BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - Here is the list of what each letter means from AA to Z related to LSU pitcher Aaron Nola.
A - Austin: His older brother Austin is who Aaron credits with being his role model, because of his hard work and character. "We've got a love for the game. Everything's a competition for us. You know ping pong, baseball, the little games we'd play. Throwing in the house… (See T below)
B - Ball & Bat: Aaron says he'd like to hit, but pitching coach Alan Dunn won't even let the pitchers hit in practice because of concern they'd get injured. He admits he'd have a hard time handling an 80 MPH fastball these days, but looks forward to picking up a bat in the pros. But he says his biggest temptation is wanting to throw whenever he picks up a ball, knowing there are only so many pitches in that right arm.
C - Catcher Tyler Moore, Command & Control: The guy who gets the best view of Nola's pitching mastery played against Aaron as a kid, was involved with travel ball like the Nolas and has become "his" catcher late in the season.
D - Dunn: Nola readily admits that Dunn made him a pitcher over the three years they've been together at LSU. He so completely trusts "AD", he's never shaken off one of his signals in those three years.
E - Eating: Eating is nothing special according to Aaron, although he made a point to tell us he insists on going home every evening for a home-cooked meal.
F - Family: Family is a big part of Aaron's success, according to Dunn and head coach Paul Mainieri, but there is one complaint Mainieri has: "Why did they have to stop at two kids (Austin and Aaron) instead of having nine (one for every position in the field).
G - Grip: Grip is something that hasn't always been easy for Aaron. When he was eleven his hands were too small, so he had to use three fingers to grip a fastball. He says his dad AJ taught him a circle change and "football" curve ball.
H - Humility: Humility is something everyone we talked to immediately brought up, from his teachers at Catholic High to his teammates at LSU and everyone in between. For being so talented in baseball, they say he's even more humble.
I - Intensity: You don't quite get to see Nola's intensity, unless you're staring straight at him from the batter's box, but our camera angle caught that look in one of the segments, and Moore and others who've face him, even in practice, say you better match that intensity yourself, or you have no chance.
J - Jugs gun: Jugs gun numbers are fun to watch and talk about. Aaron says he hit 85-88 mph on the radar with his fastball in high school and now it's well over 90 most of the time (from 90-96, but mostly 92-94) yet changing speeds, arm slot, spin and precise location of pitches are every bit as important now.
K - K's: K's or strikeouts are fun for Aaron at home games, because he gets a kick out of the K-Lady's antics, from parading her K's up and down to chanting for him to strike out opposing batters. His 102 K's lead the SEC and rank him fifth in the nation going into the Alabama weekend.
L - Leadership: Nola has grown into being a leader and everyone has noticed. While most fans and media focus on his performances, Nola says he's just as concerned with the rest of the pitching staff that has helped reach a school record 13 shutouts this season through 49 games.
M-Mad: Nola gets mad when he gives a free pass. After just seven walks his freshman year in 89 and two thirds innings, the figure has increased to 22 this season in 85 and two thirds. Aaron says he'd rather give up a home run that a base on balls and apparently Dunn has the same kind of mindset.
N - Nola: Nola is Italian for baseball in Baton Rouge these days. "New Orleans, Louisiana," he deadpanned when I asked him what the name means. But he loved his mom's meatloaf so much in high school he had her make it every Thursday night before he pitched until the end of his Freshman year. (See S below)
O - Omaha: "It speaks for itself. I mean that's our goal every single year. And we all know we've got six national championships. We know Skip (Bertman) put this program together, winning five of them. In order to get there, you gotta win the close games. You gotta take it one game at a time. Some people try to look too far ahead, 'We're gonna get to Omaha this year,' but I mean in my two years being here, it's not that easy."
P - Pitching: Pitching is competing according to Dunn, and that's why Nola's so good at it. Giving your team seven innings and a chance to win when you're not at your best is just as important as blowing away the competition on your best nights.
Q - Quiet: is the way we would describe Aaron, even as recently as last season, but he's really starting to become more comfortable talking about himself and to the media, as I think this series of stories showed us.
R - Recruiting: Recruiting is not something I remember much about Aaron, because Austin was already at LSU and family members are such big Tiger fans, but he says Central Florida with former LSU assistant Terry Rooney was the only school he considered.
S - Superstitions: Superstitions are very common among baseball players, but Nola says he realized they aren't real going into his sophomore year, after having his mom make meatloaf every week for his "lucky" Thursday evening meal.
T - Throwing: Throwing in the house is something else his mom put up with, but only after she figured out he had unquestioned command and control. (See C above)
U - Umpires: Umpires apparently know all about Nola and his spectacular control, according to Moore, who tries to clue the guys in blue into the way each pitcher likes to work, but had one stop him and say "Oh I know Nola likes to be around the plate."
V - Virginia: Virginia Robertson has been the baseball secretary since I started covering LSU Baseball in the early Bertman years and Aaron says "she's the nicest lady in the world" and makes a point to talk to her every day he comes to the park. And I tend to agree with him on this one.
W - Walks: (See M above)
X - AleX: Last letter in Alex and Box could have been last letter in his first name, had he been born a girl. Aaron says his mom was going to name him Alexandra (Alex for short) but Bregman's already got that name, right?
Y - Young looks: Young looks as a freshman (and older brother Austin already being at LSU so that he hung around while he was still in high school) caused teammates his freshman year to called him "Baby Nola"
Z-Zzz: Zzz's are nothing special to Nola. Says he's a normal sleeper.