God-given talent and good coaching helped A&M Consolidated pitcher Travis Lawler develop a 90-mile-an-hour fastball.
He just had to bring it home.
When Jim Lawler left Texas A&M after Travis' sophomore season, the entire family moved with 21-year Aggie baseball assistant to the Little Rock. Jim had been Mark Johnson's assistant head coach for pitching and was named the national Assistant Coach of the Year in 2003.
"When the coaching staff was released [at A&M] and my Dad got the job at the University of Arkansas-Little Rock, I was there for an entire semester," Travis said. "I was an odd man out and never really fit in there, and it was my parents' decision to let me move back and enjoy the rest of my high school."
"Two years ago, I got a call at Christmas that said Travis is moving back," Mann recalled. "They said 'Socially, it isn't working.' We didn't have him in the fall but had him in the spring."
Trish Lawler returned with her son, the youngest of five children, and Travis is appreciative.
"My mom has sacrificed a year and a half away from my dad to be here with me," said Lawler, who admits his father's schedule would be busy wherever he was coaching. "It's a year-round schedule that I know like the back of my hand."
It has made him relish the opportunities get gets to see his father.
"I don't make any plans when I get a chance to see him. When he comes into town, I spend all the time I can with him," Travis said. "Every once in a while, I'll take a weekend and drive up to Arkansas."
"It's not just him that's away from his dad. It's a family deal," said Mann who has made concessions to be sure Travis pitches when his father is in town. "If that's favoritism, then I'm all for favoritism. They did this for his education. ... If they can make that sacrifice, I thinks it's a minute point that he throws when his dad can come see him play."
Lawler cannot remember a time when his relationship with his father was not intertwined with his love for baseball.
"My dad is my mentor. I love him to death and he's my hero. Everything he has taught me is what I do," Travis said. "I've preached it and it's drilled in my mind.
"I've spent time with him and his best friends that know the game really well, too. It was a passion to sit on the back porch and listen to the old guys talk baseball."
Lawler has signed to play college baseball at Florida after considering Texas Tech and Notre Dame. The signing came before this season, which has been his best. He is 4-1 with a 2.43 earned run average and has held opponents to a .190 batting average.
"We brought him up as a sophomore. He was kind of shaky, but most sophomores are, but he had the stuff," Mann said. "This year, he has stepped up as a leader."
His background has Mann allowing Lawler to call his own pitches, something he has done occasionally with other pitchers in the past.
"I've got confidence in what he calls but once in a while I will throw something out as a suggestion," Mann said. "He and Chris [Jones] work out what their tendencies are and study guys during batting practice.
The play of Jones at catcher has made it a comfortable move for the Tigers.
"Chris has caught me since I was in Little League, since I was 12 years old," Lawler said. "He tells me all the time, 'Don't worry. I'm already in your head and I know what you want to throw.'"
He throw strikes a lot. In 46 innings pitched, Lawler has 70 strikeouts.
"Because he is long and lanky and has a loose arm, his fastball has always had some run on it," Mann said of his righthander. "God had everything to do with the 90 miles an hour he throws."
Lawler had 13 strikeouts in six innings in a 4-3 loss to Ellison Friday but got no decision in the rain-delayed contest. In the first meeting with Bryan, he had just five strikeouts, but finessed the win.
"It was a different game and my body got tired early. I couldn't concentrate on strikeouts," Lawler said. "I didn't have the life on my fastball that I normally did so I had to rely on other pitches. I ended up getting ground balls and the defense played well, so it kept my pitch count low."
"Even if you throw 90 miles an hour, sooner or later they are going to hit you," Mann said. "He's a pitcher. He doesn't just try to just go out there and strike everybody out."
Mann believes that he has the team that responds to that and that his pitcher feeds off it.
"We've got a great group of guys in the way they mesh together. There's not a lot of me-me-me guys," said the Tigers' coach. "As a pitcher, when you know there are guys out there for the team, not for themselves, it makes you confident on the mound."
Lawler has that confidence and uses it to his advantage when he takes the ball.
"The pitcher has to control the game if he wants to win," Lawler said. "You've got to get in their minds and make them think about something that's not going to come. They might be looking for the fastball, but I've got three other pitches."
Taken from The Eagle
Browse by Year »
Browse by Month »