Fort Worth Paschal pitcher Hunter Spielman was a 6-year-old playing coach-pitch baseball when he developed an odd habit: He’d field a ground ball with his left hand, switch the ball to his right hand, take his glove off, then switch the ball back to his left hand before throwing it to first base.
“My first couple years of baseball, I played right-handed because nobody knew I was left-handed,” said Spielman, who eventually switched to his natural side. “Everybody just kind of thought that I wasn’t very good.”
That perception wore off quickly.
Spielman and teammate Austin Cornish, seniors at Paschal, were two of many area athletes who signed national letters of intent on Wednesday, the first day of the fall signing period.
Spielman will pitch for UTA Arlington while Cornish, a catcher, will head to Texas A&M-Corpus Christi.
Paschal coach Darrell Preston said he’s not surprised that Spielman and Cornish earned scholarship offers.
“Those two guys are the hardest-working guys that I’ve been around and been able to coach,” Preston said. “Those guys, you don’t have to push. They’ve got their own motors.”
Spielman earned first-team District 3-5A honors last year and compiled a 1.85 ERA. He averaged around two strikeouts an inning behind a fastball close to 90 mph and a “plus” curveball and changeup, Preston said.
Spielman chose UTA over offers from Rice, Northwestern State (La.), TAMU-CC, Louisiana-Monroe and each of the service academies. After a hectic recruiting process, he committed to the Mavericks last month.
“I really didn’t have UTA in mind until I visited there, and I really liked it,” Spielman said. “The coaches were great. They were very helpful, so I just made the decision.”
Cornish hit .348 with 12 doubles and 30 RBI last year. Behind the plate, he allowed one stolen base. His throw from home to second base was once timed at 1.8 seconds, Preston said. At 5-foot-10, 170 pounds, Cornish can squat close to 415 pounds.
“He’s as tough as they come,” Preston said. “He has one of the best arms I’ve ever seen from a 16- or 17-year-old kid.”
Cornish and Spielman both played summer ball for the Arlington A’s, in addition to playing together at Paschal since they were freshmen.
“We’re in sync,” Cornish said.
Spielman said his catcher helps his tempo. For example, Cornish knows when Spielman gets out in front of a hitter on a changeup, he usually wants to go back to that same pitch.
“Very rarely do I have to shake him off,” Spielman said. “He has a very good idea of what I want to do.”
Preston played at UTA from 2001-04. He was teammates with eventual major leaguers Hunter Pence, Ryan Roberts and Mark Lowe, and he played summer ball in Kansas with Ian Kinsler.
Preston said he saw the same thing in those players as he sees now in Spielman and Cornish.
“These two right here, they’ve got a chance [to play professionally],” Preston said. “[MLB scouts] are going to take good, hard looks at those guys. I see those guys playing professional baseball one day because of their whole mentality and how they take care of business.”