With dozens of Major League scouts and media personnel flocking to see Michigan State pitcher/first baseman Mark Mulder, the 6-foot-6 southpaw seems to relish the extra attention.
"It's great to see people come out to see you play. You play harder and it makes the game more enjoyable," Mulder said.
A native of South Holland, Ill., Mulder has used a mid-90's fastball and knee-buckling breaking stuff to place himself among the top professional pitching prospects in the country, and has been routinely mentioned as the possible No. 1 pick in the 1998 Major League draft. Named to numerous preseason All-America teams, Mulder could be the first Spartan since Kirk Gibson in 1978 to earn that honor.
Mulder burst onto the Big Ten scene last season, seizing the conference ERA (2.26) crown in his first campaign as a Spartan. But the junior opened the eyes of Major League scouting directors with his play in the Cape Cod League, a summer league which features some of the best collegiate prospects in the country. After posting scintillating numbers (5-2, 1.47 ERA), Mulder was voted the top prospect in the loop and named as the starting pitcher in the Cape Cod League All-Star Game.
Despite all the extra attention, Mulder has jumped out to a strong start in the Spartans' 1998 season, posting the squad's best ERA on the mound and MSU's top batting average at the dish.
"I think he's ready for conference play, as he has pitched real well thus far. He is off to a great start and has a chance to have a tremendous year," MSU head coach Ted Mahan said.
Mulder flashed his brilliance in one of the greatest pitching performances in Michigan State history on March 7, as he blew away Campbell in Buies Creek, N.C. He fanned 16 and walked none in MSU's 6-2 victory, as he went the distance while allowing just four hits and two unearned runs. The left-hander struck out the side to open the game and recorded at least one whiff in every frame. He fanned the game's last hitter with a 92-MPH fastball.
"It was the best game I've pitched in my career. I was throwing well and hitting my spots, which is really important. I really felt good and I got to the last few innings and wasn't feeling tired at all," Mulder said on his 16-K showstopper.
Even with all the hype and scouts' drools, Mulder has maintained his humble, easy-going ways, which may be more impressive than his pitching.
"Mark's a tremendous kid. He loves baseball and he's well-liked and respected by the entire team. He's been a real pleasure to coach and I've enjoyed every minute of the three years I've had with him," Mahan said.
Even as he concentrates on mowing down Big Ten hitters with his sizzling fastball, one can't fault him for daydreaming ahead to his future in "The Show".
"You have to think about it sometimes. I try not to, but it's really hard. I don't know what to expect. I hear stories about what's ahead of me, but I won't know what it's like until I'm there," Mulder said.