DUNEDIN, FLA. - Noah Syndergaard knows roughly when he found himself on the radar of major-league scouts. He’s just not sure how it happened.
It was his senior year at Legacy High School in Mansfield, Tex., and suddenly the big, right-hander was hitting 97-98 m.p.h., with his fastball. And that was in the later innings.
“All through the fall, we didn’t know, because he wasn’t throwing very hard,” David Walden, Syndergaard’s high school coach, said over the phone on Monday. “As it warmed up, something connected in his head.
“There are probably not 10 or 15 kids in the entire state of Texas this year that can throw 90 m.p.h., much less 95. It’s a phenomenon when you can throw that hard. When we penciled his name in to start, we fully expected to win.”
Syndergaard’s eyes still seemed to be searching for an answer as he spoke about that surprise connection.
“Something definitely just happened,” the 19-year-old said. “The summer going into my senior year, I was probably just a college prospect. I was pretty committed to going to Dallas Baptist University.”
The Jays selected the 6-foot-5, 220-pounder 38th overall in the June 2010 draft, then gave him his first taste of the pro ranks with their rookie-class Gulf Coast League affiliate.
Last season was a busy one for the Texan. He began the year with Bluefield of the rookie-class Appalachian League, going 4-0 with a 1.41 ERA while striking out 37 batters in 32 innings.
That earned him a promotion to the class-A Vancouver Canadians (1-2, but with 22 strikeouts in 18 innings), and finally a two-game stint with the double-A Lansing Lugnuts where again he didn’t look out of place, with nine
Ks in nine innings. He’s likely to be ticketed for the high-A Dunedin Blue Jays to begin the 2012 season.
An intriguing sidebar to the Syndergaard story is that, as a pitcher, he used to bat third in the order at Legacy and led the team in home runs.
“It’s bittersweet. I miss hitting quite a bit,” he said. “I know what my job is. To throw the baseball, I’ve just got to put down the bat.”
“But I’ll swing a bat when people aren’t looking.”
Back home in Texas, coach Walden has no doubts about Syndergaard’s future success with the Jays, or reservations about his character.
“He’s an incredible citizen. When you’re around Noah Syndergaard, he’s always going to do the right thing,” said Walden. “We love Noah to death.
He’s going to make Toronto a great hand.”