Jarred Cosart was playing right field at an American Legion national tournament at David Allen Ballpark in Enid. His father, Joe, was on an upper deck patio negotiating with the Philadelphia Phillies.
The signing deadline was less than an hour away. If Cosart didn't sign, he would play three years at the University of Missouri.
Two months earlier, Cosart and his 97 mph fastball slid all the way to the 38th round of the 2008 Major League Baseball Draft. To get Cosart to skip college, the family informed the Phillies they would have to offer second- or third-round money.
Thirty minutes before the deadline, the Phillies offered a $550,000 signing bonus.
“Our game went extra innings,” Cosart said. “It was 11:18 (p.m.) when the game ended. The deadline was midnight. We had to go through mom. She's a school person. She wanted me to go to college. But after she heard the offer, she was on board.”
Five years later, Cosart is mowing down Triple-A hitters with the Oklahoma City RedHawks. Heading into his start Sunday night at Chickasaw Bricktown Ballpark, Cosart is 4-0 with a 2.18 ERA and 39 strikeouts in 33 innings.
“He's been attacking the strike zone and has a good down angle to his fastball,” said RedHawks pitching coach Steve Webber. “From what I understand, his curveball has gotten better from last year. He tweaked his delivery a little this spring. He's off to a great start.”
An improved curve has made his fastball even more effective. His change-up gives him a third pitch to keep hitters off balance.
“I'm comfortable with all three pitches, but I'm a fastball guy,” Cosart said. “For me, throwing strike one is very huge. You can never be down in the zone enough and you can never throw enough strikes. It's all about command and consistency.”
Cosart turns 23 later this month. Obtained by the Astros in the Hunter Pence trade two years ago, Cosart is close to joining Houston's rotation, the type of power arm that could develop into a No. 2 or No. 3 major league starter.
“He's learning on the job but I don't see any reason why he won't have success at the major league level,” Webber said. “I really like what I've seen.”
A 38th round steal
Growing up, Cosart viewed himself as an outfielder more than a pitcher. At Clear Creek High School in League City, a Houston suburb, Cosart hit .506 his senior year, shattering Jay Buhner's school record.
Cosart could light up radar guns but was raw on the mound. He threw across his body in a herky-jerky manner. He had a ton of potential but was far from a sure thing.
Would a team be willing to select him in the second or third round?
Cosart was on a vacation with his family in Los Angeles during the 2008 June draft. When he wasn't selected in the early rounds, it wasn't a surprise he slipped. Baseball executives label it “signability.” If a team doesn't think they can sign a player, they feel they're wasting a draft pick.
The first two days of the draft, his cellphone never rang. Cosart became angry. His father informed their baseball adviser to take his son's name off the draft board, but the Phillies eventually selected him in the 38th round.