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For their own good
Fifty years ago, they were screwed-up kids sent to the Florida School for Boys to be straightened out. But now they are screwed-up men, scarred by the whippings they endured. Read the story and see a video and portrait gallery.
CCC's Ryan Weber doesn't blow away opponents. He outsmarts them.
By BOB PUTNAM, Times Staff Writer
Published May 14, 2007
CLEARWATER - At tryouts for last year's youth national team, coaches sat behind home plate jotting down descriptions of every pitch the young prospects threw. Some pitches arrived at the catcher's mitt at 90, 91 and 92 mph and the impact resounded throughout the park.
Ryan Weber was not one of those pitchers.
The Clearwater Central Catholic junior is 5 feet 11, 170 pounds. He registered 88 mph on his fastball. It made Weber wonder whether he would make the team.
That's when his travel coach, Mike Adams, called to put in a good word: "I said it would be a big mistake to leave Ryan off."
Weber did more than make the team. He pitched the first no-hitter in the youth national team's history and was named MVP of the Youth National Team Pan Am Baseball Championships.
The University of Florida recruit has continued his meteoric rise this high school season. He is 10-0 with a 0.64 ERA. Today he is scheduled to take the mound in the Class 3A state semifinals against Jacksonville Bolles.
"For most people, it's all about the radar gun, " CCC coach Todd Vaughan said. "But it's not about how hard you can throw, it's about screwing up a batter's timing. And Ryan is the best at it."
Weber is the ultimate thinking man's pitcher. He will not overpower hitters. He will exasperate them, slaying them softly.
He trusts himself to know which of his four pitches fastball, slider, sinker, changeup will be most effective and tells himself exactly where he must locate that pitch to each batter in each situation.
Fastball in, changeup away and so on. Do it right. Do it efficiently.
Once Weber determines the answers, he is devastating because he routinely hits that spot. He attacks hitters as much with his intellect as with his arm.
"Ryan is a humble, unassuming kid, " Adams said. "But when he takes the mound, he is a different kind of animal. He goes for the jugular and can dissect a plate like a surgeon."
Weber has always gotten things done at his own speed. In his first start for CCC two years ago, he faced a team from Oklahoma that Vaughan said "was more like a men's softball team."
Weber was effective and efficient in shutting the team down.
"Usually, teams facing me for the first time don't think much of me, " Weber said. "I just keep doing the things I need to do. Then I have a couple of strikeouts and teams are not thinking the same thing."
Weber has a list of check points because he wants his mechanics to be so seamless that he never spends a millisecond thinking about his shoulder, his chin or his feet.
This is the artist at work. This is Weber knowing himself. He wants his movements on the mound, everything from his toes to his temples, to be as repetitious as breathing.
"I want to be able to only have to worry about pitching, not how to throw pitches, " he said.
Weber said he considers different scenarios and thinks faster - pitch to pitch - than most hitters. He notices when a hitter adjusts 1 inch in the box after lunging at a changeup and processes that information faster than Google.
Weber believes in being aggressive to make opponents uncomfortable. That helps explain why he averages fewer than 80 pitches a start this year.
"The big thing is to be in control, " he said. "I think I've been able to do that this year."