MLB Draft Prospect Interview: Justin Verlander

Justin Verlander is <b>THE</b> power pitcher entering this year's MLB Draft. While aspirations run high in regards to where he is picked, Verlander fashions himself as a leader within the clubhouse. It is just one of his traits that have the San Diego Padres silently contemplating whether to pick him number one overall, despite the dominance of Jered Weaver.

Forget about the leader propaganda for a second, Justin Verlander is what he is – a talented pitcher with a fastball that sets the radar gun into hyper drive.

He is not shy about his stuff and is more than willing to give a scouting report on himself – well it isn't that easy.

"A power guy," Verlander begins thoughtfully. "Good fastball. A knuckle curve, which I can throw for strikes. A changeup which sinks down and away from lefties and I can also throw for strikes."

Verlander is deliberate in his words. He is not the high schooler that would let emotion get the best of him and throw off his game. Now just three years later, Verlander is focused.

When he leaves his legacy at Old Dominion behind, he wants to set them up for success. He is one of the elder statesmen on the team. He has a lot to give. One thing he won't do is override the coaching staff he respects so much.

"We have our pitching coach trying to teach (the younger guys) what to do and I kind of just come behind him and just elaborate on what he is saying," says Verlander. "Sometimes guys are confused and if I see that I try to help out and put it in laments terms. ‘This is what he means and this is what you should work on.' Some of the younger guys I throw with and I will work with them."

It is a progression that has led Verlander down this path. In high school Verlander admits he was a little hotheaded when things didn't go his way. He called himself "immature" and it led to a loss of comfort on the mound, which indubitably led to inconsistency.

"I am an emotional pitcher, but I can control it. When I was in high school, I was a little immature and I let my emotions get the best of me. Now, three years later, I see how controlling your emotions can help you so much more. Use emotion to your advantage and don't let it take control."

It starts about 45 minutes before the game as he puts his proverbial "game face" on.

A break for superstition, "left side, ride side" while putting his uniform on provides a calming influence on the right-hander. After facing the "butterflies" earlier on game days, Verlander looks to the mound as his haven.

"It is sort of relaxing actually," Verlander said. "You're intense all day and kind of have the little butterflies going and you get on the mound and it is sort of relaxing since you are so used to doing it and it is something you know you can do. It relaxes me."

From a guy that has seen the life on his fastball jump six miles per hour in three years, it is hard to imagine how he keeps his composure.

The regimen helps. Since joining the Monarchs, Verlander has been on a weight training plan to get the most out of his body. It isn't about bulking up for the 6-5, 200 pounder, but geared towards maximizing his gifts.

"When I came out of high school, I wasn't lifting," Verlander admits. "When I got here, I started lifting and doing the proper running and I saw how my game improved.

"My freshman year I gained about four miles per hour from 93 to 97 and gained one last year and so far one this year."

By the power of addition that puts his fastball at 99. What got him to this point has been dedication. He wants to be the best and will take the time out to help others along their path.

June is a short hop away and Verlander is still stating his case. The team that nabs this fireballer will have not only a pitcher with extreme potential, but also a person that emits integrity. His work ethic has proved to be contagious on the Old Dominion campus and it is one of those traits that can't be taught.

Verlander was simply born with it.

Denis Savage can be reached at

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