BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - Having watched the best pitchers ever in LSU's storied baseball program the last 30 years, it's hard to know exactly where hometown hero Aaron Nola belongs on the list, but he's right there at the top, and not because his name starts with "AA" like one of the game's all-time greats.
"It has nothing to do with Hank Aaron," said Nola. "My mom says if I had been a girl, they would have called me Alexandra."
So, he never became Alex, but Austin (Nola) starts with A. The big brother he looked up to as a former Catholic High and LSU shortstop, who is now in the pros. He is also the reason Aaron had a B name as a freshman.
"I hung out with Austin and all of those guys that were in his class before I even got to LSU and I got here and I felt like a little baby. They called me 'Baby Nola,'" he laughed.
And they would soon find out the letter C is for CONTROL or COMMAND of his pitches. His CATCHER gets the best view of all.
"There's definitely times when I'm catching back there and I'll just be, 'Man, this guy is unbelievable,'" said Tyler Moore. "I'll set up for a pitch and I'll be like, 'Yeah, I'm just not going to move my mitt this time' and he'll hit the mitt every time."
"In order to be successful, you have to throw the ball across that 17-inch white thing," said pitching coach Alan Dunn. "And his ability to do that has been as good as anybody I've ever seen."
Moore was asked, "What kind of stuff do you hear from the guys in the batter's box?"
"Sometimes you'll hear like, 'Man, what was that?' Guys will wish they'd swung or they'll miss a pitch that they think they should have hit and they're like, 'Gosh, man!' One guy was like, 'Man, I just missed that pitch and now I know I'm done.' And it was crazy catching. This guy already knows he's done before he had even gotten out yet," Moore replied.
And speaking of "done," D is for Alan Dunn, his pitching coach. Dunn said Nola is a can't-miss for the draft. The two have been side-by-side since Aaron got to LSU.
"To be honest with you, I've never shook him off. In my three years here, I've never shook him off because I'm so confident in what he calls. He's been at every level. He's been at the pro level for a number of years and he knows what he's talking about," Nola explained.
"He's never shaken off AD in three years," Moore was asked. "Never. When AD calls a pitch, Nola already knows what pitch is coming," he answered.
"When it comes right down to it, it's you and that hitter and that glove and that's what you have to have the ability to do," Dunn added.