CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- The joy that Marshall pitcher Aaron Blair will feel as early as tonight won't solely be for his own future. Blair, a Thundering Herd junior considered among the top 50 prospects in the 2013 Major League Baseball draft, could hear his name called when the event begins at 7 p.m. (MLB Network and MLB.com).
Blair also will feel joy in what an early selection would mean for the program he called home for the last three years, the one he said helped develop him into the blue-chip prospect that has gained the interest of many MLB teams. He appreciates that Marshall Coach Jeff Waggoner can likely use him as an example of what the Herd coaching staff can mold a young player into becoming.
"It's awesome to even talk about something like that," he said, "not only me, but Dan Straily as well, pitching for the A's. He can say we have someone in the big leagues and we brought a kid in and developed him possibly into a first-round pick. It's a pretty awesome feeling."
And there's a pretty good chance of that coming true. MLB will hold two regular rounds and two competitive balance rounds of the draft tonight, with 73 picks in all. MLB.com rates Blair the No. 38 prospect in this draft, while Baseball America rates him No. 41. If he's taken anywhere in those rounds as expected, he'll be by far the highest draft pick in Marshall baseball history. Catcher Joe Goddard, an eighth-round pick in the 1971 draft, currently holds that honor.
And it'll be a big step up for Blair, who the Houston Astros picked in the 21st round of the 2010 draft out of Spring Valley High School in Nevada. He credits his three years at Marshall for his vault up the draft boards. He arrived in Huntington as a tall right hander who hadn't grown into his body and said he's added 15 to 20 pounds of muscle to his 6-foot-5 frame.
With that added strength came added power. His fastball went from 87 to 90 miles an hour to 92 to 96 miles an hour. He also lauds pitching coach Joe Renner for teaching him to throw a change-up, a pitch Blair said he didn't have entering college, but one he now considers possibly his most effective.
Blair said his consistency has been one of the most important ingredients to his development.
"I can repeat my mechanics almost every time I deliver the ball, which is key to having good control and keeping the same arm slot," he said. "If you can repeat your mechanics, it's really easy to teach someone something new."
Waggoner said Blair's physical abilities were just some of his contributions to the Marshall program. He was instrumental in the dugout and behind the scenes as well.
"He's a leader," Waggoner said. "He really wanted to win. He was always into games and always helping the younger guys. He's a competitor."