In a world increasingly trying to develop baseball players that play “stronger”, “harder”, and “more powerful”, University of Tampa Spartans pitcher Michael Paul is somewhat of a unicorn.
The Clearwater, FL. native, now in his third season with the Spartans, is a unique player on his ballclub, relying on pinpoint command to keep hitters off balance.
It’s something that’s helped him put up his best numbers as a Spartan to date — a 4-1 record on the season with a career best 2.45 earned run average.
“He can put his fastball on the corners with the best of them,” says head coach Joe Urso. “Not many college pitchers can pitch in, and it’s needed with that aluminum bat to keep some of these big strong guys off of your fastball.”
For the college junior, his ability to place the ball where he needs to goes back to eighth grade, when he first began to understand his potential and fell in love with the game all over again.
“I used to sit in the cage and throw at the towels … and just do my pitching mechanics,” he said. “It just became a feel out of my fingers.”
As years passed and he grew into a long lanky frame, Paul says he naturally gravitated towards pitching. Paul was not a muscular and powerful force on the mound, which meant he instead leaned into a more finesse style of pitching.
By the time the righty joined the Spartans during the 2020 season, he began to truly understand who he was as a pitcher. From there, the development in the program led by Urso, alongside assistant Sam Militello, who heads the Spartan pitching staff, took the pitcher’s game to the next level.
Paul came over to the University of Tampa with a changeup he calls his “bread and butter”. Unfortunately, as a pitch used mostly to fool lefties, the right hander was unable to use it very much against competition that featured primarily right-handed bats.
As a result, while looking for a new weapon, he developed what eventually became his lethal slider.
“The slider becomes wipeout with command. If you’re not locating the fastball, that means you can’t locate an offspeed pitch.” he said.
In all, the development he has undergone during his time in a Spartans uniform has been something the 23-year-old clearly takes a lot of pride in. In spite of that, however, Paul still has lofty goals for himself as he hopes to continue refining his game.
“I want to do what I’ve done during the regular season and try to replicate that in the playoffs,” he says, of his disappointing playoff performance last year when the ERA went up, and strikeouts went down. “The regular season is a grind, but the playoffs are a different animal.”