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Friday, July 10, 2009

Whitson taking 97 mph heater to Aflac game

Jim Ecker        
Karsten Whitson recalls the first time he hit 90 mph on the radar gun. It happened two years ago, at a tournament.

"Yeah, I remember it," he said. "When you actually hit 90, it's like a milestone. My dad saved it on the gun and showed it to me, so it was kind of cool."

Whitson doesn't get excited about 90 mph fastballs anymore. He's been clocked at 97 this year and will take his strong right arm to the Aflac All-American High School Baseball Classic at PETCO Park in San Diego on Aug. 16.

Throwing a 97 mph fastball is very impressive, but Whitson is not even the fastest pitcher on the East Cobb Braves this summer. Stetson Allie, a fellow Aflac All-American from Ohio, has hit triple digits, so Whitson won't make any bets with Allie about who can throw the hardest.

"No, I don't want to make any bets with him," Whitson said, laughing, "because I know I'll probably lose. That would be money lost."

It might be fun to watch, though.

"Me and him get along pretty good," said Whitson. "He's really funny. I like him a lot."

Allie can be a tad wild with his heater, and Whitson cannot imagine what it would be like to hit against a guy who throws 100.

"I've actually been in a cage where they had this pitcher simulator thing," he said. "I turned it up to 100 mph and you can't even see the ball. So I can't imagine what it's like standing there, especially with Stetson. He's 6-4, 220. It's obviously scary. I know I wouldn't do it."

College baseball coaches were allowed to start calling high school seniors-to-be on July 1, but Whitson's phone has been quiet. He committed to the University of Florida last fall and is thrilled about becoming a Gator.

"I've always been a huge Gator fan," said Whitson, who carries an impressive 3.9 GPA. "Football games, you name it. When that offer came to me, I couldn't decline on that."

Whitson lives in Chipley, Fla., which he said is about a 3 1/2-hour drive from the UF campus in Gainesville. He's glad the recruiting process is over.

"It was a relief for me, because I don't have to worry about where I was going to go for college," he said. "That's all I'm focused on is UF. It was great, and now I can just kind of lay back. I'm not really stressed out as far as thinking, 'Is this college going to offer me?' So I'm kind of set."

He said he's already attended four or five Florida football games, along with baseball and basketball games. "I love Gainesville," he said. "It's a lot of fun."

Whitson predicts another outstanding season for the Florida football team this season.

"With Tim Tebow?" he said, talking about the Florida quarterback. "They will win the national title. They're going to be stacked. I can't wait to get down there. I'm going to be down there at every game on the sidelines."

Life is good for Whitson. He said he's thrilled and honored about being selected for the Aflac All-American game.

"It's obviously every kid's dream to play professional baseball," he said, "but right now I'm worried about going to UF. What I do after that is yet to be determined."
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