April 15, 2014
FULLERTON, Calif. — RHP Thomas Eshelman of Cal. St. Fullerton is without question the greatest control pitcher in college baseball history.
His numbers last season as a freshman for the Titans were ridiculous as he only walked 3 batters in 115 2/3 innings and posted a 12-3 record, 1.48 ERA and struck out 83 batters in being named a first team Louisville Slugger All-American.
At 0.23 walks per nine innings, it was the single greatest season of control by a pitcher in NCAA Division I history.
Eshelman was so accurate last season that he didn’t issue his first walk of the season until April 12 — a streak of 63 1/3 innings.
So far in 2014, he has only walked one batter in 56 innings. He has posted a 5-0 record, 1.29 ERA and fanned 41 batters.
When you add it up, Eshelman has walked only 4 batters in 171 2/3 innings in a season and a half of college pitching.
The burning question from every pitcher and pitching coach in the nation is how does he do it?. Every pitcher attempts to throw with command, but only those rare pitchers have what it takes.
“Since I was a young boy, control has been preached to me as being important as a pitcher,” said Eshelman.
“Commanding every pitch I have on both sides of the plate is vital to success. And I have been fortunate to have control after working toward this goal for many years.
“So I learned the concept and importance of being a strike thrower at an early age, and I ran with it. But at times, it is a double-edged sword when hitters are aggressive knowing that you are a strike thrower.
“There have been a number of times when a batter swings at an 0-0 fastball from me. Sometimes it hurts me but most of the time having command is extremely helpful.
“You usually have quick innings and fewer pitches thrown that way.”
Eshelman said that Titan Pitching Coach Jason Dietrich emphasizes to pitchers in his program to throw more pitches in the middle of the strike zone early in games.
“Then as games go on, we expand the zone to see what home plate umpires allow as far as working the black parts of the plate.”
Catches Cape Pitchers At 12
Eshlman started playing baseball at a young age, and his brother Sam taught him his first lessons on pitching.
“I started playing baseball around the age of 3-4. My dad (Dave) and brother (Sam) were big basketball fans. My brother played basketball through high school, and my dad played basketball in junior college. So growing up, it was basketball, basketball, basketball.
“While I liked basketball, it wasn’t my passion like baseball was. Sam realized this and helped me out quite a bit. When I was 10-13 years of age, Sam taught me how to break down hitters.
“When I was 13, it seemed like all the other pitchers were just throwing while I was looking to set up hitters and really pitch. Sam has been a big factor in my pitching career.
“Ultimately, I played baseball year round since I live in southern California where the weather is great. I then was on some terrific summer teams which allowed me to play against high level teams in national tournaments.
“My brother’s alma mater was Arizona State. So he had me watch pitchers like Mike Leake and study how they got batters out. I also grew up watching pitchers such as Jake Peavy of the Padres and Greg Maddux of the Braves later in his career. I watched closely how each of them set up hitters and the way they went about their business which was extremely helpful.
“Sam not only was instrumental in my success as a pitcher, but he continues to help me today.”
Sam is eight years older than Thomas and is currently the varsity basketball coach at Sage Creek High School in Carlsbad, Calif. which is north of San Diego.
“Sam worked for a radio station that covered ASU baseball when he went to college. He also got a job in the Cape Cod League for the Wareham Gatemen. He was with guys such as Wade Miley, Ike Davis and a bunch of other great players from LSU and other top-notch college programs.
“I was lucky enough to go out there with Sam and sit in the bullpen and watch how these pitchers threw and prepared for outings. At the time, I was only 12 years old and was catching these pitchers. It was fun to see what they did and also what they talked about in the bullpen.”
While this may be shocking to many that a 12-year-old was catching high profile college pitchers in the Cape Cod League, it really was not a problem for Thomas.
“I told them all to throw whatever they wanted, because I’ll catch it. And if by chance they did hit me, I told them not to feel bad. So they threw to me without any problem as they gained more confidence in my catching ability as we went along.
“That summer was really beneficial in my development as a pitcher even though I was simply catching these great pitchers. I had a bird’s eye view of what every pitcher was doing as I caught them.”
Many people don’t realize it, but Eshelman was a catcher at Carlsbad H.S. (Carlsbad, Calif.) as well as a pitcher.
“Being a catcher my entire high school career helped me be a better pitcher,” said Eshelman.
“I was able to see pitching from both sides of the battery. I would pitch on Tuesday and catch on Thursday and Saturday. I learned how to break down hitters from behind the plate as well which helped my development.
“It helped me understand when to slow the game down and know when it is speeding up as adjustments in tempo were made as needed.”
To learn more about the evolution of Thomas Eshelman into a great control pitcher, purchase a copy of the April 18, 2014 edition of Collegiate Baseball or subscribe by CLICKING HERE.