The most dominant college athlete to visit Lawrence since Michael Beasley brings his stuff to town Friday night for the opener of a three-game series at Hoglund Ballpark. Chances are you won't recognize his name.
First, before hearing it, consider his numbers. The ace of the Missouri pitching staff, he is 10-0 and has 92 strikeouts in 76 innings. The most impressive number: Baseball America projects him to be the third overall pick in the June draft. The sexiest number: During the famed Cape Cod Summer League, he lit the radar gun at 98 mph.
His name is Aaron Crow, a junior right-hander out of Washburn Rural High in Topeka. To haunted Kansas University baseball coach Ritch Price, Crow is the 30-pound striped bass that nibbled at the bait but couldn't be hauled into the boat.
"Every program has a guy who comes back to haunt it," Price said. "He's ours."
"We would have been in an NCAA regional last year with him, and we would be in the NCAA Tournament this year with him," Price said.
A college baseball coach has to be a scout before he's a salesman. He has to decide which pitchers to pitch. Price made the right call on Crow in high school. He pitched him hard. Crow kept his bat on his shoulder and swung at Missouri's pitch instead.
"When he told me he was going to Missouri when we were recruiting him, it was like I got shot that night," Price said.
The coach had a very strong feeling that this was a young arm that would blossom into something really special. Price was right. That's what makes it hurt all the more.
Nothing Kansas - scheduled to play Oral Roberts today at The Hog if the skies betray forecasts of rain - can do about that now but try to become the first team to pin a loss on Crow this season. No simple challenge. Crow not only throws hard, he has terrific command of all of his pitches and appears to have a hint of a nasty streak, always a plus for a pitcher. He locates his pitches so well he has walked just 24 men, yet he has hit 11 batters.
At the very least, he's not afraid to come inside. He doesn't fear aluminum.
"If you're going to come inside in the college game, you have to come in real firm," Price said. "A flyball out with a wood bat can be a two-run home run."
Crow comes in firm, but the high hit-batsman totals aren't viewed as a negative by KU's hitters.
"I'll take a hit by pitch any day," KU shortstop Erik Morrison said. "He throws hard, so it will hurt a little more, but getting on base gives us an opportunity to push a run across home plate, and that's what it's all about."
Left fielder John Allman, co-Big 12 Player of the Week after last weekend's sweep of Oklahoma, looks forward to the challenge without a hint of awe.
"In the Big 12, every Friday night you're looking at the possibility of facing a first-round draft pick," Allman said.
Nobody offers quite as meaningful a measuring stick as Crow.
"It's a good chance for you to see where you are," second baseman Robby Price said. "It should be fun."
As long as it doesn't rain.