During his conference call with reporters after becoming the fourth-overall pick in the 2012 First-Year Player Draft, Kevin Gausman invoked the name of another former LSU pitcher selected by the Orioles in the first round.
Ben McDonald was the first overall pick in 1989 and spent seven seasons with the Orioles. He’s been watching Gausman closely while serving as an analyst on LSU broadcasts, dissecting both the kid’s delivery and his character. He’s invited Gausman to his Baton Rouge home. And he apparently did a nice job of selling Gausman on the city of Baltimore and the organization.
“I’ve met him and he has great things to say about (the Orioles),” Gausman said on the night of the draft. “And all I keep hearing about is the crabs. I’m excited to try the crabs.”
McDonald told me yesterday that fans here should be excited about Gausman.
“I like Gausman’s makeup,” said McDonald, who flew into Baltimore yesterday and is joining Joe Angel on WBAL Radio for the first two games of the Indians series. “He’s as fierce a competitor as you’ll see in college baseball on the mound. He goes after every guy. He’s very aggressive in the strike zone. He’s always been able to pound the strike zone the last couple years with his fastball and his changeup, but I think the big difference has been his breaking ball. He used to throw more of a curve-type ball last year and it wasn’t that consistent for him. He went to more of a slider this year and it’s been a much sharper and more controllable pitch that he actually can use in a lot of different situations. That’s the big difference in Gausman. But he’s a kid who’s only pitched two years of college ball. He was a draftable sophomore, as everybody knows, and I think he’s only going to get better. He’s 21 years old and he’s got the big, live arm.
“What I really like about him is he can make that ball move. He’s got some nice movement on his fastball. He’s got some nice sink to it. I personally witnessed 97, 98 mph out of him. He doesn’t sit there, he doesn’t stay there, but he will average 94 on the radar gun all game long with a lot of sink and movement. His four-seamer’s going to be up to the mid-to-upper 90s, and that two-seamer may be 92, 93, but it’s got a lot of movement to it. He’s got a plus-changeup, a plus-fastball. And I think there’s a lot of room to grow and a lot of potential there. I think it’s going to be a good move for the Orioles. I really do.”
They Orioles have to sign him first, of course, and that’s certainly expected to happen. The two sides are involved in negotiations, and I haven’t heard of any concerns about talks hitting a snag and Gausman slipping through their fingers.
Gausman described himself as being “a little weird,” with a fondness for science fiction movies and a superstition that made him scarf mini powdered donuts between innings.
“He’s definitely a character,” McDonald said. “He’s a fun guy. He’s one of these guys that likes to have a good time. He’s a character, but when it’s game day and it’s time for him to get on the bump, he’s as serious as anybody. And he loves to compete. You can see it. I’ve seen him scream and hollar at the other team when he punches somebody out. He’s into it. He enjoys what he’s doing.”
So what did McDonald tell Gausman about the Orioles and the city where he’ll make a living?
“I told him this is where I grew up,” McDonald said. “Like him, I was 21 years old and I said these fans here are as good as anybody. They were good to me. There were ups and downs like there is in any relationship with players and fans, but I said overall I never really felt like I left home. I said these people will embrace you here. I said you work hard and do what you’re capable of doing and go out there and bust your butt every day, and these fans will fall in love with you.
“I said this place, while it hasn’t showed up the last few years or so, it can get 46,000 people in here and it can be a fun, exciting place. And I just told him I think he’s going to a situation where it’s over that rebuilding hump and there are some players in there now and they can make a difference. And I think the future’s very bright for him and the Orioles, the direction they’re headed. The unfortuante thing, and I told him this, is the AL East is an absolute monster. And he knows that. You’ve got to be really good over here to make the playoffs. But I think he’s excited about it and he’s ready to move on and start his professional career.”
McDonald couldn’t leave out the steamed crabs.
“He comes from Colorado, but he’s been living down in Lousiana for a couple years, so he’s been eating crabs and the crawfish and the shrimp,” McDonald said. “Of course, I grew up on that stuff and I told him about how they steam the crabs here and the Old Bay seasoning. And I said, ‘Man, if you fell in love with the seafood in Louisiana, it’s just as good here.’ He was excited about that.”
All that’s left is to get Gausman’s signature on a contract. Hand him a pen and a mallet.