MSU Baseball Signee Aaron Weatherford Update

MSU Baseball Signee Aaron Weatherford Update

Aaron Weatherford, who won't be 19 years old until December, was one of the most highly thought of pitchers in the nation this past recruiting season. He was selected the Mobile Press Player of the Year and was a member of the Alabama Sportswriters' Super 12 team. He topped his honors off by being selected to the Louisville Slugger All-American team. Top college programs wanted him, as did all the pro teams. He talked about those things and many more in this interview.

Aaron Weatherford Profile:

It has been written several times that you have topped out at 97 miles per hour with your fastball. Explain when that happened and your reaction when you found out.
"I was pitching against Theodore at the beginning of the year. There were probably 8 or 9 pro scouts behind the plate. The pro guys all use Stalker guns, but there was somebody there who was using the JUGS gun. I was really lighting it up that game. I threw 5 innings and gave up 1 or 2 hits I think. It was a really good game for me and I had everything working. I really didn't know I was throwing that hard, but I knew I was bringing it because nobody could hit it. Then, one of the scouts told me after the game."

We know that you have topped out at 97. What is your consistent velocity?
"I would say it is consistently 90 to 91."

Have you increased it from your junior to senior seasons?
"Some, but it's more my ability to maintain my velocity that has improved. My endurance and stamina have increased due to working out. I actually did the weighted ball program last fall. I have topped out higher this year than I did previously. And I attribute some of that to the weighted ball program."

You aren't the slim 6-3 to 6-5 type pitcher who projects to throw harder as he matures. You are something like 6-1 and weigh 175 to 180. Do you believe that your velocity will continue to increase?
"I believe I'm going to get taller and I'm definitely going to get bigger. My granddad and dad are both 6-3. Everybody on my dad's side of my family is 6-2+. I'm 180 right now and trying to put on some weight by doing the Mississippi State workout program. As for gaining velocity, I would like to think I will because my velocity has slowly increased throughout the years."

We've talked about your velocity, but, really, what sets you apart from just about every other young pitcher who throws hard is your unbelievable control. You only allowed 11 walks in 68 innings and I believe 6 the previous year. How did that come about?
"I don't know what to say. I guess it's just a gift. The Lord has blessed me with a lot of talent. That's it. I don't have any other explanation for it other than that."

Have you always had good control, even when you were little?
"It's always been that way. And I've always been able to throw hard. None of the other kids wanted to face me from the time I was 8 years old. My dad and my coaches never let me throw breaking pitches until I was almost 16. I had to live and die off that fastball. And if I couldn't put it where I wanted to I was going to get beat."

What does your repertoire of pitches consist of?
"I throw a four-seam fastball to hit a spot, a two-seam fastball when I want some movement and want them to swing at something. And I throw a slider and a split finger."

Do you not have a curveball or changeup?
"The split finger is like a changeup. It is 78 miles per hour and drops out and away from a lefthander."

Do you throw all your pitches and not just your fastball?
"Yes, you have to to keep the hitters off-balance. You can throw it 100 miles per hour, but if you leave it down the middle of the plate because you can't locate it, you are going to get hit. The hitters will adjust. The first time you might get them (out), but the second time they know what they are looking for, especially at the collegiate level and higher."

Don't take this the wrong way, but with your velocity and command, how did high school hitters get 42 hits off you during your 68 innings?
"(Laugh) There were a couple of games where I got hit a little bit. There were a couple of teams around here who didn't touch me the first time they faced me. With one of those teams, I struck out 15. But, after the first time, they got their pitching machines and set them on about 92, so that they would get used to that speed. I actually had one team that brought in a guy to throw against them in an intrasquad game. I believe he was a former pro ball player who threw really hard."

Did you make adjustments once you noticed they were hitting your fastball?
"One game didn't go too well. I'm not sure what it was about that game. I guess I had an off night. The other game I held them close. When I got hit, it was a random hit here and there. One time, when I came out, it was tied 2-2, so it wasn't like I was giving up an incredible amount of runs."

You aren't pitching competitively this summer. Did MSU pitching coach Russ McNickle request that?
"Yes, he did. I asked them and they said they prefer I not pitch."

