Success Nothing New For Nick Routt

Success is nothing new for Mississippi State true freshman lefthander Nick Routt, the SEC Saturday starter for the Bulldog pitching staff.

After starting his baseball career as a first baseman in T-Ball at the young age of four, Nick began pitching a few years later at the age of nine. And his dad quickly saw that his youngest son had a natural talent for pitching.

"When he first started pitching the one thing I noticed was that he threw the ball pretty hard for his age," said his dad John Routt, who played high school baseball himself. "And his control has always been pretty good going up the ranks. His brother, Jonathan, pitched also and we sent them off to a pitching camp every summer. He did that for two or three years until he started playing a select level type ball."

Nick quickly progressed and had his best year as a pitcher a couple of years later.

"I think the best season I ever had was when I was eleven-years old and struck out just about everybody," said Nick. "I was already (close to) six-feet (tall) and I've always had a good arm."

And that good arm eventually got him noticed by his high school coaches.

"My sophomore year I pitched about two or three games on the jv team and got moved up to the varsity," said the 18-year old. "That's when I strictly became a pitcher. I think I pitched about 12 innings (that year). My first start I remember I got my coach's first 300th victory. That was a big thing."

With the success he achieved during his sophomore year, Nick was looking forward to his first full season as a pitcher. But an injury put a damper on his junior season.

"My junior year I was out due to a back injury," said Nick. "I was hurt most of the time and only got to throw three innings."

But he made up for lost time with a very good summer ball season following his junior season. And the college coaches took notice, including Mississippi State.

"The (Mississippi) State coaches saw me the summer after my junior year when I played on a Showcase team," said Nick, who played for the Mid-Atlantic Rookies during the showcase. "(Former MSU assistant) Coach (Tommy) Raffo and (former assistant) Coach (Russ) McNickle saw me pitch one time, and I pitched really well. I think I was throwing 84 to 86 and my changeup was really on that day. A week later they had me come down and visit."

But it wasn't purely by chance that the State coaches saw him pitch that day.

"His summer coach, Mike Chroniger, has a relationship with Russ McNickle even before Russ was at Mississippi State," said his dad. "I don't know who called whom, but they got to talking and Mike told him that he had a pitcher that he ought to take a look at."

The State coaches quickly contacted the Routt's by mail.

"We received a questionnaire from Mississippi State and sent it back to them, along with a DVD of him pitching," said John Routt. "They kept in contact with Nick, and then came out and watched him pitch in Jupiter."

While the State coaches liked what they saw, they weren't the only ones interested in the talented lefty after his showcase performance.

"A lot of teams showed interest in me - Mississippi State, Maryland, Wake Forest, University of New Orleans, Army, Air Force and a few others," said Nick, who was offered scholarships by Maryland, Mississippi State, Wake Forest, East Carolina, Army and Air Force and a few other smaller college.

But Nick quickly narrowed the list down to a select few for a couple of reasons.

"Nick wanted to play in warm weather and he wanted to go to a school that offered an engineering degree," said John Routt.

Nick finally settled on three schools that he would visit - Army, Air Force and Mississippi State.

The visit to Mississippi State, however, left no doubt in Nick's mind where he wanted to play his college ball.

"I chose Mississippi State because it's in the SEC and they had the best facilities by far and they had engineering which was big for me," said Nick, who has since changed his major to Business with an emphasis on Real Estate and Building Maintenance.

Nick, who was one of nine St. John's College High School baseball players who signed Division-I scholarships his senior year, signed with Mississippi State during the fall signing period.

Following a successful summer season of travel ball (4-1, 1.25 ERA), Nick came into his senior season as a 2008 Under Armour Preseason All-American.

With four other Division-I signees pitching on a very deep staff, Nick wound up with a 4-1 record, a 3.80 earned run average and 40 strikeouts in 23-2/3 innings.

Nick, not wanting to stray too far from home his final summer with his parents, decided to give up the summer ball travel circuit and pitch for a team located just a few miles from his home - the Rockville (MD) Express, a local team that played in the Cal Ripken Senior Collegiate League.

"It was my last summer at home and I really didn't want to go anywhere so I contacted the coach of the Rockville Express," said Nick. "I guess he contacted my summer coach and the coaches (at Mississippi State) and he put me on the roster."

And he did extremely well from the moment he joined the team.

"I was the Saturday night starter right away," said Nick. "At first, I was really nervous about facing college hitters for the first time, but I believe in five innings I allowed one run and had seven strikeouts. I guess I kind of surprised myself how well I did."

The head coach of the Express also was impressed.

