Less than a year has passed since Mike Foltynewicz, the ace of the Minooka Community High School baseball team, would get pumped up before games by playing drums.
In Minooka, an Illinois town about 30 minutes south of Chicago, Foltynewicz played in a rock band.
"We had about five different names," he said. His favorite name: Stuck In October (his birth month).
Foltynewicz sees his calling as baseball, though, rather than music.
Thursday, he'll be the starting pitcher for the Lexington Legends when they open the season in Whitaker Bank Ballpark against the Charleston RiverDogs.
As is his custom, Legends president and CEO Alan Stein has guaranteed victory in the season opener. If the team doesn't come through, the University of Kentucky graduate has vowed to "dress like Bruce Pearl" — the former Tennessee basketball coach — until the Legends do win. That could make any pitcher nervous.
"If I don't (get nervous), there's something wrong with me," Foltynewicz said. "Yeah, I'll have a little bit of nerves in there. Especially with the CEO sitting there. If we lose that game, he's got to dress up in his enemy's outfit. ... I don't want to upset anybody right away, so I'll try to do my best."
A 6-foot-4, 200-pound right-hander, Foltynewicz is a mere 19.
He was set to attend the University of Texas until the Houston Astros picked him in the first round of last June's draft (19th overall) and offered a $1.305 million bonus.
"That was my dream school, so it really took a lot to get me away from Texas," he said. "But it did, and I'm glad that it worked out the way it did."
He allowed himself one treat with his bonus money — a Ford F-150 pickup truck. An only child, he entrusted parents Gary and Cindy "to put the rest away; wait until I get a little older to start digging in."
Rodney Linares, manager of the Legends, also is glad things worked out so Foltynewicz is in the Bluegrass.
"Young kid. Power arm," Linares said. "He's got the little strut. ... He struts around like he's good. And he is good."
Baseball America rates Foltynewicz as the fourth-best prospect in the Astros system.
His fastball has been clocked as high as 96 mph and is his money pitch. It's also his most improved pitch since last season, he says, because his focus in spring training was to sharpen his location skills.
If he's able to locate the heater, that will set up opportunities to fool batters with his change-up and two-seam curve ball.
Last summer, with Greene-ville of the Appalachian League, Foltynewicz made 12 starts, worked 45 innings and went 0-3 with a 4.03 ERA. He struck out 39 and walked 15.
As he has grown familiar with fellow Astros prospects, Foltynewicz has become more inquisitive.
"I talk to hitters all the time and see what they're thinking," he said. "Talk to the other pitchers, just about baseball. 'What do you think about that? What are you going to throw in that situation?'
"I get around. I get some pretty good tips from everyone, so I can't complain."
His aims for the new season are basic — stay focused, be determined, throw strikes, go at least six or seven innings, keep the pitch count under 90.
Get off to a good start Thursday.
"I'm excited. Besides, it's my first full season and everything," he said. "I had a good spring training and I'm trying to ... build on it. Come out opening day and just do what I do, and get that first win out of the way."