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Scouts Flock to See Colt Griffin

Colt Griffin's second pitching start of the 2001 season for Marshall (Texas) High was against Natchitoches (La.) Central on the field at Northwestern State. A handful of scouts were there to see Central's pitcher, a kid named Calvin Carpenter. Griffin pitched his game, got on the bus and went back to Marshall.

This was on a Tuesday. On Wednesday morning, Marshall coach Jackie Lloyd had 100 phone messages. The Griffin family's caller ID was filled up, too. The scouts had clocked him as high as 98 mph.

Colt Griffin has covered a distance as big as Texas, and he did it overnight. One day he was just another standout high school player. The next he was one of the top five prospects for this June's draft.

But when you look at what actually made it happen, Griffin didn't cover much distance at all. A foot maybe, though it's a little difficult to tell because it's measured in an arc.

A year ago--early this spring, even--Griffin was an all-district hitter, a first baseman/center fielder and sometime righthanded pitcher. A nice player and a very nice kid, just enjoying playing ball. But Lloyd needed him to pitch more this spring.

"We'd tried to pitch him some every year, but we had plenty of pitching last year," Lloyd said.

Once it became a more pressing issue, Lloyd decided to get serious about changing Griffin's arm angle from sidearm or low three-quarters to over the top, really high three-quarters.

A funny thing happened when Griffin tried it. His velocity jumped from 88-89 mph to 91-95. Instantly.

"It felt better," Griffin said. "It was just more fluid, kind of. It helped with accuracy, too. And now I can still drop down three-quarters and give the hitter something different.

"Yeah, it seemed like I was throwing harder, but not that much. I could tell a little difference."

In more recent games, including a victory over then-No. 18 Lufkin, Griffin pitched more consistently around 96, as high as 99 and even 100 mph, depending on whom you believe. He also throws a slider, a changeup and occasionally a curve, but it's the raw velocity that has scouts going gaga.

He still has trouble throwing over the top from flat ground, but it feels fine on the mound. He's teaching himself to use finger pressure to make the ball move. And fielding phone calls, which now are much less frequent. He's the biggest thing to hit Marshall (pop. 25,000) since . . . well, it turns out plenty of big things have happened there.

It's the hometown of football Hall of Famer Y.A. Tittle and television journalist Bill Moyers, not to mention current Red Sox minor leaguer Rontrez Johnson. Moyers once did a documentary about the town that was seen nationwide. At the time of the Civil War, Marshall was one of the largest cities in Texas, and it even functioned as the Missouri capital during the strife there.

Its latest hero didn't move directly toward stardom. Griffin grew suddenly from 5-foot-10 to 6-foot-4 early in his high school years, and basically spent his sophomore year adjusting to his new body. Just throwing strikes was a challenge he couldn't master.

Eventually he became accomplished enough to sign with Grayson County (Texas) Junior College and Louisiana Tech. Now everybody wants to sign him.

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