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    FRIDAY, MAY 25, 2007
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    JOSH COOPER

    Vandy ace can name his Price

    HOOVER — Looking at a pitch chart for Vanderbilt ace David Price is almost like checking out lap times at a NASCAR race.

    Under the line of "fastball" read the numbers "95, 96, 97." Couple that with his mid-80s slider, and Vandy's Price was practically unhittable against Mississippi State.

    That's "practically" because the Bulldogs did manage two runs against the consensus top amateur player in the country and favorite to go No. 1 in the June pro draft.

    Still, Price improved to 11-0 on the season, allowing the two runs on five hits while striking out 11 and walking none.

    According to my unofficial count, there were 14 radar guns behind home plate.

    And Price didn't disappoint the scouts with the aforementioned speed on his fastball and his solid repertoire of breaking pitches.

    Some reporters, who were done with their work before the Vandy game, decided to stay to watch a few innings of the 6-foot-6 left-hander.

    And the funny thing is that the guy has already achieved some kind of legendary status, so much so that rumors were flying before the game as to how many pitches he would toss.

    Some threw out the number 50. Some said three innings tops. Price ended up throwing 114.

    Overall this season, Price has thrown five complete games as Vandy tries to earn a home NCAA regional berth and cement the No. 1 overall seed in the NCAA tournament.

    The most interesting aspect of Price is not the ridiculous movement on his fastball. Instead, it's more the kind of person he is.

    Vanderbilt's coaching staff often talks about Price's love for baseball and his child-like enthusiasm.

    With most athletes, it is difficult to get a window into their personalities while they are on the field, but Price isn't like that.

    He is often the first guy out of the dugout to congratulate a player after scoring a run.

    Another reporter joked that the best story on Price would be to follow him around during a game he wasn't pitching.

    It's weird looking at this guy with a million-dollar arm and thinking that, well, he has a million-dollar arm.

    In just a few weeks when pro teams hold their June draft, Price will have the option to leave college and make a boatload of money. He, like most college players, says he doesn't think about the money.

    When you're so close to making so much, that seems highly unlikely.

    The issue for Price — and all the other first-round talent at the SEC tournament — is keeping a level head.

    Major League Baseball is filled with tales of athletes who got the money and just didn't make it, or even worse, fell into bad habits.

    For example, Josh Hamilton, now of the Cincinnati Reds, was the No. 1 overall pick in 1999 by the same Tampa Bay Devil Rays who have this year's top selection.

    Hamilton was fast, could hit and could throw. Bust most importantly to scouts, he had a solid family background.

    This year, he made his major league debut after battling years of drug and alcohol addiction.

    Will Price fall into the same trap? Hopefully not, but the options will be there. And with all the money thrown his way, it is easy to see how a person with his boyish outlook on life suddenly can be forced to grow up real fast.

    It's not just Price who will be faced to deal with the money. All first-round amateur prospects are handed not only the keys to shiny new cars, but also the keys to million dollar franchises.

    Price seems both humble and mature enough to become a pro. But with money comes great expectations. And with great expectations comes even greater pressure.

    We'll see in a year if he can handle it.

    Josh Cooper Josh Cooper
    DAILY Sports Writer

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