Have you ever taken off an entire summer?
"Yes, for the most part. I haven't ever played in the fall, either, so I wanted to be fresh going into the fall. I am doing a throwing program, so it's not like I'm not throwing, period."

You seem to have everything that pro teams want, you throw hard, you have great command. Why did you decide to opt out of the draft instead of staying in and seeing what might happen?
"I thought the college decision was tough, but that paled in comparison to this decision. You are standing there with two paths that you can take. One path takes you in a completely different direction than the other one. You could go either way and neither direction was bad. It came down to what I really wanted to do, where I had the most peace in my heart and what I felt was the right path for me. You had to make the decision and live with it. It was tough, because (the pros) were talking about all this money, but you would have to give up college. It was really tough because (the pros) really liked me and I was going to go fairly high. It has definitely caused me to mature."

Do you know what round you may have been drafted in if you had stayed in?
"It was probably going to be late 4th or early 5th, somewhere in that range."

How did they come up with those two rounds?
"I actually don't know. I got to talk to a lot of people. I actually threw for the Yankees, Dodgers and Braves. I got to throw on Turner Field for the Braves. We did all those things to get a really good feel about where I was going to go in the draft. When it came down to it, it was about the 5th round. And we pretty much had a (dollar) figure set. They said there was a 100% chance that I would get that figure, but if we wanted anything higher then it was probably a 1% chance we would get that. So, I said, 'ok, that's all I need to know.'

"It was really interesting, but it was a really tough decision. And I struggled with it for several days, because it is a great honor to be drafted. But, my main thing was I wanted these (pro) guys to really respect me and know that I had enough character to tell them that I didn't want them to waste a draft pick on me. I called everybody that came into our house, which was a lot of clubs. I called all of them individually and told them my thoughts and what I was going to do, which was to go to school. I thanked them for their consideration and that I wanted to try it again in three years, so I asked them to continue to watch me play. I also sent out a letter to every club through the Major League Scouting Bureau saying that Aaron Weatherford does not wish to be taken in this year's draft and that he will be eligible again in three years (when he can be drafted again). The feedback from everybody was all positive. Every club that we talked to said that showed great class and character and not to worry, because they won't forget about me in three years. They said what I did will put me in a good situation three years from now."

Once you made your decision, when did you call the Mississippi State coaches to let them know?
"I called Coach McNickle when they were about to get on the plane right after they had just gotten put out at the regional tournament (in Miami). I knew when he picked up the phone and heard that it was me, he probably thought that it was more bad news. Coach McNickle said, 'hey Aaron, this is Coach McNickle.' I told him that I had made my decision - that I have decided that I want to attend college and that I have taken myself out of the draft. He said, 'well buddy, you just made my day.' He passed the phone to Coach Polk and Coach Polk updated me on what was going on. He was excited, too."

Now that you know you will be at Mississippi State next season, have you thought about your personal goals as a freshman?
"I just want to do my best. I want to be the best that I can be. I want to help out any way possible. I just want to play."

What are your individual goals the next three years?
"I would like to be an All-American. I've been a high school All-American, so I would like to be a college All-American also."

Have you heard of a guy named Cody Satterwhite, an Ole Miss pitching signee?
"Yes, I actually roomed with him at Wilmington. I got to see him pitch and he did well. He wasn't really throwing that hard then, but I think his velocity really jumped this past year." [It's now in the 94 to 95 range.-Gene]

What would you think, as a former roommate of his, about facing him on a Friday or Saturday SEC matchup?
"I would love it, because it would be great competition. I've actually thought about that. My dad and I have thought about it. I say, 'bring it on, let's play'."

Just talking to you, there is no doubt in my mind that you are mature beyond you 18 years. Are you the same way on the mound?
"People say I am very composed."

Is that what the scouts said?
"Yes sir, they said they like my composure. I am aggressively under control. That is one of the things (the scouts) like - I don't blow up if someone hits a home run against me. I'm like, ok, maybe I made a mistake, but I will learn from it and he ain't doing that again."

