Aaron Nola pitched his heart out all season for the LSU Tigers and he hopes all the hard work pays off at the next level.
The LSU pitching ace is one of three finalists for the national player of the year award, but the focus is on Thursday night's Major League Baseball draft.
The dust is still settling on LSU's abrupt and all-too-sudden postseason ending and for some, the conclusion hasn't quite set in.
"It doesn't even feel like it's ended," said Nola. "(It) feels like I'm still a Tiger."
However, much to the dismay of the Purple and Gold faithful, he is not.
"It hit me the other night after the game, but now I've been kind of steady. But as time goes on, probably over the next couple of days, it's probably going to hit me a little harder," Nola added.
The MLB draft could definitely soften the blow. The Baton Rouge native said it's time to focus on his future. He also recalled a similar situation with a standout Tiger pitcher just two years ago.
"I watched (Kevin) Gausman. He actually did it in the lounge, too, where I'm going to do it. I watched him get picked fourth overall and that was an exciting moment for us and him and his family," Nola explained.
He said it's always been a dream of his to get drafted into professional baseball and now, it's very possible that he follows in the footsteps of former LSU standout and ace of the 80s, Ben McDonald, as not only the No. 1 overall pick, but also Golden Spikes Award winner. However, there is one area that Nola has already surpassed the 1988 Olympian.
"He did something I never did," said McDonald. "He won the SEC Pitcher of the Year twice, two years in a row. Nobody's ever done that before, so that speaks for how good Aaron Nola's been. He's been the best pitcher in college the last two years and there's no two ways around that."
Twenty-five years after being the Golden Spikes Award winner, the only Tiger ever to do so, McDonald reflected on what the award still means to him.
"The Golden Spikes is the equivalent of the Heisman Trophy in football. That's what it is. It's the best college baseball player that year. And it's something they can never ever take away from you. And I cherish that Golden Spikes Award because not many people have them," McDonald explained.
"I see his number up there retired and he's the face of LSU. He's LSU's great. I never really got to see him play but we see highlights of him, we see tapes of him and the guy was unbelievable," said Nola.
"The Golden Spikes is very rare and so is being the No. 1 pick, but it puts you in a fraternity, if you will, of a very few that's out there to do that. So, it's something you look back on later in your career and say, ‘Hey, that's a pretty good accomplishment,'" McDonald added.
And just maybe, McDonald's fraternity of just six players grows to seven in the next few weeks.
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