The Times West Virginian

Bob Herzel

April 4, 2014

HERTZEL COLUMN: Musgrave throws life a change-up

MORGANTOWN — West Virginia University’s Harrison Musgrave is different.

Not that he had a choice. He’s left-handed and a pitcher.

Say no more.

You can go back as far as you want in time.

Rube Waddell was a left-handed pitcher as the 1800s became the 1900s. He was known for his strikeout pitch and for leaving the dugout during games to follow passing fire trucks to fires. During one off-season he was an alligator wrestler, which was not why he was left-handed. And there were times when fans of opposing teams would hold up shiny objects or puppies and he’d go into a trance on the mound.

Babe Ruth once was a left-handed pitcher, and there wasn’t very much orthodox about him.

Then there was Lefty Gomez, a Hall of Fame pitcher who always had an interesting outlook on life.

“I’ve got a new invention,” he once said. “It’s a revolving bowl for tired goldfish.”

Or:

“I was the worst hitter ever. I never even broke a bat until last year when I was backing out of the garage.”

Musgrave, who is West Virginia’s leading pitcher and opens a three-game series at TCU tonight, comes from the same mold.

Maybe it’s just that he’s honest, but the things he says and does don’t seem to jive with what most people are thinking.

Take last year, after he finished a magnificent season for WVU, going 9-1 with 2.17 ERA, there was talk of him being drafted in the Major League Baseball draft.

A dream come true, right?

Chance of a lifetime, right?

So what did Musgrave, the kid from Bridgeport playing ball just up the road, do?

He wrote all the clubs and told them that his intentions were to return to WVU the next year and that they could draft if they wanted, but he planned on going to school.

What in the name of Wilmer “Vinegar Bend” Mizell, another left-hander, was going on?

“I felt like I needed to get another year under my belt after having had Tommy John surgery and to get closer to graduating. I was quite a few credits away from graduating, and I wasn’t sure if I’d come back to school to finish it,” Musgrave explained in not-so-zany terms.

Truth was, it made all kinds of sense ... except for that part about having recovered from Tommy John surgery. Why would he risk another year of pitching college ball with a surgically repaired arm? If fate had him reinjuring it, would it not be better to do it while earning money and chasing the dream?

“I can see that,” he said. “It’s one of those things, when you have the surgery you kind of have to trust it to work. If it happens again, you’re destined for it not to be. I trust the surgery. It did its job, so I’m not too concerned.”

Besides, he noted, there’s a 5-year-old son in his life, and that entered into the equation.

“It did,” he said. “He’s at an age where he’s doing a lot of things. Being able to see him as much as possible was definitely a plus. It will be hard when the time comes for me to spend the summers away from him.”

OK, but there is that million-dollar pot of gold at the end of the baseball rainbow and the dream every kid has of playing major league baseball.

Musgrave admits he’s had the dream, but it just isn’t as strong as it is with other kids.

“A baseball career is not the most important thing. It would be cool to get paid and play baseball, but there’s more to life than baseball, and I understand that,” he said. “It’s definitely something I’d like to do, but it’s not life or death or anything like that. It would be a good opportunity or a dream come true, but it’s not the end of the world if I had to get a normal regular-person job like everyone else in the country.”

Egads, the guy’s as flaky as every one of those left-handers.

Or is it just that he’s exactly what he is ... a laid-back dude who dances to the music he hears in his head?

Pitching is just part of him, something he is very, very good at, having followed that big year last season with one equally as big this year, starting 3-1 with a 2.06 ERA ... and almost always facing the ace of the opponent’s staff.

He can pitch. There’s no doubt about it.

But why can he pitch?

Fair question, but don’t ask him.

“I don’t know, to be honest with you,” he answers. “When I watch myself throw, I kind of wonder how I get anybody out. Maybe something is a little bit better than I give myself credit for. I just couldn’t tell you.”

There must be something, though.

“The only thing I pride myself on is I don’t let anything affect me when I pitch, but why I’m successful, I have no idea,” he said.

The thing that he does know is that he throws between 91 and 95 miles an hour, but that when it comes time to get the hitter out, like so many other left-handers, it’s the changeup he relies on.

