Imagine this.

You're a high school sophomore on the baseball team and you've just been
told you're going to make the first start of your career.

It's a Friday, and the coach has decided to give you the ball in just the third game of the season.

You're a lefty at South Dade High, a large public school in Homestead,
Florida. And you didn't pitch an inning of varsity baseball the year before.

You didn't think you'd start this year. Maybe an inning or two out of the bullpen. But not this.

Still, you take the ball and you head out to the mound. You don't look back. Because there's someone you need to honor. Someone very important.

***

After finding out he would take the mound for the first time, Adam Roush spent the weekend with his grandmother, Joan McKenna, who had suffered a stroke and been hospitalized for two weeks.

"It was quiet," he says. "Kind of weird. I think my parents knew she was going to go, but they didn't want to tell us."

Adam's grandmother, with the help of ventilators and tubes, made it through the weekend.

Then Tuesday came. The big day.

South Dade would take on Ferguson, and Roush, the sophomore southpaw, would take the hill.

After classes let out, Roush went to get something to eat.

Then his dad, Ron, called and asked him to come back to school.

When Adam got there, he was told.

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Your grandmother has passed away.

"He was devastated," his father recalls. "He just collapsed in my arms. He was bawling his eyes out. I just remember how distraught and upset he was."

After processing the awful news, Adam went home. He wanted to make sure his mom was OK.

He also had a decision to make.

A decision, he said, that was pretty easy.

"My dad asked me if I wanted to pitch," Roush says. "And I knew my grandmother would want me to pitch. My mind was set. It was my decision."

***

Adam Roush pitched five shutout innings.

He struck out eight batters.

And he only gave up one hit.

This to a Ferguson team that had scored 19 runs in its previous two games.

"I was in awe of the whole thing," says Ron. "I have no idea how stayed so calm, but when he got on the mound, he had it. I'm a nervous wreck watching him pitch under any circumstance. But he just put it out if his mind. It's still hard to believe."

Adam's mother, Maureen, was even more overwhelmed.

"I was so proud of him and impressed he could stay so focused," she says. "With all that was going on, we had something that was encouraging. I knew my mother would be proud of him. She was a big fan."

Roush says he had his grandmother in his thoughts the entire game.

He also thought about his team and his coach. So much so that he did not tell anyone on his team about the death because he "did not want them to worry about me."

Coach Fred Burnside thought Roush looked "kind of quiet," before the game, but he just figured it was nerves.

It was only after the game that he found out about Adam's grandmother, when his wife mentioned to him walking out to the parking lot after the victory.

"I was amazed," Burnside says. "But he is that kind of kid. He turned in a gem."

Burnside describes his young hurler as a "crafty lefty," who reminds him of one of his former guys in high school (and a former pitcher at the University of Miami) named Danny Smith.

Smith was named the MVP of the 1982 College World Series, the first for the Miami Hurricanes.

Of course, when Roush was told of the comparison, identifying Smith only came with the help of a computer and a web search.

The next day, he could recite from memory everything about Smith.

***

Roush was named 2nd team All-Dade County in 2011. He went 8-0 with a 1.24 ERA and 42 strikeouts in 45 innings.

"I wasn't surprised by the year he had, but at the same time I wasn't expecting that from a first-time starter," says Burnside. "But he is an unbelievable competitor with great command and if he puts on some weight, he will get a lot of looks from schools."

And just like Adam didn’t want his coach or teammates to worry about him the night of his first start, it's pretty clear now that when Roush is on the hill, only the opposing team will need to be concerned. His coach and teammates certainly will not.

It's a trait Adam can thank his grandmother for.

"My grandma never wanted people to go out of their way to help her," he says. "She didn't want people to worry about her."

Josh Darrow is editor-in-chief of SouthFloridaHighSchoolSports.com "Like" his site at Facebook.com/SFHSSports.

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