Jerry Fischer throws a mean hook and, last week, he caught one, too. In the middle finger of his pitching hand.
The hook he throws is a curveball, frighteningly familiar to MSA B Conference rivals of Fischer's Southern Bulldogs. The one he caught was a fish hook, intended to vanquish a bass, not a batter.
True to his name, Fischer, who no-hit Annapolis in Southern's first game of the season, loves to fish almost as much as he loves to pitch. "The curveball really helps me out if I get in trouble," he said. The other hook almost got him into trouble.
While pitching a four-hit, 6-3 win over Mervo on Tuesday (Mervo's runs were all unearned), the injured fingertip, aggravated by the seams on the ball, began to split open in the fifth inning. Fischer, a senior who has both wins for Southern (2-1) thus far, finished the game.
"He wants to go seven innings," said Bulldogs coach Bill Parker. "He doesn't want to come out of the game."
Those fish hooks, though, keep Fischer out of trouble, too. "I don't have to worry about him partying or carrying on," said Parker. "He's always out fishing."
Even his nickname, Bubba, evokes an image of a barefoot boy in a straw hat sitting on a river bank with a cane pole between his toes. But that's not how Bubba was dubbed.
It seems his mother's brothers all had kids the same year Fischer checked in last at nearly 10 pounds (he's 6 feet 3, 180 now). The brothers had all named their offspring after football players and Fischer's mother, who didn't want to call him "Jerry Jr.," started calling him "Bubba Smith." Around age 7 the "Smith" was dropped and he's been Bubba ever since to all but the nuns who taught him in elementary school.
A starting pitcher and cleanup hitter since he came to Southern in ninth grade, Fischer also plays second base. "He was our leading hitter in ninth and 10th grades," said Parker. "Last year his average dropped, but he had 25 RBIs for a 15-5 team."
But his baseball future is as a pitcher. An Evening Sun All-Metro honorable mention last year, this fall he pitched for a Maryland select team, based in Frederick, which played other all-star teams from surrounding states. "He had quite a bit of exposure to a number of scouts, whom he impressed," said Tom Gilbert, the coach of that team.
Gilbert caught Fischer's fastball on the radar gun at 87 mph. "One of the scouts told me he was up around 91 in a tournament the other day," said Gilbert, referring to the no-hitter. But Gilbert said that Fischer, who admits to short-arming the ball, needs work on his mechanics. "If Bubba ever gets his body behind his arm, he'll pick up some velocity.
"My feeling is someone should draft him," Gilbert said. "He's a winner. When he gets on the mound, he wants to come out of there on top. His attitude is great. He leads by example. Bubba is a good-natured kid. He keeps the camaraderie on a team.
"It would be hard for me to believe that there is a better pitcher around Baltimore than this kid."