Tournaments : : Story
Friday, October 22, 2010

McCullers Is A Big Hit -- In Baseball

Jim Ecker        

 JUPITER, Fla. -- Lance McCullers Jr. could hit a tennis ball a long, long way as a kid. Keeping it between the lines was another matter.


Lance and his mother, Stacie, would go to a local court in Tampa on Sundays when he was younger and knock the ball around. Stacie played on the women's tennis team at LSU, so she knows a few things about the sport.


Her tips didn't seem to help. 


"Most of the balls I hit went over the fence instead of over the net," Lance said Friday, laughing, "so that's probably why I gave it up."


Since then it's been baseball -- game, set and match. That's not a big surprise, because Lance's father pitched in the major leagues for seven years and has been helping his son since he could catch and throw a ball.


"I kind of noticed when he was a young kid, how great of an arm he has," Lance Sr. remarked Friday after watching Lance Jr. pitch in the WWBA World Championship.


McCullers flashed a 96 mph fastball and a wicked curveball as the Midland Redskins/Royals Scout Team blanked the All-American Prospects/Indians Scout Team, 1-0, in Pool Play at the Roger Dean Complex.


McCullers, a junior at Jesuit High School in Tampa, Fla., struck out four batters in three innings. He walked two batters and allowed two hits, which meant he and his father would have a few things to discuss after the game.


"We'll talk in the car about things I did good and things I didn't do so good, and there were a few of them today," Lance Jr. said. "He'll figure it out. He's probably my biggest fan, and he's also one of my biggest critics. I know it's all tough love, and I love him for it."


Lance Sr. has been giving Lance Jr. some excellent advice. Lance Jr. hit 98 mph on the radar gun for a USA all-star team this summer, and he's currently the top-rated high school junior in the country according to Perfect Game USA.


Lance Jr. said his father has taught him everything about pitching.


"From my windup, to the pitches I throw, to my delivery, to my finish," he said. "He's been there since Day 1, and he'll be there until the last day. He's the one who's taught me everything. Without him I wouldn't be where I am today."


Lance Sr. pitched in the major leagues with the Padres, Yankees, Tigers and Rangers from 1985 to 1992. Mostly a relief pitcher, he compiled a 28-31 record in 306 games with 39 saves and a very respectable career ERA of 3.25.


Lance Sr. pitched his last game in the big leagues in 1992, a year before Lance Jr. was born. The McCullers also have twin sons, Ryan and Austin, who are freshmen in high school and talented ballplayers as well. McCullers runs a lawn maintenance and landscaping company in Tampa.


Lance Jr. is more than just a power pitcher, however. He's also an accomplished shortstop and an outstanding hitter, although he went 0-for-2 with a walk against the All-American Prospects. He's committed to Florida and will worry about a position later.


"If I had my wish, I'd want to do all three," he said about being a pitcher, shortstop and hitter. "Right now I'm having fun. When that time comes we'll have to make a decision, and until then I'm going to go out and do whatever the coach wants me to do and have fun."


He's thrilled about the possibility of playing for Florida, pending what happens in the 2012 draft.


"A good fit, close to home, great coaching staff, great program there," he said. "I'm really excited about that."


Lance Jr. just turned 17 a few weeks ago, but he's already topped his father on the radar gun with his 98 mph clocking this summer. Lance Sr. hit 97 during his career, so Lance Jr. now has bragging rights.


McCullers said he's "extremely honored" to be ranked No.1 in the Class of 2012 by Perfect Game.


"It's a great feeling, to know I'm a hard worker and everything. Not only do I see it paying off, but other people are seeing it too," he remarked. "I'm honored to be in that position and hopefully I can keep coming out here and there's no reason to move me."


Lance Sr. is proud of Lance Jr. and his accomplishments so far.


"It's been a pleasure working with him. He's got a great talent," Lance Sr. said. "He loves baseball, and it's what he wants to do for a living."


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