Whether it's Miami or the pros, numbers are on big Bair's side

April 22, 1995|By Lem Satterfield | Lem Satterfield,Sun Staff Writer

When college recruiters cited a low Scholastic Assessment Test score in showing declining interest in Calvert Hall's Andy Bair, the ace pitcher worked harder on his numbers than on any pitch he'd ever thrown.

Improve he did -- nearly 240 points, he said -- for a 920 score.

Bair, who has a 2.9 grade-point average, last week signed for a full baseball scholarship at the University of Miami. He said it will take "a very lucrative offer" to convince him to forgo college baseball for a professional contract.

Still, that hasn't stopped nearly a dozen pro scouts from calling the night before each Calvert Hall game.

"It gets so hectic that we don't even answer the phone after 9:30," said Wayne Bair, whose son was All-Metro Player of the Year in 1994, going 11-0 with 123 strikeouts in 66 2/3 innings and recording a 0.82 earned-run average. Bair also hit .375 with four home runs and 17 RBIs.

Bair, a resident of Manchester in Carroll County, is a 6-foot-6, 235-pound left-hander who has never tasted defeat in high school. He is 28-0 at Calvert Hall, including an 8-0 JV record.

"I've been around for a while, and I can't remember a left-hander coming out of here [Maryland] with his overall skills," said Jim Gilbert, Bair's fall coach with the Oriolelanders and the Baltimore Orioles' mid-Atlantic scouting supervisor.

Bair will draw more attention as the June amateur draft draws closer.

"When he's pitching, there's like six or seven scouts at our games," said teammate John McKay, a right-hander.

"All the notoriety makes the entire team play better. We all want to get a good look from the scouts."

Bair's best outing last year was a perfect game, a 3-0 decision over McDonogh in which he threw only 84 pitches and was in on 18 of the 21 outs -- including 14 strikeouts. It was the first perfect game in Calvert Hall history.

He continued to impress as a member of the East Region 17-18 team in early July. The only pitcher to go the full nine innings, Bair beat the North Team, 10-0, striking out eight, walking three and batting 2-for-3, with two RBIs. The performance earned him a spot on the 18-member U.S. Junior National Team.

Bair entered this season with a fastball, clocked recently at 90 mph on the JUGS gun, a knuckler and a curve "he's getting a very nice rotation on," said Gilbert.

"All he's got to work on is his straight change," said Gilbert.

"Andy and I have talked. I think he'd prefer to sign professionally. He'd go pretty high."

Gilman coach Marty Melloy, Bair's Putty Hill club team coach the last two summers, was more specific.

"To say that Andy can go in the top three rounds would not be outlandish," said Melloy. "He's got a tremendous amount of poise and knowledge. He could be the core of any minor league or college team."

But Bair, 18, said: "It would take a very lucrative offer for me to consider putting [my education] on the back burner." It would have to be more attractive, he said, than the one taken by McDonogh's two-time All-Metro Kenny Cloude in August 1993.

Cloude, a 6-1, 175-pound right-hander, was selected by the Seattle Mariners in the sixth round. He turned down a projected starting role at the University of Richmond for an $80,000 signing bonus, $32,000 toward a guaranteed education and an incentive bonus worth $7,500.

Brian Matz, another two-time All-Metro selection, was a Calvert Hall senior when Bair was a sophomore. He's familiar with the decision facing Bair. Matz chose to sign with Clemson rather than take his chances in the draft, and he is 1-0 for the Tigers, who are ranked No. 3 nationally.

"Academics are demanding, but if you work hard, and with tutors, you get by," Matz said.

"But if I had the chance to make $150,000, or go in the top three tTC rounds, I'd say I'd be very foolish to turn that down."

Should he opt for Miami, Bair will join a program that won NCAA titles in 1982 and 1985. Last year, the Hurricanes tied Arizona State for the most players (nine) selected in the draft.

"Andy's a big left-hander, which is rare in itself. And where some live arms are all over the place, he not only throws hard, he throws strikes," said Calvert Hall coach Joe Binder, whose Cardinals (17-0) are ranked No. 1 in the area and No. 12 in USA Today.

"With his size, coordination and ability to focus under pressure, he's in a class by himself."

Before heading for a tournament Wednesday in Ohio, Bair was 6-0 with 58 strikeouts in 31 2/3 innings, 10 walks, a 0.22 ERA and 11 hits allowed.

Splitting time at first base, he has played errorless ball and is hitting .459 with 16 RBIs, including four home runs, two triples and a double.

In a 3-0 win over McDonogh, Bair had the flu but still managed to face just two batters over the minimum, allowing one hit and striking out 12.

Still, there are jokes about Bair's weight -- he has gained 15 pounds since last season -- which serve as motivation.

Incensed by a scout who questioned his girth, Bair stole a base for good measure.

"Let 'em make fun of my weight. The next fastball's not gonna be 83 [mph]; it'll be 89, and I'll sit 'em down," Bair said. "People who've watched me play, know the competitor I am."

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