Riding the State College Spikes team bus through the mountains of New York, 21 year old Kyle McPherson is repeatedly redialing this baseball blogger with the screwed up name so he can get his interview completed.
He is diligent. Each time the phone cuts out, he quickly calls back. Every time when our phones reconnect, he apologizes with the most pleasant southern accent. ‘’Sorry about that, sir.’’
The guy is all class. All the time. We talked for about an hour, seven times. Each time his apology was more sincere.
The bus was just as we have all imagined it growing up. Music blared and laughter resounded. It was especially loud when the interview began, the sounds of a team on the rise. But perhaps at the direction of one of the outstretched arms of the ambidextrious McPherson, it got more calm about twenty seconds into the call. McPherson, a veteran on this ballclub, knows all about control.
He asked if I could hear him. I told him I could hear him just fine. The music picked back up.
When Neil Huntington talks about building a championship club and how awful the minor leagues were, well, look no further than State College. The 2008 Spikes were awful. The team finished with the worst record in the NewYork Penn League at 18-56. The pitching staff allowed 461 runs. 71 runs more than the second worst staff in the New York Penn League. Yeh, it was bad.
The Spikes play near my hometown, but McPherson never started when I was in attendance, all of his starts were on the road. The Spikes pitchers were tough to watch because the pitchers relied on their fastball to the delight of the rest of the league. It was a developmental strategy. But did it work?
Fast forward to this season and in the early going, it certainly appears to have paid off. The team is above .500 and the pitching staff has turned it around with some solid improvement.
The same pitchers who had an ERA of 4.83 in 2009, now sport an ERA of 2.77. The WHIP is also down to a respectable 1.32.
The command and control has returned to the Spikes staff.
But Kyle McPherson always had both.
Part II tomorrow night….Growing Up, Quickly, in the Shadow of Jake Peavy
Some highlights: Miami Dolphin Pat White was a rival. And you might be surprised to learn how McPherson develops his flexibility.