COLUMBIA — Missouri pitcher Alec Rash loves to throw the baseball far.
Inside Devine Pavilion, where the Tigers practice on rainy and cold days, Rash can be seen heaving the ball from one corner of the facility to a teammate in the opposite corner.
Missouri will host Truman State at 4 p.m. Wednesday. Freshman Griffin Goodrich will start on the mound for the Tigers.
Long-toss was how he prepared for his first collegiate start Tuesday, a 9-3 win over Jackson State at Taylor Stadium.
And it was his love of long-toss that led Rash to become the highest-drafted high school baseball player to come to college instead of going pro.
“I’m a big long-toss guy,” Rash said. “I like to get out, throw the ball 400 feet, throw it as a far as I can on the way in.”
Rash was drafted in the second round of last year’s Major League Baseball draft as the 95th overall pick to the Philadelphia Phillies. At that point, Rash had already decided that if he went to college, it would be at Missouri. But Rash was offered more than $600,000 to sign with the Phillies, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer.
Rash says his surroundings and pitching program were far more important to him than money, and his decision backs that up. In terms of atmosphere, Rash loved everything about the idea of being a student-athlete at Missouri.
“The overall experience in college, it meant a lot to me,” Rash said. “Just being around 40 baseball guys all the time, just living it up, it’s a lot of fun.”
Missouri coach Tim Jamieson, who recruited Rash to Missouri, said Rash and his family made the decision based on the importance they placed on education.
“They knew what they wanted and school was very high on the list,” Jamieson said. “And they didn’t get what they wanted from the pro side, so they were excited about going to school.”
What Rash didn’t get from the “pro side” was a pitching program he could get on board with. For six years, Rash has been on the same throwing program, one that includes long-toss.
“Philadelphia, they only let you go 120 feet, which is, it’s like prehab,” Rash said. "It’s not rehab, it’s like so you don’t get hurt, is basically what they’re saying. It just wasn’t for me.”
Had a different Major League club drafted Rash, however, the Tigers might’ve missed out on arguably their most talented pitcher.
“I was really hoping that the Rangers would’ve drafted me,” Rash said. “Their throwing program fits with what I do, and a lot of their minor league stuff is really nice. If they would’ve drafted me in the top three rounds, I probably would’ve gone with them.”
Rash started this season at Missouri coming out of the bullpen, a role he embraced but wasn’t all that comfortable in. For his whole career, he had been a starter. In his first save attempt, Rash walked three Eastern Michigan batters, almost costing Missouri the game before Jamieson pulled him out.
Now, with Missouri’s Sunday starter Eric Anderson out of the lineup with elbow soreness, Jamieson is considering Rash as a possible replacement this weekend against South Carolina. He started Rash on Tuesday against a nonconference opponent as a dress rehearsal. In four innings of work, Rash allowed only one hit and struck out seven.
Rash said he felt far more comfortable back in his natural role as a starter. When asked why, he mentioned the luxury of pregame preparation like jogging, extra time in the bullpen and, of course, some long-toss.