"The next day my coach came up to me and asked me why I hadn't been drafted," said Nick. "I told him I didn't know."

Nick continued his success and wound up being selected to the league's All-Star game.

"In the (CRSCL) all-star game I think they had me at 90 to 92 (miles per hour) in my one inning," noted Nick.

Next up for Nick was his freshman season at Mississippi State. And he continued his successful ways during the fall scrimmages.

"I felt pretty good in the fall, although I was wondering where my velocity was because I was only throwing 83-84 (miles per hour)," said Nick, who, if you exclude his one bad fall outing, had an ERA of 2.25. In those outings he threw 20 innings, allowing 6 runs (5 earned) on 16 hits and 10 walks to go along with his 19 Ks.

While he's enjoyed his time on the diamond, Nick has also enjoyed the city of Starkville after living in a big city most of his life.

"I actually like the small town atmosphere (of Starkville)," said Nick. "I really don't like the big city because it's too busy and just too stressful. Everyone is stressed out trying to get somewhere. Traffic is horrible. I live nine miles from my school and it took me 45 minutes to get there in the morning."

As for being homesick, so far so good.

"Driving, it's about 15 hours (to my home), but I haven't been homesick at all because I didn't have time," said Nick, who noted that he took 21 hours of classes during the fall in addition to all the fall practices that he participated in.

While Nick might not be homesick, there are a couple of people who miss seeing him on a daily basis -Nick's parents, John and Kathy.

"The toughest thing for my wife and I is that we can't go to his games and watch him play," said John. "We've gone to almost every game that he played as a kid unless it was when he and his brother were playing ball and they were playing on the same day. In that case, we would split up, one would go to one game and the other would go to the other game."

But while they can't watch him play in person, they have found a way to watch him pitch from afar.

"To see him now, we subscribe to (Mississippi State's) Maroon to the Max," said John. "We've watched every game whether he is pitching or not."

No Maroon to the Max for the two this coming weeekend, though.

"We are coming down for the Auburn series (April 3-5) and we are coming back down for Super Bulldog Weekend (April 17-19)," said John.

And based on Nick's performance this season (3-1, 2.79 ERA, pitched 2 complete games in SEC play), they are going to like what they see.

"Right now, I am changing speeds pretty well with my fastball and changeup and I have a lot of movement on my pitches," said Nick. "I've just been attacking hitters and throwing strikes."

His success in the SEC hasn't surprised MSU pitching coach Butch Thompson.

"In the fall Nick came in unaware of his surrounding after coming here from the north, but he listens to every word you say and he has that natural fastball that can attack guys," said Thompson. "In the last seven years as a coach in the SEC the guys who could really win with a fastball throw it on both sides of the plate and command the count, even if their offspeed stuff isn't what it will eventually be. Nick has been able to do that because he comes right at guys and also because we play great defense behind him because of his short pitch count."

And Coach Thompson doesn't expect Nick to do anything other than continue his success.

"When true freshmen have success in this league, it lends itself to pretty good (long-term) success," said Thompson,

Evidence of this can be seen during the past 20 years of Mississippi State baseball. In those 20 seasons only four Bulldog pitchers have started in the SEC as true freshmen - Carlton Loewer, Kyle Kennedy, Eric DuBose and Paul Maholm. All four wound up winning between 20 and 27 games during their Bulldog careers with three of the four (Loewer, DuBose and Maholm) being first-round draft picks at the conclusion of their junior seasons at State. The lone exception, Kennedy, battled injury problems throughout his career but still ended it with a 20-16 overall record.

Right now, the only thing that Nick lacks that the first-rounders had is a fastball that could be thrown consistently in the high-80s to low-90s. He's currently in the 85 to 87 miles per hour range. But Coach Thompson believes that will come in time.

"I think his fastball velocity will increase naturally, but if we try to force it to happen and focus on that, then I think he will overthrow," said Thompson.

But Thompson isn't concerned about Nick's current velocity due to what he calls the realistic velocity of Nick's fastball.

"If you'll notice, regardless of Nick's velocity, you are seeing righthanders hitting the ball really deep almost out of the (catcher's) mitt," said Thompson. "There is actual velocity that the radar gun gives you and there's perceived velocity which is the realistic velocity."

No matter the velocity now or in the future, if hard work plays a part in success then Nick will continue his winning ways because, as his dad said to me, "Nick has worked incredibly hard and is very self-disciplined. He gets it done."

Gene Swindoll is the publisher of the website, the source for Mississippi State sports on the sports network. You can contact him by emailing

Gene's Page Top Stories