ATLANTA -- The teenage Jacob deGrom was uniformly respectful, but like all teenagers he had strong opinions about what he wanted and what might be best for him, and he knew what he didn't want. Long before he became the greatest pitcher on the planet, he had no interest in pitching.
The year before he was drafted by the New York Mets, his summer ball coach presented him a choice -- he could either pitch, or he could serve as a backup infielder, with no promise of regular playing time. By deGrom's way of thinking, he was a starting shortstop. He envisioned himself as a professional ballplayer, and it was as a shortstop, and he was decisive in his answer.
"I'd rather take the summer off," deGrom said firmly, feeling he'd better prepare for his junior year at Stetson taking swings in the cage at his house and fielding grounders hit by his father, Tony.