A hard line drive headed straight for Colleyville Heritage pitcher Alex Scherff in practice Monday, grazing his million dollar right arm and hitting him in the side.
Scherff was fine, but with about a month to go before the 2017 MLB Draft, his dream of becoming a professional baseball player could have been in jeopardy.
And he was happy about it.
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"No, that's good," he told his apologetic teammate. "Keep hitting like that. We need that."
Within the next few months, Scherff will have to make one of the biggest decisions of his life: whether to pitch in college or turn pro. But he knows his team needs him right now for the Texas 5A baseball playoffs, so he's only concerned about the Panthers' next playoff game.
"All my focus is here right now," he said.
That focus on the moment — and not his bright future — is a big part of Scherff's success.
"I've just been very process oriented over the last couple of years," he said. "Breaking it down and focusing day by day."
The 6-foot-2, 205-pound Scherff's process-oriented approach began as a freshman. His fastball topped out in the 80s, which he wanted to improve. By the end of the season, he had reached the low-90s, but he still wasn't satisfied.
Scherff knew he needed to command his pitches better, so he devoted his sophomore year to improve his ability to locate his fastball.
"I ended up hitting 91 as a freshman, then in my sophomore year, I was able to condense it down into strikes," he said.
Before his junior season, Scherff wanted to add an off-speed pitch to complement his fastballs. He found a grip he liked and add the pitch — which is considered by many to be the best changeup in the 2017 draft — to his repertoire.
Scherff was told before his senior season he would need to develop a breaking pitch. He spent two months working on a slurve.
"So now it’s all coming together," he said.
After nearly four years of hyperfocusing on the moment, Scherff has a major league-caliber pitch selection. He can command four pitches that move four different ways at four different speeds, making him mighty tough to hit:
• Four-seam fastball: Upper-90s
• Two-seam fastball: Low-90s, runs in on righties
• Changeup: Mid-80s, drops
• Slurve: Mid-70s, down and away from righties
As a quintessential Texas pitcher, Scherff's favorite pitch is his four-seam fastball. If he needs to make one pitch, he said — without hesitation — he'd throw his fastball inside.
"I think it's important to dominate that part of the plate," he said.
Scherff's smooth, effortless delivery and electric stuff has intrigued college coaches and pro scouts. But more importantly to Scherff, they've helped him lead his teams to victory.
After helping Plano Prestonwood Christian Academy to the TAPPS 5A state championship last year. He also faced elite talent from across the country at the Perfect Game All-American Classic and the Under Armour All-America game last summer.
"It was kind of intimidating at first," he said. "Those hitters really humble you. I think it was really beneficial to me as a person and a player."
Scherff then transferred to Colleyville Heritage High School, where he's had plenty of dominating performances as a senior. During a recent stretch, he was literally unhittable. He threw five perfect innings against Fort Worth Eastern Hills March 17 and then five no-hit innings against Fort Worth Dunbar a week later.
In those two games, Scherff struck out 27 of the 30 hitters he faced. During the first weekend of the state playoff tournament, he struck out 10 of the 14 Trimble Tech hitters he faced in a Panthers win.
"I just try...focus on dominating every pitch instead of dominating every batter or innings or outs," he said. “You’ve got to break it down in pitches. You’ve got to be locked in."
Scherff committed to Arizona State in 2014, but he later decided he wanted to stay closer to home. He decommitted and reopened his recruitment to TCU, Texas A&M and Texas.
After visiting TCU, he went to College Station to visit the Aggies last July. He was due to visit Texas the next day, but he didn't even make the trip.
"College Station really calls my name. It feels like home," he said. "I committed on the spot."
With the college commitment out of the way, Scherff goes from one big decision to another. He's widely considered to be a high pick in the upcoming 2017 MLB Draft. When he's drafted, he'll have to decide whether to sign a pro contract or enroll at Texas A&M.
Scherff doesn't seem to have anxiety about that decision, though. In fact, he got chills just thinking about it.
"It’s a dream come true," he said. "I’ve been thinking about what it’s going to be like since I was 8 years old. It’s been my dream to play professional baseball my whole life."
If Scherff chooses to go pro, he'll report to a minor league team shortly after signing. If he chooses college, he'll be able to enter the 2019 draft as a draft-eligible sophomore — college players must be three years removed from high school or 21 years old to enter the MLB Draft.
"It’s going to be a lot to think about," he said. "I haven’t made any decisions yet."
Texas A&M's coaches and the professional team that drafts Scherff will likely have a hard time waiting for Scherff's decision. But they'll have abide by his process and wait until his moment with his team is over.