Being drafted by your hometown team is a dream come true for any baseball player. Being drafted by the St. Louis Cardinals is a dream come true for any pitcher. Missouri State University’s Nick Petree won the lottery twice on June 7 after being selected by the Cardinals in the ninth-round of the 2013 MLB draft.
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After sitting out his freshman season rehabbing from Tommy John surgery, the 6’-1” right-hander was one of the most dominant pitchers in the country over the last three years. He was named Collegiate Baseball Louisville Slugger Player of the Year as a sophomore in a season that included an insane streak of 73 consecutive innings without allowing an earned run. Over his last two years, he went a combined 18-5 with a 1.29 ERA, 1.02 WHIP and 225 K/55 BB over 215.2 innings. His dominance has continued into his pro career as he has allowed one earned run over eight innings for State College of the New York Penn League, striking out seven to one walk.
I had a chance to bounce some questions off Nick and would like to thank him for his time during this busy part of his life.
Can you put into words what it felt like to get the call from the St. Louis Cardinals organization — your hometown team?
The feelings I had on draft night were both excitement and anxiety. I’ve always wanted to be a professional baseball player. It was a dream growing up, and now it’s coming true. Not only is it coming true, it’s with the best organization I could have asked to get drafted by.
What has life been like since the draft?
After I got drafted, it was crazy. My phone wouldn’t stop ringing, and I was in my home town — which isn’t very big — so it was kind of like I was the biggest celebrity in town.
The Cardinals are known for having some of the best fans in the game. What kind of player/person are they getting in Nick Petree?
The Cardinals are getting a player who is very competitive and determined. I think my personality fits the organization well, and I’m ready to continue learning about the game.
For those out there not familiar, can you tell us about your repertoire and style of pitching?
I’m not a power pitcher. I pitch with my head and get ground balls with location and movement.
After a prolific career at Clinton HS in Missouri, racking up 278 strikeouts over 179 innings as a four-year starter, what was it about Missouri State that made you commit?
The coaching staff was the main reason I went to MSU. They told me straight up how it was going to be coming in and what I was going to have to do to get where I wanted to go. They were honest and straight with me, and that’s the kind of person I am, so, I felt like that fit me.
I have to ask about the streak. I, for one, was captivated by it and found myself checking the box score after every game to see if it lived on. Is it something you even think about on the mound, especially once it gets to historic levels?
I didn’t really think about it a whole lot. It was kind of one of those freak things where I got in a groove and had plenty of luck to help me along the way. Now, being here at a new level, I don’t really think about college at all. I’m more of a present and future type of person. More of a “What have you done for me lately?” type of guy who lets the past go. I’m sure I’ll look back on it when I’m older and out of baseball but, for now, I have new goals to work for.
You leave Missouri State having racked up numerous All-American awards, as well as finishing among the all-time leaders in many pitching categories. What will you miss most about your college days?
I’ll miss the team the most. From the guys I played with everyday to all of the coaches; they gave me a lot of good memories that I will hold onto forever.
Who has been the biggest influence in your baseball career?
My dad, David Nelson, has been the biggest influence on me. He has taught me almost everything I know about pitching. He has shared my dream with me and has helped me through every step of my journey. I couldn’t ask for a better friend or fan than him.
I love hearing about baseball superstitions. Do you have any? Maybe a pre-game ritual?
I don’t have any pre-game superstitions but during the game I have to keep the same cup to drink water out of every game. I’m pretty superstitious. I have more, but that’s the main one I can think of right now.
What do you do to take your mind off the game and relax?
Nothing really. I don’t mind thinking about the game all the time. There is always something to be learned about this game. You have to find an edge, whether it be mental or physical, and I try to learn as much as I can and use it to help me grow as a pitcher.
The Springfield Cardinals — their double-A affiliate — shares the same field as Missouri State. How excited are you about the prospects of pitching at Hammons Field again, a place that you have dominated over the past three years?
I’m extremely excited. I’d love the chance to be back in Springfield some day. Hopefully, I get the opportunity and, when I do, I hope I can have the same success.
Last question. Having successfully gone through the surgery/rehab yourself, what would you tell other pitchers who might be faced with Tommy John surgery?
Don’t give up and stay patient. That’s the only time in my life that I started to think that maybe baseball wasn’t for me because I wasn’t getting the results as fast as I wanted during rehab. However, my wonderful family kept me in it and helped me stay as patient as I could. So, work hard during rehab and stay patient would be the advice I’d give.
I would like to again thank Nick Petree for his time and wish him continued success on his professional career. You can follow Nick and his journey on Twitter @NPetree10.
Feel free to follow me on Twitter @DanMKirby for MLB draft updates, prospect news and Chicago Cubs ramblings.