Erick Eigenhuis has pitched long enough, and before enough scrutinizing eyes, to concisely summarize what baseball means to him now.
“It’s still fun,” said the Central Valley senior, “but fun’s not the point anymore.”
The ultimate point is to put himself in position to play professional baseball.
Scouts from the Chicago White Sox, Montreal Expos, Kansas City Royals and Arizona Diamondbacks already have contacted Eigenhuis, a tall, lanky right-hander with command of three pitches.
College coaches, from as far away as Tulane in New Orleans, are ready to pounce if Eigenhuis isn’t selected in the upper rounds of this June’s amateur draft.
Tulane caught Eigenhuis’ act last November in Peoria, Ariz., when he played at the Doyle Falls Classic for a Washington state team that included Eric Sandberg of Ferris, Justin Williams of North Central, Grant Reeves and Sam Hess of Mead, and Jeremy Isherwood of West Valley.
This spring offers Eigenhuis the opportunity to further impress scouts and colleges.
“I just want to do my best and help take the team as far as I can,” said Eigenhuis, who posted a 1.71 earned-run average last year and struck out 44 in 49 innings.
Last year, Eigenhuis put CV in position to qualify for the State AAA semifinals. He shut out Kennewick 3-0 at the Region IV tournament, then watched the Bears fall to Richland 3-2 in the winner-to-state game.
“The last two innings Erick was overpowering,” said Bears coach Ed Garcia. “He’s capable of striking out 10 or 11 per game, but he’s never been that kind of pitcher.”
“I just remember that it didn’t feel like I was the one shutting (Kennewick) out,” Eigenhuis said. “We had great fielders, and they’re the ones who held them.”
CV’s challenge this spring is to successfully replace a strong defense up the middle. With Nate Bartlett also back in the starting rotation and first-team all-leaguer Raif Jochim taking a shot at another .400 batting average, the Bears should remain near the top.
Eigenhuis also played the outfield last year, but Garcia appears resolved to protecting his ace from making long, awkward throws. Eigenhuis will fill in as designated hitter.
“He’s a good hitter, and I want to get his bat in the lineup,” Garcia said. “I think we’re already solid at first base.”
Garcia first brought Eigenhuis up to varsity because of his hitting. But he had admired his pitching style as a ninth-grader, one year earlier.
Eigenhuis throws a fastball, curveball and change-up. His change-up has evolved from a circle change to a palm ball to something resembling a split-finger.
“I told him it would make him a better pitcher if he threw a change-up,” Garcia said. “A lot of kids just don’t want to throw a change-up in high school.”
Eigenhuis’ offerings are consistently in the high 80- and low 90-mph range, as measured recently by a radar gun. Eigenhuis said he worries about control, but Garcia claims his senior hurler keeps fastballs consistently around the batters’ knees.
A White Sox scout adjusted Eigenhuis’ delivery to stop him from falling toward first base. More pointers come from Garcia, a former pitcher, and family friend/personal coach Joe Lewis.
Eigenhuis’ size, 6-foot-4 and 165 pounds, apparently is not a major concern. Garcia labeled his ace “wiry but strong.”
“I can eat whatever I want and I don’t gain any weight,” Eigenhuis said.
Fly fishing is another Eigenhuis obsession.
“He’s a pretty low-key kid,” Garcia said, “but this year he seems jacked.”
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