High School Sports

Bourbon County's big left-hander Mullins has big future

Bourbon Co. pitcher Chase Mullins throws against Paris at the Paris Athletic Complex in Paris, Ky., April 16, 2012. Photo by Matt Goins 13822
Bourbon Co. pitcher Chase Mullins throws against Paris at the Paris Athletic Complex in Paris, Ky., April 16, 2012. Photo by Matt Goins 13822 ©2012 Herald-Leader

PARIS — When 6-foot-9, 260-pound Chase Mullins stands on the pitcher's mound, it can look as if his Bourbon County baseball cap is touching the clouds.

That may be an illusion, but his sky's-the-limit potential is not. The Colonels' 17-year-old senior left-hander has signed with Kentucky and is drawing lots of attention from professional scouts.

"God has blessed me so much with the opportunities laid out for me," Mullins said. "I've got the world sitting at my feet. I've just got to reach down and grab it."

Mullins grabbed the attention of UK a couple of years ago when he pitched in a Chicago White Sox summer tryout in northern Indiana.

Within a few weeks he had a scholarship offer from UK, and he committed to the Cats before his junior year.

Since then Mullins has blossomed.

Last spring he was 7-2 for Bourbon County, with 76 strikeouts in 47 innings.

Last summer he played for Cincinnati Midland, and in the fall got noticed in the World Wood Bat Association World Championships in Jupiter, Fla.

This season Mullins is 5-0 with a save for Bourbon County. He has 62 K's (and 16 walks) in 26 innings, and he's given up only seven hits and one run.

Mullins' fastball has been clocked as high as the mid-90s. In a leisurely three-inning stint in a 9-0 victory over Paris on Monday, a half-dozen scouts had him at 90 mph on their radar guns.

"The kid throws hard, but he doesn't grunt or groan," Bourbon County Coach Nelson Faris said. "He's got a nice, smooth, easy delivery."

There have been more than a dozen pro scouts at some of Mullins' games this season. "They're flying in from all over the country," Faris said. "They're not your local Billy Bob Smith who lives in Bourbon County and got a business card printed up that says 'associate scout.' These are the big boys."

Mullins, who has to be included in the Mr. Baseball discussion, is unaffected by the stir he causes.

That's his nature, said his mom, Ann Shanks.

"If Chase gets any more laid-back, he's going to slip into a coma," she said with a laugh. "He tells me, 'If the sun doesn't come up, mom, we'll turn on the lights.' "

Mullins said he tries "not to stress about anything. When it comes down to crunch time, I try as hard as I can to be on top of everything, but I keep my emotions locked in as tight as I can."

Mullins comes by his talent naturally. His father, Ron Mullins, was a pitcher, too, and was drafted by the Cincinnati Reds in 1985. He played in the minors for five years.

Ron and Ann divorced about 15 years ago.

Chase, who wears a size 18 shoe, has always been a big boy. He was 11 pounds and nearly 2 feet long at birth.

He played basketball at Bourbon County in his sophomore year, but he gave it up to concentrate on baseball, although he still finds time for his music hobby.

"He's a really good drummer," his mom said.

But Chase would always pick his baseball team over a rock-and-roll band. "I'd much rather pitch a big game any day," he said.

Mullins figures to have a lot of big games in his future.

Where he plays those big games next season could depend on when he is taken in the major league draft the first week of June.

Ann Shanks said 24 of the 30 pro organizations have contacted her and her son, but none have given any indication how high Chase might be taken.

That's OK with them.

"Knowing that next year Chase can put on that Big Blue and play for the No. 1 team in the country, that's awesome," Ann said.

Chase has the same outlook. "As of right now, I'm going to the University of Kentucky, and I couldn't be more blessed. Getting the opportunity to play for your dream school is a great feeling."

UK Coach Gary Henderson loves to hear that.

"What impresses me the most about Chase is that he's really excited about coming to UK," Henderson said.

"He's eager to get better, he's an enthusiastic kid who's fun to be around, and he's going to help us win."

Mullins' dedication is reflected in his off-season work in the weight room.

"The commitment he's made to improve his body over the last nine months is very impressive," Henderson said.

Mullins has the right attitude about pitching, too.

"I feel today's best should be tomorrow's worst on the mound," he said. "Every time out, I should be getting better. No matter how far I go, I'll always have room to grow."

His size is an obvious plus.

"It's an intimidating factor when the batter sees a guy on the mound as tall as can be," Mullins said. "Tall pitchers have a lot of angle, and it's hard to judge a ball coming from the left side that's running up there. My size is a big key to my potential."

Henderson has seen Mullins' arm get stronger, but the UK coach isn't obsessed with velocity.

"I guess the best way to put it is, he throws hard enough," Henderson said. "His secondary pitches aren't nearly as good as they're going to be. But there's enough there to give you the feeling they'll be good enough down the road."

For now, though, Mullins is just a kid playing ball and enjoying every minute of it.

Early this season, more than a dozen scouts showed up to evaluate him, but Mullins was oblivious to the commotion.

"He never got shook," his mom said. "He walked up to my dad, kissed him on the cheek and said, 'I'll see you after the game, granddad.

"That's Chase. He's just a good kid who loves his family and baseball."

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