Brad Hand was selected as a member of National League’s All-Star team on Sunday. He will represent the San Diego Padres ... and offer a bit of an embarrassment to the hometown Marlins when the game is played in Miami on July 11.
The Marlins drafted Hand in the second round in 2008. He had a few shots with Miami, then was waived in April 2016. He was claimed by the Padres and the lefthander has thrived as a reliever.
Here’s a column that I wrote on Hand as a high school senior and pitching prospect that appeared in the Star Tribune on May 1, 2008:
BRAD HAND WAS WARMING UP 10 minutes before he was scheduled to make his fourth start of the spring for the Chaska Hawks, this time against Eden Prairie.
There were a half-dozen scouts standing several feet behind the bullpen mound. There were another 12 scouts leaning against the fence along the third base line, and then another handful standing near a light tower and trying to look less conspicuous.
A scout who has been working this area for years was asked when a Minnesota high school player last attracted big-league scouts in this number.
He thought for a moment and said, "It would have to be No. 7.''
That would be No. 7, as in Joe Mauer, and the year was 2001, when Mauer was catching for Cretin-Derham Hall.
"He is in a much different situation than Joe, obviously, but you're asking about the number of scouts watching a Minnesota high school kid?'' the scout said. "Then, it has to be Mauer.''
Hand is a 6-3, 210-pound lefthander. He started pitching varsity for Chaska as a freshman.
"That's the first time I saw him,'' Eden Prairie coach Mike Halloran said. "This tall, slender kid came in a game as a reliever. I remember asking the Chaska coaches later, 'Who was that kid?'
"He didn't throw as hard as he does now, of course, but he had such nice arm action. You could see he had a chance to be something special.
"I don't remember a high school pitcher this good. Can you, Dale?''
Dale Welter has been coaching baseball at Chaska since 1981. He had other stops before that.
"Maybe Pavelka,'' Welter said. "He had a great arm, until he got hurt.''
Mike Pavelka was a lefthander for Hopkins in the early '80s. He was drafted by Baltimore in the third round in 1983. He went to Minnesota instead, suffered an arm injury and became an effective rather than overpowering pitcher.
Hand has signed to play baseball for Arizona State. He is expected to be selected in the top 50 in the June draft. And then?
"We'll have to see,'' said Lon Hand, his father. "For now, he's just trying to help put our team in the best possible position for the playoffs. Brad has played a lot of baseball with these guys, and their goal is to win a state title together.''
Lon and his wife, Barb, come from Hampton, Iowa. His father, Bill, was Hampton's high school baseball coach for 33 years. Bill and wife Shirley make the 2 1/2-hour drive to the Twin Cities regularly to watch their grandson play baseball, including for Wednesday night's game at Chaska Athletic Field.
Lon landed a banking job in the Twin Cities after college [Central in Pella, Iowa], and the Hands moved to West St. Paul. Later, they moved to Eagan, and then Lon took a job at the Community Bank of Chaska before Brad's eighth-grade year.
"We moved to Chaska because I took a job here,'' Lon said. "But it turned out to be almost the perfect place for Brad to develop as a ballplayer. It's a great baseball town, with great coaches.''
Welter and Troy Stein have been advertised as co-coaches for the past three years. "I'm just a hanger-on,'' Welter said. "Troy runs the show.''
Hand came into Wednesday's game unscored on in 20 1/3 innings. He had three victories and two saves. It took until the sixth inning, but Eden Prairie finally scored the season's first run off Hand -- on a wild pitch.
He gave up three hits, walked four and struck out seven to get a 9-1 victory. He walked three and bounced three breaking balls for wild pitches in the sixth.
"There were some long half-innings when we were batting,'' Hand said. "That last inning ... I wasn't stiff, but maybe a little tired.''
Stein offered another theory for Hand's shaky sixth.
"There's no way you can warm up in front of that many scouts, and not have your adrenaline really pumping,'' Stein said. "I think he kind of hit the wall in that last inning.''
That's how much life this 18-year-old has in his left arm: He gives up a run, and everyone was trying to figure out how it happened.