Mitchell High's Schuster gets special meeting with Kazmir
For Mitchell senior lefthander Patrick Schuster, the past month has been a whirlwind, from throwing four straight no-hitters to signing hundreds of autographs and doing all the national interviews.
But count Sunday afternoon's trip to Tropicana Field as one of his favorite moments.
Schuster, 18, who threw out the ceremonial first pitch before Sunday's game against the Red Sox, got to meet his baseball idol, Rays lefthander Scott Kazmir, during pre-game warmups. The two played catch in the outfield, with Schuster impressing Kazmir with his maturity - and "nasty" movement on his pitches. Kazmir showed him some grips, and joked Schuster "gave me a few tips," too.
Schuster said he was "running on fumes," after being out until 3 a.m. the night before due to his high school prom, but was more than happy to make the hour drive to take the whole experience in, saying "This is definitely the way to end the streak."
"This is way better than the four no-hitters," Schuster's mother, Sharon said, smiling.
Schuster ended up signing autographs alongside Kazmir by the Rays bullpen. The two had a long chat in the outfield about the decisions facing Schuster, whether to go pro or pitch for the University of Florida. Kazmir, who threw four straight no-hitters in high school, skipped college and is a two-time All Star.
Kazmir said it was "special," because he's been in Schuster's shoes and "knows exactly what he's going through. Kazmir said Schuster faces a tough decision, and just told him to be "100 percent" "don't have any regrets' and "take your time."
“The first thing I asked him was, ‘Did you regret not going to college?’ He said in some ways yes, in some ways no,” Schuster said of Kazmir, the 15th overall pick in the 2002 draft out of high school.
Said Kazmir: “It’s fun for him, and I’m glad it is. I made sure that he’s still having fun with all this, and (gave him) just a couple of tips, advice on how to go through this and have fun and not really get overwhelmed.”
Schuster also got to meet David Wells, who threw a perfect game for the Yankees a decade ago and is broadcasting today's game for TBS. Wells introduced himself to Schuster and asked him to sign four baseballs for him.
“It was pretty cool,” said Schuster.
As for the first pitch, Schuster didn't disappoint, throwing a strike to Rays right-hander Jeff Niemann.
"He's got nasty movement," Kazmir said. "He's definitely not an over-the-top kind of guy. He's more of a three-quarter, if not a sidearmer. He definitely has a lot of movement on his fastball and breaking ball pitches.
"The sky is the limit. It all depends on how hard he works."
- JOE SMITH