Pitcher Trevor Bauer sprints onto the field, his weather-beaten gray cap a contrast to the bright blue ones his teammates wear. Starting on the grass behind the mound, he dashes up and over the rubber, executes a crow hop and fires the ball as hard as he possibly can to the catcher. He repeats this astonishing sight with the first warmup pitch of every inning.
"I've thrown up to 102.7 mph doing that," he says proudly.
Hardly anything about Bauer is conventional, from an unorthodox pregame workout to a mind-boggling array of pitches to his regrettable trash talk to his status as the third pick overall in Monday's MLB draft, by the Arizona Diamondbacks.
Bauer, who dominated Fresno State in the NCAA regionals on Saturday, has had one of the best seasons in college baseball history. He regularly touches 95 mph with his four-seam fastball, possesses a hellacious curveball that freezes hitters, and also throws a slider, split-finger, changeup and a pitch he calls a "reverse slider" that essentially is a screwball. He maintains his stuff deep into games -- striking out fewer than 10 in only two of his 16 starts -- and takes great pride in finishing what he starts, having thrown nine consecutive complete games.
He's on the fast track, too. Bauer has three college seasons behind him and is draft-eligible although he just turned 20 in January. He skipped his last semester at Hart High School in Newhall, Calif., graduating early, and made his first college start shortly after his 18th birthday.
Some scouts say he'll be the next Tim Lincecum, another limber, eccentric college pitcher who has gone on to win two Cy Young Awards and a World Series title with the San Francisco Giants. "Bauer could be as good as or better than Lincecum," says an American League scout. "He's so intelligent, has such great work habits and is so single-minded about being great that I think that's what he'll become: Great."
Other scouts wonder if his intricate training program will make it difficult for him to fit into a structured professional environment. His pregame stretching and warmup includes work with ropes, pulleys and poles. "Pitching involves short bursts of activity," he says. "I emulate that in my pregame routine."
He is a strong advocate of long-tossing, even on days he pitches, from distances as far as 350 feet. He hasn't changed his cap since he came to UCLA because, well, maybe because Lincecum also wears a years-old cap. "He is the pitcher I admire most," Bauer says.
Will a pro team need to establish a double standard to accommodate him? Will his oddball antics make him an outcast? And perhaps most importantly, will he cease trash-talking opponents?
Two weeks ago Bauer covered first base on a hot smash by Cal's Devon Rodriguez that resulted in a game-ending out, giving UCLA a 2-1 victory and Bauer another complete-game triumph. It was the final regular-season game Bauer would pitch at Jackie Robinson Stadium and it should have been a moment to savor.
Instead of celebrating, however, Bauer screamed an obscenity at Rodriguez as he crossed the bag. The benches emptied and Bauer high-tailed it across the infield while Rodriguez was restrained by teammates. Several scouts witnessed the incident, which created the impression Bauer had made a crass comment at an inappropriate time.
During an interview with ThePostGame a few days later, Bauer acknowledged the mistake, vowed that he'd mature quickly in a pro setting and offered an explanation for the outburst. He and Rodriguez have feuded since they were high school teammates and had exchanged insults earlier in the game.
"I did not like Devon at all in high school," Bauer said. "Since I did things differently, he was unwilling to let me do them in peace. When I'd take groundballs at shortstop during batting practice to work on throwing, he'd said I wasn't a team guy because I wasn't in the outfield shagging balls. Nothing I did was OK."
Bauer's answer was to drill Rodriguez with a pitch during an intrasquad game at the end of his last year in high school. "I'm a very calculated person," Bauer says.
Fast forward three years. Rodriguez doubled against Bauer earlier in the game and chirped at him. Bauer said something back. Fair enough. Then came the last play, which only made Bauer appear petty and immature.
"We have a history and talking is part of the game," Rodriguez says. "I expected him to say something because that's the way he is. But he crossed the line."
Several scouts thought so too. Others say Bauer's positive attributes outweigh the loose lips. "Besides," a National League scout says, "if he's in our league, he'll have to step into the batter's box every few innings himself. He'll take a pitch in the ear hole and that'll shut him up quick."
At the College World Series last year TV cameras caught a mocking Bauer flashing a Horned Frogs sign after striking out a Texas Christian batter. Classless? Perhaps. But the lingering memory was of a determined Bauer registering 13 strikeouts in a complete-game victory on a day with a heat index of 107.
"He's become a better teammate," UCLA Coach John Savage says. "His communication skills, his teammate skills have gotten better. He's always had that competitiveness you'd love all players to have. He respects the game and he respects his opponents."
Bauer's seeming self-indulgence is rooted in a love of learning everything he can about his craft. He attended his first camp held by long-toss advocate Alan Jaeger at age 10 and swears by the practice of strengthening his arm by throwing often and at long distances. At 14, Bauer began spending summers at the Texas Baseball Ranch near Houston, which he describes as "a baseball think tank."
Other influences include Jim Wagner and Perry Husband, not exactly household names in the major league community but recognized experts in developing young pitchers. Bauer understands that the major league team drafting him will have coaches with their own philosophies.
"I've put research into what organizations do and what they teach," he says. "I'm not closed off to anything. I'm looking for a marriage of an organization and me. We can find middle ground. I'm constantly evolving. People make me out to be a guy who says it's my way or the highway, and it's not that way at all."
He'll still be able to play Hacky Sack with baseballs when he's bored. Whether he'll continue to be allowed to throw weighted softballs and flip tires in an effort to increase explosiveness remains to be seen.
As for the running start before his first warmup pitch each inning?
"I realize I might have to give that up in pro ball," he says. "I was taught that to develop velocity, I should go out and throw ball absolutely as hard as I can. That drill reinforces it, but I already know that now."
Bauer's speed transcends pitch velocity. Even scouts who question his idiosyncrasies acknowledge he'll ascend to the big leagues in a hurry. Along the way, baseball will bend for Trevor Bauer as long as he is willing to bend for baseball.
Steve Henson is a senior writer and editor for Yahoo! Sports. Email him at email@example.com.
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