Baseball's Ryan Mottl Hits His Stride


by - Correspondent -
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CLEMSON, SC -- Clemson pitcher Ryan Mottl can explain how he arrived at college
without a curveball: patience.


Somehow, he survived Little League, Pony League and high school without
learning the elbow-wrenching curveball.


"My dad had enough knowledge about the game to know that I shouldn't be
throwing a curveball at 12 or 13," said Mottl. "He never pushed me."


Trouble came last season, though, when the batters figured out he didn't
have a curve - just a fastball and an off-speed pitch he calls a fosch.
Batters had been chasing his fosch since high school and in Florissant,
Missouri. He struck out two batters an inning during his senior season and
success followed him to Clemson until his sophomore year when they figured
out the best way to beat the fosch was to ignore it.


Mottl, who led the USA National Team two years ago with a 3-0 record and a
3.45 ERA, couldn't face the same batters he had seen for two years with the
same out-pitch.


"Hitters in this league had a scouting report on Ryan and without a third
pitch, guys broke down his fastball," said Clemson pitching coach Kevin
O'Sullivan. Mottl's fastball, which tops out at 92 miles per hour, wasn't
going to get him out of any jams.


"There comes a time when you can either fold and give up, or you can go out
and bust your butt and work as hard as you can," said Mottl, who started
learning to throw a curveball during the fall of 1998.


It wasn't easy. Mottl went through a chance in pitching coaches and a
change in delivery while learning the curve ball.


Mottl was with the USA National Team in Italy when he found out that his
pitching coach for his first two years at Clemson, John Pawlowski, was
leaving to take the head job at Arizona State.


"They had an extra close relationship," said Steve Mottl. It took a
conversation with USA coach Ron Polk to turn Mottl around.


"You've got the best of both worlds," Polk, the former coach at Mississippi
State, told Mottl. "You've had coach Pawlowski for two years and you've
learned everything you're going to learn from him. Now you're going to learn
from a well known coach coming in from the pros."


Polk's talk put Mottl in the right frame of mind.


Still, he struggled last season. He won just four games after winning 19
during the previous two seasons.


He stayed in Clemson last summer and threw nearly every day and worked with
weights harder than he ever had.


"When you're travelling and playing ball, it's hard to maintain your
weight," he said. The curveball also became his friend.


"It's just banging it out in the bullpen and getting the pitch to fall into
a groove."


This season he rebounded with an 8-3 record and a 3.74 ERA. He pitched a
complete game in an 8-4 win over Florida State in the ACC tournament in Rock
Hill.


"If he can just continue to pitch like that we'll be OK," said Clemson coach
Jack Leggett, who will put Mottl on the mound against Middle Tennessee State
in the opening game of the NCAA regional Friday night.


"Everything seems to be falling into place," said Mottl.


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