“I realized after 2 1/2 years that college hitters can hit any fastball, no matter how hard you throw. So if you throw something that will keep them off you it seems to work,” he explained.

Of course, none of this would have happened had he not had the Tommy John surgery after detaching a tendon after winning four games as a freshman in 2011.

And, a couple of weeks ago, there was a reminder of the surgery when Dr. Frank Jobe, who had invented it in the 1970s, died.

“He’s a guy who gave what, tens of thousands of people’s dreams back to them,” Musgrave said of Jobe. “What he did for everyone is tremendous. Without him and Tommy John himself, I would be done playing baseball.”

Follow Bob Hertzel on Twitter @bhertzel.

1
Text Only
Bob Herzel
  • HERTZEL COLUMN: Big 12 provides plenty of optimism

    This past week the Big 12 held its annual media gathering in Dallas and served up a heaping portion of optimism for the 2014 season that is now upon us, West Virginia University opening its preseason practices on Thursday.
    This is a time of year when no one has lost a game, not even Charlie Weis at Kansas, and it’s a time of year when opinions are more plentiful than tattoos in an NFL locker room.

    July 27, 2014

  • HERTZEL COLUMN: WVU needs White to follow in former receivers’ footsteps

    A year ago Clint Trickett took a lot of grief as the once potent West Virginia offense came unraveled, but there is more that than meets the eye.
    The criticism was not unfounded, of course, although behind each incomplete pass there was the pain Trickett was suffering through to throw it, his rotator cuff in need of surgery.

    July 26, 2014

  • HERTZEL COLUMN: O’Toole joins long list of eccentric WVU kickers, punters

    The star of the Big 12’s annual football media day wasn’t a star at all.
    He intrigued the media far more than Bob Stoops, the coach of preseason favorite Oklahoma, and more than Baylor quarterback Bryce Petty, the preseason player of the year.

    July 25, 2014

  • WVU, N.C. State to meet in football

    Following a trend of creating non-conference games against regional opponents, West Virginia University has reached agreement with North Carolina State to play a home-and-home football series in 2018 and 2019.
    The Mountaineers are scheduled to play N.C. State in Raleigh on Sept. 15, 2018, and then play host to the Wolfpack on Sept. 14, 2019.

    July 24, 2014

  • HERTZEL COLUMN: ‘Cheating pays’ remark should draw attention

    When Bob Bowlsby, the outspoken commissioner of the Big 12, presented his opening-day picture of the future of college sports in Dallas for the annual media day gathering, his bleak comments were not unexpected.

    July 24, 2014

  • Holgorsen’s program hits turning point

    You can almost sense, as you watch West Virginia University football coach Dana Holgorsen sit before the gathered Big 12 media contingent answering questions in the Omni Hotel in Arlington, Texas, that he senses his program has reached a turning point.

    July 23, 2014

  • Big 12 Media Days Foo_time(1).jpg Trickett’s play key factor for Mountaineers’ success

     In the end, it comes down to the quarterback.
    Always has with Dana Holgorsen, always will.
    Quarterback is the offense with the West Virginia University coach. When he does well, the team wins – almost always.
    When he does poorly, the team doesn’t stand much of a chance.

    July 23, 2014 1 Photo

  • Saban, family happy at Alabama

    Alabama football coach Nick Saban, whose team opens the season against West Virginia in Atlanta on Aug. 30, denied receiving or turning down this offseason an offer of $100 million to coach Texas, indicating he planned to finish his career as coach of the Crimson Tide.

    July 18, 2014

  • HERTZEL COLUMN: ‘Quarterback child prodigy’ comes to WVU amidst very high expectations

    Has West Virginia football coach Dana Holgorsen finally put the arrow he needs in his quiver with the commitment received Wednesday from high school quarterback David Sills, who is a rather extraordinary story and may also just be a rather extraordinary quarterback?

    July 18, 2014

  • WVU kicker Molinari ‘All-American boy’

    West Virginia kicker Mike Molinari may not be an All-American but he is an All-American boy.
    He was honored for that on Wednesday when the Allstate Insurance Company and the American Football Coaches Association announced the West Virginia redshirt senior kicker/punter Michael Molinari is a nominee for the Allstate AFCA Good Works Team.

    July 16, 2014

House Ads
Featured Ads