Jamie Arnold – FSU Commit That Defied All Odds
Author: Joey Johnston – The progress of Baseball University left-handed pitcher Jamie Arnold mirrors the speed of his fastball. It’s rapid. It’s surprising. It’s overpowering.
Arnold, a Class of 2022 prospect, committed to Florida State University as his sophomore year began at Jesuit High School. Last summer, he was topping out at 87 mph, causing a flurry of interest and establishing Arnold as one of the state’s top up-and-coming young pitchers.
Arnold said the early commitment has been “a relief’’ because it has alleviated the pressure of recruiting.
On the other hand, he’s downplaying his quick rise.
“Honestly, I try to forget it happened, so I don’t slack off,’’ said Arnold, 15. “I continue to work just as hard, like I haven’t (committed to a college). I just try to be a regular high-schooler. There’s plenty out there for me to accomplish, plenty I still need to work on.’’
At Jesuit, that shouldn’t be a problem.
The Tigers are defending state champions with the bulk of their pitching staff returning. Last season, Arnold was on the freshman team and he probably will begin on the junior varsity, although varsity action is expected as well.
“We all support each other,’’ said Arnold, a 6-foot-1, 162-pounder. “There’s a tremendous amount of talent in our program. There’s always someone better than you.’’
But there are few players who have come as far — as fast — as Arnold.
While primarily playing for the Tampa Tribe travel-ball organization beginning at age 8, Arnold was mostly a center fielder. He had a strong arm, but his control was shaky, so the mound never seemed like a destination.
At age 14, Arnold suffered a big setback during the summer before his freshmen year at Jesuit. He fractured his back while playing basketball and had five months of inactivity. When Arnold returned, he began pitching more frequently. His arm was fresh and lively. And the upward progression began.
“It was definitely a different scenario than I’ve seen with almost any other pitcher,’’ said Addison Maruszak, BU’s director of operations. “In the beginning, I remember him sitting at 76 (mph), topping out at 78. The arm was clean. The action was there, but the strength wasn’t yet.
“He did some mechanical adjustments with Anthony Telford, pitching coordinator of the Baseball University program, then he started to climb velo mountain. It went super well. I remember talking to his dad and telling him that if Jamie could hit 85 by the summer, he would get some offers.’’
By mid-to-late-summer, Arnold was topping out at 87.
Arnold’s father, Jim, said his son has benefitted from the overall lack of pitching activity. The best days are ahead.
“Jamie always had a good arm from the outfield,’’ Arnold’s father said. “But he never had the mileage on his arm like the typical Florida pitcher. So he didn’t have to work through the normal wear and tear.’’
The interest in Arnold peaked last summer during a showcase in Gainesville. He faced five batters, striking out four, while hitting 85 mph. He was soon talking to the likes of FSU, Florida, Miami, Vanderbilt and Duke.
“All the top schools in the Southeast were involved, just like that,’’ Arnold’s father said.
“It was kind of crazy, very surprising, and I wasn’t sure if I wanted to commit right away,’’ Arnold said. “But then it became pretty clear in my mind what I wanted to do.’’
It was FSU.
There was another school heavily in the picture. That school wanted to see Arnold pitch in one more tournament game. FSU coaches happened to be there, too.
Arnold pitched four perfect innings, but his velocity dipped to 82 mph.
“When Jamie spoke to that other school, they were asking about his lower velocity, like it was a negative,’’ Arnold’s father said.
“Then he had the same conversation with FSU coaches. They asked, ‘How do you think you did?’ Jamie said, ‘Well, my velocity was down. Jimmy Bellinger, the FSU pitching coach, told Jamie, ‘I don’t care about that. You pitched a perfect game. That shows me than even when you’re at about 75 percent, you’re still throwing strikes, still getting people out and you know how to pitch.’ So the FSU coaches just build a very nice rapport.’’
Or as Arnold put it: “They talked with me more like friends than coaches. We hit it off and I felt very comfortable with everything about FSU. I always liked the school anyway. So I decided to commit.’’
Arnold said he will love the opportunity to compete for the Seminoles.
But that’s down the line. Meantime, he can’t wait to play for Jesuit and enjoy another productive summer with BU.
“I like the philosophy of BU, how it’s more about development than winning games or getting seen,’’ Arnold said. “If you do your best and follow the plan, things will work out fine for you. People see the games, but development is about what you’re doing behind the scenes and what you’re doing to improve.”
“I feel like I’ve come a long way. But I think there’s a long way for me to go, too. Day by day, I’m trying to become the best pitcher I can be.’’
Jesuit coach Miguel Menendez echoed that sentiment.
“I think Jamie’s development has skyrocketed, but I’d be lying if I told I thought the velocity would come as quick as it has,’’ Menendez said. “I saw him at the beginning of the summer, then at the end of the summer and I was like, ‘Holy Cow! I can’t believe it’s the same guy.’ He throws it nice and easy. He’s a great athlete, a great body type, so I think there’s more to come.
“I think working with BU has been huge for him. There are a lot of quality travel programs and individual coaches, but BU separates itself with an attention to detail and the work on development, not so much a focus on winning. Fact is, when you develop properly, winning takes care of itself. I don’t ever push our guys anywhere, but if they ask me, BU is absolutely one of the first places I’ll mention. Their program has really helped a lot of kids.’’
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