It's one of the most difficult roles in baseball. Closers need a short memory, a lot of confidence, composure and nasty stuff. They must channel their adrenaline, turn it into a positive force and ultimately shut down the opponent. It's a unique role only suited to certain pitchers.
One of those special players is Drew Storen, currently closing games for the Syracuse Chiefs. Storen's been effective and impressive since signing with the Nationals last June. After seven appearances with the Harrisburg Senators, Storen was promoted to Triple-A on April 29th.
"Drew has developed mental toughness over the years. He was always really intense as a young player and really competitive. He never liked to lose. Still doesn't," said his mother Pam Storen.
Like many young ballplayers, Storen was athletic and competitive as a kid. He played football, baseball, basketball and soccer.
Growing up, his family had Colts season tickets and they'd take baseball trips in the summer to Boston, Seattle and Cincinnati. At just three years old, Drew started watching Cubs games and at four, he would only answer to the name "Big Frank" in honor of Frank Thomas of the White Sox. For a birthday present, a young Storen traveled to Seattle to watch Ken Griffey Jr. play.
It didn't take long for Storen to develop into an exciting young baseball player. At 13, he attended a Purdue baseball camp where his pitches were clocked at 77 mph. As a junior at the Area Code games, Storen met Jack McGeary when the two played in front of college and Major League scouts.
"I always thought he was a good player and figured it was a good way to get all or part of his college paid for," said Storen. "When so many colleges recruited him and ultimately the Yankess drafted him, it really opened my eyes. I think a lot of parents think their kids are better than they are. I'm afraid I was the opposite."
Instead of signing with the Yankees, Storen went straight to Stanford, a decision that he made on his own. And his parents were there for those big college moments that led to his selection by the Nationals in the First-Year Player Draft.
"It's a big highlight to see your son's face on the scoreboard when he comes in. And even better when he pitches well," Storen continued.
Pam's in the process of learning about baseball with the help of her son and her husband, sports broadcaster Mark Patrick.
"Drew didn't get any athletic ability from my side of the family," she jokes. "But I think I'm a good sounding board for Drew. I'm the 'did you pay your phone bill' and 'did you call your grandpa' kind of mom. Mark's the sports part of Drew. I'm the 'other' parts," she continued.
But the other parts are just as important. Ask writers, teammates or coaches about Storen's character and without fail, everyone responds in the same way. Storen is a polite, friendly, out-going, well-respected, talented pitcher. And it's his parents who helped to shape the person that he's become.
"I love that he's a great human being...compassionate and caring," she says. "[He] doesn't want to hurt anyone's feelings. I am so proud of him. He's turned out to be such a great person, not just a great baseball player. Mark and I look at each other and say 'how did we do that?'"
Storen taught Drew to treat people with respect, to avoid procrastination, to have good manners and to be considerate of others. But Drew has taught her things too.
"Drew is better at taking things in stride than I am," she continued. "He doesn't sweat the small stuff. I get all worked up on details and he just says 'mom, I've got it under control.' I could use a little more of that."
Sounds like just the right recipe for a great closer.