Former Abbotsford Cardinals outfielder Jared Mortensen was named an NAIA first team All-American pitcher last week.
On Friday, he was throwing a simulated game for a Chicago White Sox scout.
Pitching for the Louisiana State University Shreveport (LSUS) Pilots, Mortensen compiled an impressive record of 12 wins and two losses, with a miniscule ERA of 1.67.
His secondary stats backed up the impressive record: In 113 and one-third innings he struck out 139 batters, while allowing only 78 hits and 24 walks.
The righthander from Abbotsford was the only Canadian on the list of 32 players on the NAIA first and second all-star teams.
The scout fell in love with Mortensen’s stuff.
He throws a hard fastball at 91 mph, toys with hitters by mixing in a curveball that dawdles at about 75 mph, and then puts them away with a hard cut-fastball that goes about 87 mph, breaking away from the barrel of a right hander’s bat, or in on the hands of a lefty.
That he has long been on the radar of Major League Baseball teams is a head scratcher, but it is his transition to pitching that has got him there.
The Mouat grad was a standout ball player, good enough to advance from the Premier Baseball League to patrol the outfield for the Prairie Baseball Academy in Lethbridge, Alberta.
One day a curious coach put the radar gun on his throws from the outfield, and they decided to try the hard thrower on the mound – quality pitchers are always in short supply.
He worked out of the bullpen for two seasons, learning to control his fastball and throw a curve. Once he mastered the cutter, a tricky pitch to control, he started sitting down more batters.
He caught the eye of the Shreveport coaching staff, and moved to LSUS last year. After a month of bullpen work, they made him a starter, and he loves the role.
“You set the pace of the game,” he said. “And your team needs you to hold the other team down.”
His first year he went 9-2, and struck out almost 10 batters for every nine innings pitched.
This year he was the dominant pitcher on a team that perched atop the NAIA with a record of 54-6, and finished third in the NAIA World Series.
He’s a late bloomer, and scouts also like that Mortensen’s arm has received little wear and tear.
Now he is hoping to catch on with a major league team, get into their minor league system, and keep developing.
“I need to get my velocity up a bit,” he said. “I need to get my foot in the door.”
He may go back to Lethbridge for summer ball. The coach there is a Seattle Mariners scout who could help him get a free agent contract.
Going to Louisiana is one of the best things that ever happened to Mortensen. He admits he is even picking up a bit of a southern drawl.
“I love it here – I met my fiance here,” he says.
The date is set for October 2013 – Mortensen is no longer playing the field.