At the high school level, pitcher Vince Wheeland was a walking definition of the word “dominant.” He had the size, the arm and the velocity to make batters think their time inside the batter’s box was a short one.
He went 13-0 his senior year at Turlock High, racking up 147 strikeouts in 85 innings to boast a 0.74 ERA. He earned MVP honors from the Bulldogs, the Central California Conference and the Stanislaus District. He also was named an all-state player.
And then, he went off to Oklahoma State on a baseball scholarship. He didn’t do much his freshman season, pitching in 10 innings — though he traveled with the Cowboys to the Big 12 Tournament and NCAA Nashville Regional, getting invaluable experience for later. But he’s fine with that truth. It was a learning experience, one that he’s continuing this summer.
He’s part of the San Luis Obispo Blues, who are in second place in the California Collegiate League, which showcases college players from all over the country. He’s happy with his summer so far, especially now that he’s part of the non-profit baseball organization’s all-star event on Wednesday at Casey Stengel Field in Glendale. The event is scheduled to be nationally televised on Fox Sports West at 6 p.m.
So far, the experience has given Wheeland a glimpse of the minor league baseball life, seeing that the league provides numerous games. He says his team has about 10 days off this summer.
“This is probably the closest thing to minor league baseball,” Wheeland said. “You have to get up every day. It makes it real, to keep your body healthy and ready. It’s a different kind of experience. I like it a lot.”
He’s also taking this opportunity to continue building his college resume. The right-hander’s goal is to become a starting pitcher in Division I. Wheeland said his chances are good. He tirelessly works on creating a stronger, bigger body while increasing his smarts on the mound.
Last season at Oklahoma State, he did more watching than playing — a strange concept to fans of Turlock baseball. Wheeland was unstoppable in 2010. His fastballs were unhittable, his presence was undeniable. He led the Bulldogs to an unforgettable run, only ending in the championship game of the Sac-Joaquin Section Division I South tournament against St. Mary’s High, a mighty private school.
At the college level, he’s still learning. His Oklahoma State coach, Frank Anderson, said Wheeland’s goal of becoming a starting pitcher is a real possibility.
“He’s got a lot of opportunities to have a chance to do that,” Anderson said. “His confidence has soared.”
Anderson keeps track of Wheeland’s summer league stats via the Internet and Blues head coach Chal Fanning. Anderson likes what he sees: Wheeland is 1-0, but he does most of his work as a relief pitcher, throwing in 15 innings (as of Thursday) with two saves, 22 strikeouts and a 1.20 ERA.
So despite little playing time at Oklahoma State last season, Wheeland’s future looks promising.
“I’m sure he learned a lot,” Turlock coach Mark de la Motte said about Wheeland’s first college season. “He had to see what guys are like at a high level. He’ll work hard. He’ll get there. He’ll be successful.”
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