade affect you?
It surprised me. But the Tigers gave me opportunities. I am excited. I have a good chance to make my mark (in Miami).
1. The biggest beef the media has with athletes is they are sometimes too dull and too guarded. So Sheldon Richardson from Mizzou says some colorful things and gets into trouble. Please, we have to live with so many boring soundbites, don't penalize a guy who is actually speaking his mind.
2. New things that I have just discovered and love: Kraftig Light Beer, the St. Louis Suit Co. for ties, and an underground sprinkler system (Hydro Dynamics) is the only way to grow grass in this town.
3. I keep thinking about Rick Majerus in a hospital. I keep thinking that his magnificent mind for basketball may not ever get to coach again. I keep thinking that this was going to be a season he and Billikens fans would never forget. I keep thinking how sad I am for Coach.
4. Equipment means very little in determining the success of a basketball, baseball or football player; but for a golfer, it's huge. Men in their 60's now can hit the ball as far as they did when they were in their 30's. These new drivers are almost like using a corked bat.
5. Even though we live in a baseball town (with a passionate hockey following), we all must realize we are living in a football world. Nobody would bother to watch, say, the Rockies play the Pirates on a Sunday night. But on the opening weekend of the NFL season, a stunning 18 percent of the country watched the Broncos play the Steelers. It's the NFL's world and we are just living in it.