CLEARWATER — It’s hard enough for someone with a lifetime of pitching experience to play professional baseball, let alone somebody who only took the mound for the first time in his senior year in high school.
Nicholas Hanson is fortunate enough to be one of those players.
The imposing pitcher from Edison High in Huntington Beach Calif.,, who stands six-feet-seven inches tall, converted to pitching on a whim, at the suggestion of a fellow high school teammate.
“In senior year my buddy was like ‘we need a number two pitcher.’ I was like ‘alright, I’ll pitch,’” said Hanson.” I did well but I didn’t throw that hard yet and I wasn’t on the map so I went to junior college…I didn’t really have a choice.”
Hanson attended Golden West junior college for one year, where he pitched well enough to be selected by the Philadelphia Phillies in the 16th round of the 2012 draft.
He was delighted to be selected by the Phillies, the organization he was hoping to play for, regardless of what round he was taken in, and declined the opportunity to pitch for Loyola Marymount.
“I felt like the sooner the better, honestly,” said Hanson. “I didn’t wanna go to college and have that pitching coach teach me different habits than professional habits so I figured, while I’m still young, get here and they can mould me however they want so I can get to the big leagues that way.”
Hanson played last year for the Williamsport Crosscutters, the Phillies low A affiliate. He said he knew he belonged immediately.
“The first game I pitched. I hadn’t really played in front of a lot of people and it was at State College [The Pirates minor-league affiliate team] in front of 5,500 and I did well. I finished that and I was like dang this is for real. I pitched well and realized I had a shot at this.”
For the shortened season, Hanson pitched 45 innings, with a 2-3 record and a 7.00 ERA. The numbers may not be eye-popping but he was still learning to harness his stuff, and only allowed five walks all year – a remarkable feat for somebody whose pitching career remains in its infancy.
“I throw a ton of strikes,” he said. “Sometimes I throw too many strikes, which I guess being only 20 is a good problem to have. I can fix that but I’m throwing strikes and competing. I love to compete.”
Hanson, while humble and soft-spoken, also brims with confidence.
“I’m an extremely confident person, which for baseball I believe is very good.”
He attributes his rapid improvement to his pitching coach Aaron Fultz, who despite only working with for less than a year, has been the most influential person in his baseball career to this point.
“I’m a pretty raw talent overall and he’s kind of taken me under his wing, at least I feel like, and he’s been awesome for me,” he said. “I’ve learned so much from him.”
It’s been an impressive and rapid ascent for Hanson, and through it all he doesn’t feel the pressure of playing baseball as a profession.
”Honestly I haven’t really felt any pressure by it,” he said. “It’s been fun, I get to play baseball for a living. It’s a blast. No pressure really for me. I absolutely love it.”