Micah Kellogg was admittedly a ''little shaky'' last Friday morning as he stood on a pitcher's mound at Tigertown, the spring training home of the Detroit Tigers, in Lakeland, Fla.
''The adrenaline was really rushing,'' he said. ''... Everything was up.''
For someone known for possessing a fastball with natural sink, it wasn't the way he wanted to showcase his talents.
Micah Kellogg delivers a pitch for the Jamestown Community College Jayhawks in 2010.
P-J file photo by Scott Kindberg
Then, again, it was understandable.
It's not every day that a young man from the Southern Tier is afforded a professional baseball tryout.
It's not every day that he does so as 15 Tigers personnel watch from behind a batting cage.
And, it's certainly not every day that he is so close to following in his father's footsteps that he can almost taste it.
So, at the suggestion of Al Nipper, Detroit's minor league pitching coordinator, Micah - dressed in Tigers-issued shorts, shirt and cap - took a deep breath to relax.
''He told me to calm down and imagine that I was on the beach,'' Micah said. ''Eventually, I was able to make an adjustment. When I did, I was able to make pretty solid pitches.''
When the 50-pitch workout was completed, Nipper and Dave Owen, the Tigers' director of player development, approached Micah and his father, Kerry, and informed the Lakewood residents that they liked what they had seen. Not only that, but Detroit wanted to extend Micah, 22, an invitation to attend its minor league spring training in March 2013.
By Tuesday afternoon, the Tigers emailed Micah a contract, he signed it and faxed it back.
The 2008 Southwestern Central School graduate is now a professional.
''I'm really excited,'' Micah said. ''It's two generations of Kelloggs that get to do it.''
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Kerry, who is also a SWCS graduate, pitched collegiately at the University of Florida and professionally in 1979 and 1980 for the Jamestown Expos of the New York-Pennsylvania League. Later, he was the head baseball coach at Jamestown Community College for 10 years - he directed the Jayhawks to the NJCAA Division III World Series in 2004- and was an assistant under Anthony Barone for 3 years after that.
Yet for all his experience on the diamond, nothing could prepare him for what he was watching at the Tigers' facility in central Florida less than a week ago. Even the welcoming presence of Jamestown native George Carlo, who serves as Detroit's performance coach, couldn't calm Kerry's frayed nerves.
''He was a wreck that day,'' Micah said with a laugh.
''I can finally relax now,'' Kerry admitted. ''For the past two years, it hasn't always been pleasant. ... It's been a long trip, that's for sure.''
After graduating from Southwestern where he sported a career .493 batting average, Micah moved on to JCC where he set the school's all-time hits record (140), and batted .414 and posted a 4-2 record on the mound in his sophomore season. He transferred to Flagler (Fla.) College and was converted exclusively to a pitcher. In 32 career appearances, Micah compiled a 3-5 record, struck out 90 and walked 43 in 127 innings pitched. His earned run average was a shade over 4.00.
By April, the Tampa Bay Rays clocked the 6-foot-4, 195-pound right-hander at 91 mph on their radar gun and turned his name into the Major League Scouting Bureau. Soon, Micah had drawn the interest of the Anaheim Angels and there was talk that he might be drafted in June or signed immediately after its conclusion.
None of those options presented themselves.
By the end of July, Micah had tried out for the Braves, the Phillies and the Reds, but remained unsigned.
''When that didn't happen,'' he said, ''it was frustrating.''
But then Flagler head coach Dave Barnett picked up the phone and called an old friend ...
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Dan Lunetta's baseball resume is pretty impressive.
The Jamestown native's career began as a groundskeeper at the former College Stadium in 1979, followed by minor league front-office positions in Jamestown, Buffalo and Rochester, and major league stops in Montreal, Cincinnati, Florida and Detroit, the latter since 2004.
Currently the Tigers director of minor league operations, Lunetta was on the receiving end of Barnett's call earlier this summer. As it turns out, Barnett played in Jamestown the year Lunetta was a grounds-crew member 33 years ago and they have stayed in contact ever since.
''He called me to let me know he thought Micah was a pro prospect,'' Lunetta wrote in an email Wednesday afternoon. ''Of course, he knew Micah was from (the Jamestown area) and he knew Kerry. When I came home in July, I called Kerry and we had a lengthy conversation about Micah and I told him when I got back to Florida, I would discuss Micah with our field staff and work towards getting him an opportunity to throw for us in Lakeland.''
A date was set and the Kelloggs arrived in Lakeland a week ago today.
''I was in Detroit all (last week) for meetings, so I didn't get to see him throw,'' Lunetta said, ''but I knew Kerry would do everything he could in order to prepare Micah well for his workout. ... I told our field guys if he threw well and they saw him as a pro prospect, then we should invite him to spring training. ... As things would have it, Micah threw well, especially in the last half of his session, and it was more than enough for our guys to recommend to sign and a spring training invite.''
Lunetta added that after he received positive feedback from Owen, the contract was emailed to Micah, who signed it on Tuesday and ''we now consider him a Detroit Tiger.''
Lunetta also noted that where Micah ends up next year will be determined in minor league spring training, which is ''typically what happens for players like this.
''But our guys liked what they saw. They liked his arm action, delivery, fastball velocity, and he threw some very decent breaking stuff. All in all, a very good outing for him. It's just a great story for him, and Kerry has been the proud papa, as you can imagine.''
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When Micah was informed by Owen and Nipper that he was indeed a Tiger, he immediately called his mother, Marietta, and older brother, Orion.
''Orion was excited,'' Micah said. ''He said, 'It's what you wanted.'''
Pretty soon, congratulatory comments filled Micah's Facebook wall.
''I got a lot of hits from that,'' he said.
After all, who doesn't want to be ''friends'' with a professional baseball player?