Michael Foltynewicz will have to learn Texan. Maybe buy some boots and a big cowboy hat. He’ll be a stranger if he enrolls at the University of Texas this summer, but that’s OK. Pitching for the Longhorns would be a dream come true.
Foltynewicz is a 6-foot-5 right-hander from Minooka, Ill., just southwest of Chicago, and if you’ve looked at the Texas roster this year, you know the Longhorns don’t have anyone from the Midwest on their team. There are 34 players on the roster. Thirty-two are from Texas. There’s one player from California, one from Arizona and none from anywhere else.
Foltynewicz knows he beat the odds when the Longhorns offered a scholarship. He had to work for that scholarship and took matters into his own hands, in fact. He was heading to Marietta, Ga., to play for the Illinois Sparks in a Perfect Game event last July and took a bold step. He called Skip Johnson, the pitching coach at Texas, and invited him to watch him play in Georgia. Johnson accepted.
“I always wanted to go to Texas; it was my dream and everything,” Foltynewicz said. “So he made it down and I probably threw the best game of my life. It was pretty amazing.”
Johnson was obviously impressed. He called Foltynewicz that day and invited him to visit Texas, a sure sign of interest.
“I was really nervous, you know?” Foltynewicz said. “It was a dream come true. I’ve been waiting for that call since a couple of years ago. So I was really excited. It couldn’t have been better. A week later we drove down there and they offered. On the way back I gave them a call and said I wanted to come and pitch.”
Foltynewicz, currently a senior at Minooka High School, related his story Sunday after giving a stellar performance at the Pitcher/Catcher Indoor Showcase at Perfect Game USA in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. He threw a string of blazing 93 and 94 mph fastballs and also featured nasty sliders, curveballs and a changeup.
“I did pretty good,” he said. “I’m not really quite there yet, but I’m feeling pretty good. I’m 95 percent.”
Batters will shudder when he reaches 100 percent, because he’ll be hitting 96 on the radar gun again. He’s been there several times and isn’t far away now. Foltynewicz is currently ranked 69th in the Class of 2010 by Perfect Game USA, but there’s an excellent chance he’ll climb significantly higher when the new rankings are released in early March.
Foltynewicz had other scholarship offers, but he wanted Texas. He knows all about the tradition, the great pitchers, the national titles. He wanted the Longhorns, and now the Longhorns want him.
“Yeah, I had a lot of offers,” he said. “On the way back from Georgia, we stopped at Tennessee, South Carolina, Louisville and everything. After we went to Texas, we stopped at Arkansas.”
There was Texas, and there was everywhere else. “If I could get Texas to look at me, there’s no other choice out there,” he said.
The only other choice now could be pro ball. Foltynewicz could be a high draft pick this June, which means he might have a decision to make. Texas and other top programs deal with this situation all the time. They sign the top players in the country, but then have to wait and see what happens with the draft.
“I’m going to keep my options open,” he said. “Playing for Texas is a dream, but the dream after that is getting into the pros and signing with the pros. If I can get a step closer each time, I’m going to take it. Hopefully it will turn out in my favor.”