Saturday morning, Robby Medel will take the mound at Mississippi State’s rowdy Dudy Noble Field, Polk-DeMent Stadium.
Bulldogs fans will ring their cowbells for nine innings — it’s a tradition — in an attempt to rattle Arizona’s redshirt freshman.
Medel won’t hear much — if any — of it.
UA’s right-handed pitcher has moderate hearing loss. And while he recently purchased hearing aids, he doesn’t wear them on the mound.
“I wear them at practice, around the field, at school, at home. But when I pitch, I don’t wear them,” said Medel, who is 1-0 with a 1.46 ERA in two starts. “I didn’t have them in high school, so I never pitched with them. It’s a comfort thing. I can still hear. If it became a problem, I’d pitch with them in.”
Arizona | SP | R-Fr.
The TCU transfer communicates with third baseman Bobby Dalbec using hand signals, and “it’s not as bad as people think.
“I really never think about it when I’m out there,” Medel said.
It’s appropriate that Medel leave his hearing aids in the clubhouse. It represents his pitching mentality: one man off the field, a totally different one on it.
“I’m really goofy off the field,” he said. “I don’t get picked on, but I’m just a goofy guy. But when I’m on the mound, I like to carry myself in a totally different manner. I get real fired up. I love competing. I love proving people wrong.
“It’s just something that I’ve always had since I was a kid. I don’t really know where it comes from.”
Andy Lopez doesn’t care where it comes from — Arizona’s coach is just happy to have it.
After last year’s 22-33 season, Lopez made it a point to recruit players who love to compete and aren’t afraid to show their emotions on the field.
Lopez and assistant Matt Siegel, a former TCU assistant, initially recruited Medel out of Bowie High School in Arlington, Texas. He chose the Horned Frogs instead of Arizona and others.
But when Medel showed up to school, he quickly realized he wasn’t ready for college ball.
“I came in as your everyday high school pitcher, just throwing fastballs and getting by,” Medel said. “I went over there and couldn’t do that anymore. It took me a while to learn. I had a rough fall.”
Medel redshirted last season to add strength and work on his secondary pitches. The Horned Frogs made a run to the College World Series, but after the season, coaches told Medel his scholarship would be reduced. TCU gave him a full release, which enabled him to be eligible to play right away.
Lopez and Siegel learned Medel was looking to transfer, and got involved.
Lopez liked Medel’s physical tools, but was even fonder of his intangibles and desire to be the man on the mound
“It oozes out of his pores,” Lopez said of Medel’s competitiveness. “He’s got that attitude we needed. We needed that personality. He’s good for us.”
Medel was intrigued by Arizona because of his prior relationship with Lopez and Siegel and because his mom is from Casa Grande. Medel still has several family members there.
The transfer to Tucson has been good for everyone.
Right now, Medel is UA’s Saturday starter, but the Wildcats’ weekend rotation is hardly set in stone.
Medel dominated Eastern Michigan in his first career start, holding the Eagles to just one run in 7.2 innings.
In his second start, against the Rice Owls, he lasted just 4.2 innings, but only gave up one earned run.
Lopez is hoping the 6-foot-4-inch righty continues to develop. Medel wants the same thing.
“Every time I go out, something new happens, because this is my first time pitching in college,” Medel said. “So I just have to keep getting better week by week, location-wise. I need to throw my secondary pitches better to compete at this level and be where I want to be as a starter.”
Something he doesn’t have to work on is that fiery demeanor.
When he’s pitching, Medel can’t stand still between pitches, constantly moving around the mound. He walks halfway between the mound and second base after most outs to take a deep breath before getting back on the mound.
When it isn’t his day to pitch, Medel is one of the more vocal Wildcats in the dugout.
“I love baseball,” he said. “I love watching baseball. I love being able to be with my guys.
“After the Eastern Michigan game, I said to someone, ‘I have to wait six more days to do this again?’ It’s just a different feeling.
This article was written by Daniel Berk from The Arizona Daily Star, Tucson and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.