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Best Sale under the Sun
By Barrett Neale
The defining quality
of pitcher Chris Sale is competitiveness.
Sale, a junior at
Florida Gulf Coast University, said that whether he was
pitching, golfing or playing checkers, he always competed as
hard as he could. He becomes a different person on the mound.
“Off the field, I kind
of like to think of myself as a nice guy,” said Sale, a 6-6,
183-pound lanky left-hander. “But when I get on the field, I
look at the person standing in the batter’s box and I just want
to do everything in my power to make him fail. The
competitiveness in me doesn’t want to let anyone get a hit off
me, let anyone get on base.
“I look at him and I’m
just like: ‘You’re not going to get a hit. You’re not better
than I am. I’ve worked too hard to be here and there’s no way
you’ve outworked me and there’s no way that you’re going to get
the upper hand in the situation.’”
Coach Dave Tollett
thought Sale would develop and improve throughout his career,
but he said Sale had excelled even more than he had expected.
Last season, Sale made first-team Atlantic Sun, had a 2.72 ERA
that was second-best in the conference and a .246 opposing
batting average that led his team. Sale struck out at least
seven batters each game he started, ending the season with a 7-4
record, 104 strikeouts (second in the A-Sun) and only 27 walks
in 89.1 innings for the Eagles (23-7 A-Sun, 36-18 overall).
“He brings an
intimidation factor to the other team,” junior catcher Bobby
Greene said. “A tall lefty, no one really wants to face that
every day. Right off the bat, he’s got that advantage going for
him. His pitches and his stuff, when it’s all dialed in, it’s
unhittable and nobody wants to face us.”
summer, Sale played in the Cape Cod Baseball League and received
the BFC Outstanding Pitcher Award. He said he appreciated the
recognition, but tried to keep a level head and not think too
highly of himself – a mindset Tollett had noticed.
think he knows his role,” Tollett said. “That hasn’t changed.
He’s such a team guy. When he’s not pitching, he’s the first one
out of the dugout shaking hands with the next guy pitching.”
Greene also noted
Sale’s efforts to motivate his teammates when he’s in the
dugout, but said Sale acted much differently off the field.
“He’s a goofball and
always making jokes, always trying to lighten the mood,” Greene
said that although Sale was more laid-back off the field, he
still worked hard.
“He got a 3.75 last
semester,” said Tollett, entering his eighth season. “He’s good
in the classroom. He’s good in the community. He’s the first one
who volunteers to do community service. He’s a pretty good kid.
“We’ve got some team
managers and Chris will take those guys out to breakfast. A lot
of players of his caliber don’t even associate with those type
of guys. I think that says an awful lot about what type of
person he is. He hasn’t let anything exceed him or he doesn’t
think he’s better than anyone else. He treats people the right
said MLB scouts called Sale a potential first-round draft pick,
and having a player of that caliber was a rare opportunity. But
when talking about his favorite memories from college, Sale did
not mention any of his individual accolades. Instead, he
recalled his team’s back-to-back conference championships.
(Because of the Eagles’ transition to Division I, they have not
been eligible for the NCAA tournament. FGCU becomes eligible
“My freshman year I
was actually pitching when we clinched and just being at the
bottom of that dog pile was something else, when no one else
thought we could do it and we did,” Sale said. “And then coming
back that next year and people still doubting us, saying it
might have been a fluke, thinking we wouldn’t be able to do it
and we did.”
But this season, Sale
said, opponents are less likely to underestimate the Eagles.
They are the preseason favorite in the A-Sun, and he said it
would be important to approach the season one game and one pitch
at a time.
“Coach ‘To’ says that
every day,” Sale said. “[He] says, ‘You can look towards June
but you’re not going to get there if you don’t focus on what’s
right ahead of you. We haven’t won one game this year and we
have to go out with intensity. We have targets on our backs and
people are going to come in here and try to beat us just because
we have that title.’”
If Sale plays the way
he did last year, Greene said, he will put the Eagles in a
position to win every time he pitches.
“It’s hard to
describe,” Greene said. “He’s one of the best pitchers I’ve ever
caught. He brings it on the mound every day. There’s nothing
more you can ask for in a pitcher.”
(photos courtesy of FGCU Media Relations