According to editorpublisher Sean Duncan of Chicago-based Prep Baseball Report, Carmel pitcher Alex Young "has jumped up and is high interest now" among major league scouts. "The pros are on him," Duncan said.Young, a 6-foot-3 lefty with a 92 mph fastball and a knee-buckling knuckle curve, caught the scouts' attention for the first time last summer and has kept them coming back to see more, especially after he struck out eight of nine batters he faced in the spring season opener against Warren."His fate will be sealed in the next month," said Duncan, predicting more and more scouts will be evaluating him. Young has been told he could be picked as high as the third round in the major league draft on June 4 while others claim he won't be selected among the first 300 picks."It is intimidating to see (the scouts) behind the plate, 25 radar guns going off with every pitch," Young said. "But I don't pay attention. I just focus on the catcher's mitt and waiting for the pitch call. I feel calm."For now, I'm off to college. But if I get drafted high and the money is there, I won't pass it up. My parents want me to get my education. I'm set on college at the moment."Young, who is committed to Texas Christian, attracted 25 scouts for his start against Libertyville and likely will command a similar audience when he starts Wednesday against Joliet Catholic. He thinks he is as good a prospect as Mundelein pitcher Ryan Borucki and he wants to prove it.A year ago, however, nobody knew who he was and nobody with a bat in his hand dared to find out. "Last year, he didn't have control. You didn't want to be anywhere near home plate when he was pitching. He was wild," said Carmel coach Joe May."I had a mentality where I wanted to strike everyone out and it didn't work," Young said. "I've overthrow everything. In my first game, I walked six batters in one inning."Young also had health issues. "Coming into the season, I was known as the 'Big Horse.' But I struggled in my first game. Then I had elbow pains. I sat out a month with tendonitis. Then the coach found one or two other pitchers and I was out of the loop. I didn't have a chance to pitch, only five innings. I played outfield and designated hitter. It was a down year for me. You don't think about it and you move forward," he said.But he was eager to bounce back as a senior. His comeback began last winter with daily drills at a local training facility. He pitched bullpen once a week, engaged in long toss with Carmel teammate and close friend J.C. Pawlak and did J-bands, a series of aerobic exercises designed to add strength and flexibility to the arm."My goal was to have command of all of my pitches in the strike zone," said Young, who also worked with Carmel pitching coach Mike Miller. "He said to me: 'This is the year for you. We're riding on you.' He got me pumped up."During the summer, he began to attract college coaches to his games. They informed major league scouts that they should evaluate him. In July, he was among the 50 top pitchers in the Midwest invited by the Midwest Scouting Association to participate in a showcase event in Kansas City. TCU saw him and offered a scholarship in October. He accepted."Whenever you hit 90 on a radar gun and you're a lefty, it will turn heads. And he did," May said. "What we love about him is he will throw his curve in any pitch count. It's a big-time curve, 10 to 5. I'm not surprised he is doing this well. I knew he had it in him."In three games, Young has allowed only two hits and only one earned run while averaging two strikeouts per inning. While his fastball catches the eyes and radar guns of the scouts--he was timed at a personal-best 93 mph against Warren--he insists his go-to pitch is his knuckle curve."I started throwing it in seventh grade," he said. "For some reason, I couldn't throw a curve. But I could throw a knuckle curve. Not too many high school kids throw it. So batters haven't seen it before. People don't know whether to call it a curve or a slurve. It breaks with a 10-to-5 action, a really sharp break."It figures that Young's role model is Hall of Famer Sandy Koufax, another lefty who struggled early in his career before he found a way to control his overpowering fastball and curve."He struggled early. Then he proved people wrong, said 'I can do whatever I want," became the best lefty in major league baseball and got to the Hall of Fame," Young said. "Thats the perception that people have of lefties, that they are sometimes out of control. I want to prove them wrong, too."Young has a more immediate goal. Because he competes in the same town as Mundelein lefty Ryan Borucki, who is judged by Prep Baseball Report as the No. 1 prospect in Illinois, Young is determined to demonstrate that he is as good as Borucki."I think I'm equally as good," Young said. "Both of us have command of our pitches. I've seen him pitch personally. I feel my curve has more break than his does. But his changeup is nasty. I was in Marion when he threw his no-hitter against Cary-Grove. I got there in the sixth inning and he was sitting guys down. No one could touch him. But I think I'm just as good."Time will tell, of course. "Borucki is a bit more of a pitcher than a thrower. Alex can throw the heck out of it. He is becoming more of a pitcher. What I like is he has developed into a leader on our team," said May, a 1978 graduate of Carmel who once played for Eddie Stanky at South Alabama."My fastball has been climbing. I'm still getting up there on the radar gun," Young said. "But that's not what it is all about. It's about getting first-pitch strikes. I walked the first batter in my first game, then struck out eight of the next nine. I'm keeping my walks down. That's a huge factor for me."
Niklas Hjalmarsson has called Chicago home ever since he was drafted by the Blackhawks in 2005. But now it's time for a new chapter.
After being traded to the Arizona Coyotes in June, the former Blackhawks defenseman officially said goodbye to the city he spent a decade in and helped bring three Stanley Cups to with an emotional Instagram post that perfectly sums up his time here:
This sums up me and my families 10 years in Chicago, the experience have been absolutely fantastic. Playing in front of a sold out united center every game In front of the most passionate fans in the league. It's been a privilege playing with the amazing group of guys on the team and the organization that have treated us like family. It's sad to leave Chicago but I'm now excited for a new adventure in Arizona. Thank you to everyone who made these years so memorable! #2babies #3stanleycups #gotmarried #lovechicago #best20sever
One marriage. Two kids. Three rings.
Hjalmarsson will forever hold a special place in the hearts of Blackhawks fans.