In the end, the decision was as straight and true as one of his 92 mph fastballs on the outside corner.
Joel Effertz is a three-sport star at Ladysmith High School, but baseball always has been his first love. And when it came to making a choice of colleges, the 6-foot-4-inch, 235-pound right-handed flamethrower used a simple strategy.
He gave a verbal commitment this summer and signed his letter of intent last week to play baseball at the University of Arizona after seriously considering Nebraska and Western Carolina among the dozens of interested parties that also included Minnesota, Northern Illinois, Louisville and Valparaiso.
"I've always been a big fan of warm weather, and the staff there was just awesome, especially head coach Andy Lopez, who'll also be my pitching coach," Effertz said. "I really believe in his system."
The Wildcats definitely believe in Effertz, the first Wisconsin recruit they've ever signed after following his impressive showcase performances and know doubt admiring his four-pitch arsenal in mowing down opposing hitters.
His coaches know that Effertz has the physical talent and intangibles to make a name for himself in the collegiate ranks.
"He has the ability and tools, but he also does everything you tell him and is like a sponge in wanting to learn how to get better," baseball coach Dan Leonhard said. "He has attended all kinds of camps to pick up things and isn't afraid to work because he's always in the weight room, he runs all summer and he plays football and basketball."Although pitching should be the meal ticket for the two-time Brewers Classic participant, Effertz isn't a slouch at the plate or in the field.
"He's played first and third base for us and he has an outstanding glove, with first base maybe his best position," said Leonhard, the uncle of former Badger defensive back Jim Leonhard. "And he's a heckuva hitter who has averaged about .390 with six homers each year. A lot of teams don't even pitch to him. And the coaches at Arizona have told him that he will have a chance to play another position."
Effertz, who runs the 40 in 4.6 seconds, obviously has the athletic ability and versatility to do it after being an all-conference performer at tight end, kicker and punter and second-team defensive end for the Lumberjacks this past season.
"Joel is coachable and respectful and is one of those special kids who you'd want your children to be like when they grow up," football coach Woody Keeble said. "He lives in the weight room and is a good student. He's a great young man and the real deal, and I've only had one other athlete like that in my years here, and that was Mike Newkirk."
Effertz's father, Jeff, is the head boys basketball coach and assists with the football team, a job he also had for the Lumberjacks' baseball squad for a number of years. His grandfather, George, coached at Lake Holcombe for nearly four decades.
Effertz received football interest from such programs as Minnesota-Duluth, North Dakota State and Northwestern, but the diamond is where he belongs.
However, he already could have another major decision to make because about 10 major league organizations—including the Twins, Devil Rays, White Sox and Phillies--have contacted him or asked for schedules so they can come watch him play next spring.
"It was a relief to get the letter signed and I thought things would settle down," Effertz said. "But now I'm getting all kinds of calls from professional scouts. So, the pressure is starting to pick up again."