OMAHA, Neb. — The entire place waited. Rain got here, the tarp went down, and the legend of Kumar Rocker solely grew.
Twenty-four hours earlier, Rocker was noticed within the foyer of the downtown Omaha Hilton on Monday afternoon, 6-foot-Four and 255 kilos, a redwood on the prairie. A gaggle of children approached him for autographs, and “Rock” signed each one in all them. The weirdest factor within the dizzying days because the no-hitter, Rocker stated, is what number of physique components he has been requested to signal. “It may wash off quickly,” he stated. “They do not appear to care.”
Fame isn’t indelible. A few weekends in the past, Kumar Rocker was a freshman pitcher on a Vanderbilt group that was on the verge of being eradicated within the tremendous regionals. Tuesday, Rocker on the mound towards Mississippi State on the Faculty World Collection was essentially the most anticipated second in school baseball. It was placed on pause for a day due to an unrelenting afternoon rain.
Rocker hasn’t pitched since June eight, when he rescued Vanderbilt, placing out 19 Duke batters in simply the eighth no-hitter in NCAA event historical past. No one — not even Nolan Ryan or Max Scherzer — had fanned 19 over the course of a no-hitter.
Kumar Rocker struck out 19 in his no-hitter towards Duke within the tremendous regionals. AP Photograph/Wade Payne
Earlier than he might even take off his cleats, Rocker’s title was in every single place. Vandy alum David Value gushed over him on Twitter: “I tip my hat to you sir!!” On this period of hyperbole, the no-hitter was dubbed the very best outing ever by a school pitcher.
“I am glad different individuals suppose that,” Rocker stated. “However for me, that was only a good outing and I’ve bought to maneuver ahead. It does not do me any good proper now.”
Hyperbole may not do justice for “Rock.” He talked about in passing Monday that he was truly sick through the no-hitter with both meals poisoning or a abdomen bug. He threw 131 pitches and touched 97 mph within the ninth inning.
Philip Clarke, his catcher, ran to the mound to have fun with him when it was over, however Rocker left him hanging. He wished to only head for the handshake line.
“I used to be like, ‘No matter, man,'” Clarke stated. “Some individuals have stated he was in shock. However I feel he was simply attempting to downplay it. That is simply how he’s.”
Rocker’s highschool coach in Bogart, Georgia, is not stunned by any of this. Rocker has had all eyes on him since nearly beginning. His dad is Tracy Rocker, a former NFL defensive sort out who’s now an assistant soccer coach at Tennessee. North Oconee Excessive has had its share of coaches’ youngsters on its baseball roster, however none with the fanfare of Rocker.
He was getting autograph requests by the point he was 16, and scouts adopted him in every single place.
“Each time he threw it was a packed home,” North Oconee coach Jay Lasley stated. “The opposite groups knew who he was. He by no means wished to be handled particular or completely different. He simply wished to be one of many guys.”
Within the nomadic world of school teaching households, that will by no means be simple. Rocker moved by means of seven states as a child. The longest keep was seven years in Arkansas; the shortest was 11 months in Oxford, Mississippi.
“Transferring undoubtedly made me the individual I’m at present,” Rocker stated. “It confirmed me how individuals act and go about their enterprise. I took slightly from every individual in every of these seven states and put it in myself.”
Tracy Rocker, in response to Kumar, does not like to speak loads, and his son is similar approach. However they name one another at the very least as soon as every week, and Tracy “retains my head on straight,” Kumar stated.
Kumar Rocker says he stays “fairly constant” regardless of his new fame. AP Photograph/Wade Payne
His mother is the one who satisfied him to go to varsity. He might’ve been a first-round draft select of highschool final yr, however Lalitha Rocker wished him to get an schooling. She was within the stands for his no-hitter; Tracy Rocker missed it. He had a recruiting dinner at Tennessee, Kumar stated.
Although various media accounts from June eight depicted Rocker with ice water operating by means of his veins, he admits now that he was nervous just about all the sport. Clarke made a degree to not discuss to him within the dugout out of worry he’d jinx him.
Rocker saved repeating his favourite line to himself on the mound.
“Because of this I play the sport.”
Joe Rexrode, a columnist for The Tennessean, wrote final week that Rocker’s no-hitter may need been among the finest particular person performances in Nashville’s historical past. It is hands-down a soccer city, however Rocker has the individuals there captivated proper now. Rexrode stated every little thing that has been written in regards to the pitcher up to now 11 days “has gone nuts” by way of web page views.
“I feel when he pitches at dwelling now, the place will fill,” Rexrode stated. “This can be a main sports activities determine in Nashville.
“He is had this second, and there is going to be large anticipation each time he throws.”
Wednesday, after a really lengthy wait, Rocker will get the beginning. He is aware of how a lot is on the road. He is aware of he cannot probably prime himself.
“It is undoubtedly been loads,” he stated. “Personally, I feel I deal with it effectively. I do not actually change. I keep fairly constant as an individual.”