Padres Prospect Interview: Vern Sterry

The San Diego Padres drafted Vern Sterry in the eighth round of the 2004 MLB Amateur Draft. It was the third time the former NC State Wolfpack pitcher has been selected, going in the 38th round to Colorado in 2001 and the 16th round to Oakland in 2003. Getting drafted once is a luxury but to go three times was tempting fate with the injury bug able to hit at any time.

The right-hander from California wanted desperately to play in some minor league system but knew the reality of his game. He just wasn't ready.

"After my first year at State, I didn't feel I was ready to take the next step, even though I wanted to," Sterry reflected. "I know that I didn't have three pitches that I could throw for strikes yet."

"Now I feel like I can throw them for strikes on a consistent basis. Coach said I needed to work out a little longer, work a little harder and get closer to my degree and give me time to get my body more physically in shape because I lost so much weight during the year. I managed to keep my weight at 210 all year."

While at NC State, Vern Sterry not only developed quality pitches, but also began to make his mark on the record books.

Sterry was the first pitcher in Wolfpack history to start a season with 11 consecutive wins and is the only NC State pitcher to go unbeaten and win 10 or more games (junior year). He added a complete game shutout against the number one team in the country.

He was rewarded by Collegiate Baseball, being named a first-team All-America, the first Wolfpack player named first-team All-America since infielder Tom Sergio and reliever Clay Eason in 1997.

This from a guy who was not sure he would get much of an opportunity coming from a junior college where he was both a starter and reliever.

Coming to a big time ACC program that sports the likes of Florida State and Georgia Tech is a different world.

"When I went to NC State, I didn't have high expectations to pitch a lot because I came out of junior college," Sterry admitted. "I just kept pitching and found my rhythm and I just kept on getting a lot of strikes and a lot of outs. Things just started to fall in place and that is how I got good I guess! I had a lot of stuff going my way."

Ironically, Sterry came out of California's Cypress Junior College the same school that Trevor Hoffman called his home from 1986 to 1987. Vin Scully called Hoffman's changeup, "the best in all of baseball." And Sterry throws the same pitch, something he found out when he bumped into Hoffman at his alma mater.

Sterry admits that the pitch is still a work in progress but he has enough faith in it to throw it at anytime during the count. It is one of the keys to his game, especially at the lower levels of the Padres system where players are just learning to hit off-speed pitches.

Compound that with the invaluable talks he received from Hoffman and it is a potential deadly combination for years to come.

"I went to junior college where Trevor Hoffman went and every so often he would stop by and we talked," Sterry said excitedly. "A real great guy who would just hang out with the coach and the players. I would ask him questions and I asked him about his changeup. Surprisingly enough, he was throwing the same one.

"Being that it is Trevor Hoffman, I mean, it is Trevor Hoffman, I decided to try and perfect that pitch. Just like Trevor Hoffman because that is what helped him get there so I am going to do the same thing. That is my best pitch."

This year it has similarly baffled hitters. Sterry has thrown a one hitter for the Eugene Emeralds, coming in his first start of the year. He is keeping the opposition to a .214 batting average and has struck out 47 in 45 innings of work.

By keeping the hitters off balance, Sterry is finding success. Although he is just 2-2 on the season, Sterry will win more than he loses if he continues to perform as he has.

Denis Savage can be reached at denis@sandiegosports.net

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