MSU's last true Friday night ace was Paul Maholm. Some of the things you say about yourself remind me of him. He never let a mistake bother him. Are you similar to him in that respect?
"A lot of people say that is how I am. On gameday, I am all business. I'm not one to mess around. When I'm around baseball, I'm in a zone. When it's time to play, you get in that mental zone."

We talked about recruiting in my first interview with you, but it would be good to go over that again. Did you have a final 4 or 5 teams that you narrowed your list down to?
"I had a final three - LSU, Alabama and Mississippi State."

If I remember correctly, didn't LSU and Alabama tell you that you were their top pitching prospect?
"Yes."

Do you know if you were Mississippi State's top pitching prospect?
"They didn't really tell me that, but I kind of assumed it. From the first time they called me, I let them know that I was very interested in Mississippi State."

Why did you have such strong interest in Mississippi State?
"I have always kind of liked Mississippi State. Actually, my middle school football coach, Scott Berry, was a long snapper at Mississippi State. He kind of got me interested in them. He was always talking about Mississippi State. We have been best of friends for a long time. I still go fishing with him all the time."

It seems like Mississippi State rarely loses a player if he takes an official visit there. Did your official visit to Mississippi State seal the deal for you?
"It, basically, did. I still took some time to really think about everything. I had an 80% scholarship (offer) from Alabama, which basically took care of everything but a few meals. My family is middle to upper class, but they told me it wasn't about the money. But, I didn't want to put more (of a financial burden) on them than I had to. I didn't want them to have to pay much money. But, they told me to go wherever I wanted to go and not worry about the money. They told me to go where I felt I needed to be."

How much did the MSU coaches factor into your decision?
"Oh my gosh, a ton. They are great guys. You know when someone is going to shoot you straight. You can tell by just being around those guys, Coach Raffo, Coach McNickle, Coach Polk...all of them. They are men of integrity. That says a lot. You can't put a value on that. It's great to know you can play for a coaching staff like that. You can't say enough good things about them."

Was Mississippi State more low key than other schools that recruited you?
"Absolutely."

Did that cause you any concern?
"No, not at all. It was actually kind of a relief."

Did other schools send you a lot of letters?
"Yeah, a ton."

Since they were low key, how did you know Mississippi State was as serious about you as the other schools?
"At first, I really didn't know. They had sent me a few letters saying that they were very interested in me, but, in the back of my mind, I just knew they were interested. I don't know why, but I wanted to wait and see. LSU came out and offered a month ahead of time. They offered me June 1st. It was tough because I could have gone ahead and committed to them. If July 1st came around, I might have (their scholarship offer) or I might not. There was a lot of pressure. I want to play in the SEC and here was my shot. And I didn't know if I was getting another one (from any other SEC school). I held out and two weeks later Alabama came down here and watched me throw a bullpen. I threw something like 20 pitches and they offered me (an) 80% (scholarship) the next day. I now had two great offers on the table. But I wanted to know what Mississippi State was going to do, so I got on the phone with them and told them that I really wanted to know what they were going to do. (Coach McNickle) told me that they would like for me to come there because they had an offer for me. He asked me when I wanted to come up. I told him we would be up there in a few days."

How many offers did you wind up with?
"I wound up with three, LSU, Alabama and Mississippi State. There were probably other schools that would have offered, but during the first couple of days in August, I went ahead and told the other schools that I was going to Mississippi State. That kind of stopped all the phone calls."

It seems to me that it took a lot of confidence for the Mississippi State coaching staff to recruit you the way they did.
"It did, but it's the right way to do it. That is kind of the ongoing theme with Mississippi State baseball. They do it the right way and that shows a lot. Mississippi State's coaches showed a lot of class throughout the entire thing. That spoke volumes to me. When July 1st came around, they didn't want to bother me by calling me. That showed a lot to me. What they did was send an overnight package that was sitting on the front porch when I first got up. It was dated July 1st, 12:01 a.m."


Gene Swindoll is the publisher of Dawgs' Bite, Powered by GenesPage.com, the source for Mississippi State sports on the Scout.com sports network. You can contact him by emailing swindoll@genespage.com.

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