Q&A: Florida Signee Lance McCullers

There isn't a mock draft that doesn't have Lance McCullers being selected in the first round. The Jesuit High School right-hander became a national name when he threw in the low 90s as a freshman. As his senior season begins this week, McCullers is now consistently in the upper 90s.

Q: "Jesuit is preseason No. 2 in the country this year. You guys have lost in the state title game the past two years. Is there talk about needing to win that last game this year?"

A: "We have been talking about it so much in previous years before the season that I think this year, we're going with the one game at a time approach. We're going to try something new. We changed our practices and got new jerseys. "

Q: "What is different about the practices?"

A: "It's more compact this year. It's not as long, but it was slow moving before. We're at a much quicker pace and doing more things in a quicker time. They're two or two and a half hours compared to three or four last year.

"It's all good things. Coach Warren spent a lot of time researching and going to baseball conventions and talking to coaches. He talked to Coach O'Sullivan and even coaches from Vanderbilt, UNC, and other successful programs to work like they work. It has worked well for us.

"We already see changes. You don't see kids sitting around anymore. You see kids taking balls live off the bat in batting practice. That's a huge help, especially early on when you're usually shell shocked since you hadn't seen a ball off the bat. We're getting just as many grounders, but it's more live work now."

Q: "How many games did you start on the mound last year?"

A: "It was eight or nine."

Q: "You have pitched out of the bullpen a lot in your high school career, right?"

A: "Right, my freshman and sophomore year, I was only out of the bullpen."

Q: "What was the thought process behind using you at the closer?"

A: "My freshmen and sophomore years were more of us being stacked with pitching. We had some guys, like (Florida left-hander) Daniel Gibson to carry the load for us. We were missing that guy to come in during the seventh inning and close it out with a statement. I was already throwing low 90s during my freshman year. It was easy for me to step into that closer's role."

Q: "Do you prefer starting or closing?"

A: "I think I like starting better because I have more control of the game. I feel like I'm being thrown into a position where I can dictate the outcome of the game more. Closers get put in situations where they can't control what happened and have to do the best they can.

"Starting is more of an art. You get into pitching more and start to learn things. It's more than just going out there and throwing the ball. It's more about learning how to be a pitcher. That's something I'm really intrigued with because it's more of a game inside of a game."

Q: "When was the first time you ever met Florida head coach Kevin O'Sullivan?"

A: "I met Sully my freshman year in September at Labor Day camp. I was throwing upper 80s and low 90s back then. I went up there and Florida was my number one choice since I was a little kid. Both of my grandfathers went to Florida—one played basketball and one played football. I've been going to Florida games for a while.

"Coach O'Sullivan told me when I was ready to start the recruiting process not to commit anywhere without talking to the Gators because they had an offer waiting for me. I was really excited about that."

"He watched me pitch a few times at Jesuit my freshman year. Then, I came to Gainesville for the Tennessee (football) game (in 2009) and that's when I committed.

Q: "What was your reason for committing so early in the process?"

A: "I'd always loved Florida and it was close to home. I was also looking at Georgia, Georgia Tech, UNC, and LSU was probably the closest one (to Florida). I knew that Florida was the only instate school that I wanted to go to. They have the best coaching staff, program and it's a great school. I just love Gator Nation. There's nothing better than that."

Q: "Your dad pitched seven years in the Major Leagues for four different teams. What has his impact on your career been?"

A: "My dad is everything in my baseball career. From the time I was big enough to pick up a bat and throw, I can remember him working with me. It was more than just the baseball side though. He's a great dad and didn't force me into any direction. He let me play football and basketball, too. I loved baseball on my own.

"As I'm older, it has been great to be able to go to him and talk baseball and pitching with him. I'm able to sit down and him tell me stories about when he played, what worked for him on the mound and how I can use that for me. The fact of having a father play in the big leagues, the knowledge you get is so underrated by people that don't have that. I know that I'm lucky to have that because a lot of people don't have that. I know I wouldn't be where I am today without him working with me."

Q: "Did all of your athleticism come from him, or did your mom play sports, too?"

A: "My mom played tennis at LSU. That's where the LSU connection came in. Like I said, my grandfathers, one played basketball at Florida and the other played football at Florida and was an All-American. I have good genes."

Q: "You officially visited Florida the opening weekend of football season when they played FAU. You also came to Gainesville for the South Carolina game in 2010 and the Florida State game in 2011. How was that official visit different?"

A: "It's different because when you take your official, it sets in that this is where you're going to be. I can see myself walking the campus and playing in a Florida uniform. When you're on an official, the players are introducing you to people like the softball team, soccer team and other teams as a future Florida Gator. It sets in the fact that this is going to be the lifestyle you live. I was extremely excited about it, and I still am. I'll be up there for the start of Summer B."

Q: "How many guys on the Florida team do you know?"

A: "I know a good number of them. I know Daniel (Gibson) really well. Preston (Tucker) went to Plant, and I've met him a few times. Hudson Randall, Mike Zunino—I got to meet all those great guys when I was on my official. I've spoken with Karsten Whitson."

"That's something that makes Florida baseball more exceptional. They're great people and great players.

Q: "How well do you know Whitson?"

A: "I talked to Karsten on my official visit and some since. We had met a few times before that. Just the other day he wished me good luck this season. I always love being able to watch him pitch."

Q: "Do you see any similarities between you two? He was a highly rated guy out of high school like you are right now."

A: "I definitely see the similarities. We just talked about what to expect this year and how he enjoys Florida. I always love being able to watch him on the field. We talked a little on my official visit about what I should expect. I see the similarities. He's a little bigger than I am, but we're both big, power right-handed pitchers. We're both also dedicated to a sense of education. That's important to me. It's why I'm going to the best academic school in Florida, hands down. We have a lot in common."

Q: "With the MLB Draft coming up this summer, do you have any expectations going into it?"

A: "I've come to the reality that whatever happens will happen. I understand that God has a plan for me. I'm not in control of that plan. I'm going to enjoy being a senior and playing with my best friends for the last time. I don't think about (the draft) very often, and when I do, it's very brief. It's more about me thinking that I'll deal with it when I get there.

"A lot of people around the country or in Florida might think I'm just saying that, but it's really how I feel about it. Coach O'Sullivan really gets guys to commit to Florida that are committed to going there. If something happens in the draft then it happens, but I'm a Florida Gator and I want to experience that.

"Plus, me and Karsten back-to-back (in the rotation) would be something pretty special."

Q: "When you do go into the preparation for the draft, do you go in with a minimum number of what it'll take for you to sign?"

A: "There's going to be a number. Everyone from round one to round 40 goes into the draft with a number that they would feel comfortable with and feel that the team is giving them an opportunity that they can't pass up. I don't know what that number is right now.

"Later in the year, when my season is over and I have that week or two before the draft, we'll sit down and talk about it. Until then, I'm not thinking about it. I'm focused on winning a state championship and the draft is the last thing on my mind.

"I'm excited about getting to campus. The new CBA is complicated and I'm not interested in it. I don't know when the new signing deadline is, but I know whether it goes down to the deadline or not, I'll be at Florida for maybe two or three weeks. I'll be able to really enjoy it then. We'll see how it goes then."

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