Of course, some might expect that playing the game he loves is a more stressful exercise for Hultzen than excelling in the classroom, where the former St. Albans standout was named an academic all-American this spring.
Every time Hultzen took the mound this season — which the 6-foot-3 left-handed junior will do again this weekend as the Cavaliers host an NCAA tournament regional that begins Friday with a game against Navy — professional scouts and front-office executives have followed his every move. Some take out video cameras while he warms up in the bullpen, others hurriedly write in their notebooks.
These men have followed Hultzen since his senior year of high school, when he seemingly came out of nowhere to become a top prospect for the Major League Baseball first-year player draft. Over the years, Hultzen has grown to expect the groupie-like following when it is his turn to pitch.
In recent weeks, things have gotten especially intense. With Hultzen’s stock rising leading up to the three-day draft that begins Monday evening, high-level team executives have made their way to see Hultzen pitch, including Pittsburgh Pirates General Manager Neal Huntington, whose team holds the first pick.
“I’ve gotten used to [the scouts], they get to the game when we do,” Hultzen said. “They have that look. They all have their briefcases filled with papers and radar guns, wearing the collared shirt with team name on the chest. They do have a distinctive look to them and they group together.”
Indeed, the scouts often like to swap stories or exchange insight into players they have recently seen. With Hultzen, there is no mystery about his talent. He is considered a polished pitcher with good velocity (a fastball in the low- to mid-90s) and above-average stuff (meaning his off-speed pitches have good movement).
‘There is no selfishness’
Regardless of how much digging into the past a scout does, the reports on Hultzen are similar. He carries himself well and is humble off the field. Hultzen retains an aw-shucks personality. Ask about his cooking skills and how he might manage life in the minor leagues without a school cafeteria or meal plan and Hultzen jokes that he “can use the microwave pretty well” and that a roommate is teaching him how to light a charcoal grill.
“That’s what separates him from a lot of people,” Virginia Coach Brian O’Connor said. “There is no selfishness.”
The only question about Hultzen is whether he will sign with the team that drafts him this year.
Coming out of high school, Hultzen and his family were considered standoffish by some scouts as they told major league clubs that he was not interested in pursuing a professional career at the time. While he fell in the draft because he said he did not plan to sign a contract, the Arizona Diamondbacks still selected Hultzen in the 10th round.