Mac Engel

If he can get out of bed, a former Fort Worth Cats pitcher could lead Nats to title

The Fort Worth Cats professional baseball team died (again) in 2014 but one its alums may actually be the difference in the 2019 World Series.

Of course, Max Scherzer will just need to be able to get out of bed without the help of his wife.

Scherzer could not start Game 5 of the World Series for the Washington Nationals because of back and neck trouble. Houston has won three straight in the series and leads 3-2.

Game 6 is in Houston on Tuesday. Scherzer has not been ruled out for a Game 7 in Houston, if the Nationals can get that far.

Both Washington Nationals manager Dave Martinez and Scherzer himself said that if the 2019 World Series, the pitcher is good to go.

Amazing what a syringe can do.

People forget that Scherzer’s pro career began in Fort Worth and that he pitched at the now essentially destroyed LaGrave Field.

Thanks to former Fort Worth Cats PR man David Hatchett, he recounted Scherzer’s career with the Cats.

At the direction of his agent, Scott Boras, Scherzer signed with the Cats in 2007 because he could not come to an agreement with the team that selected him in the first round of the 2006 MLB Draft, the Arizona Diamondbacks.

As an unaffiliated club, the Cats could sign a parakeet to play baseball. Although the Diamondbacks made Scherzer the 11th overall selection in 2006, they were hesitant to give him a big contract because he had suffered an arm injury the previous season.

When Scherzer made his Cats’ debut in ‘07, longtime MLB coach Carroll Beringer was among the army of big league talent evaluators on hand to watch. Beringer coached for the Dodgers and Phillies in the ‘60s and ‘70s.

“He told me that when he heard Max’s fastball hit the catcher’s mitt he had not heard that sound of big-time heat in years,” Hatchett said. “It was the sound that Sandy Koufax’s fastball made when he was pitching for the Dodgers.”

In Schezer’s start on May 12, 2007, 30 MLB scouts attended the game. Scherzer threw 68 pitches in five innings, 49 for strikes. At one point, his fastball was clocked at 98 mph.

This would have been like LeBron James playing in a junior college basketball game.

“In Max’s first start, he was so pumped up that we were betting he might throw one over the catcher’s head and hit the netting,” Hatchett said. “The coaches said he might send one over the backstop like Nuke LaLoosh in ‘Bull Durham.’”

In three Cats’ starts, Max Scherzer was 1-0 with an 0.56 ERA, and finished with 25 strikeouts in 16 innings. He gave up one earned run in his time with the Cats. His fastball was usually clocked where it is today, in the mid-90s.

Boras and the Diamondbacks came to an agreement before Scherzer made his fourth start for Fort Worth. At the time, because of his delivery, he was considered to be a good candidate to be a reliever rather than a starter.

“Max was so great to deal with. His parents came to a number of games and I saved them all of the articles; they were so grateful,” Hatchett said. “When he agreed to the deal with Arizona he came in to get his stuff the next day and personally thanked me for taking care of him while he was there.

“He signed dozens of baseballs for the Cats and I didn’t ask him to sign anything for me but he still left me something. He left me two signed baseball cards. One to me and then one as a joke, signing it “To: Ebay.”

Hopefully Hatchett hung on to that one. Could be worth something some day, especially if Scherzer can get out of bed for Game 7 and pitch the Nationals to a World Series title.

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Mac Engel is an award-winning columnist who has extensive experience covering Fort Worth-Dallas area sports for 20 years. He has covered high schools, colleges, all four major sports teams as well as Olympic games and the world of entertainment, too. He combines dry wit with first-person reporting to complement a head of hair that is almost unfair.
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