Aaron Nola has a baseball pedigree that includes an older brother who has already won a College World Series. There is no doubt that Nola is an unique entity.
Earlier this week, the 6-foot-2, 170-pound right-hander was drafted by the Toronto Blue Jays in the 22nd round of the Major League Baseball draft.
In three varsity seasons, Nola compiled a 21-2 record with 214 strikeouts. He was 7-1 while helping lead Catholic High-Baton Rouge to the Class 5A semifinals this spring.
Now, Nola also has a title that goes beyond the numbers: 2011 Farm Bureau/Mr. Baseball.
The Louisiana Sports Writers Association selected the senior as the winner of the highest award given for high school baseball in Louisiana.
“I had no idea … it’s awesome,” Nola said. “It’s a great accomplishment for me.
“I’m proud. I don’t know what else to say really.”
Those who know the LSU signee believe such an accolade is fitting, given the way his prep career played out as he followed his older brother, Austin, LSU’s starting shortstop, to earn LSWA all-state honors twice at Catholic.
“I don’t really know him (Nola) personally, but I like the way he carries himself,” Denham Springs High coach Mark Carroll said. “He’s not one of those guys who talks or does a lot of the rah, rah stuff.
“He just goes out and takes care of his business, and he’s a competitor. He’s not the guy you want to see out there on the (mound) if you’re the other team.”
Pinpoint control was another thing that helped set Nola apart from many high school hurlers. In 45 innings pitched this spring, Nola struck out 61 and walked just 10. In three seasons, he issued only 32 walks in 152 innings pitched.
“Aaron came in as this gangly young kid as a freshman, and it was amazing to watch him develop,” said Kyle Achord, Nola’s coach at Catholic. “He has matured in every phase of the game.
“He’s been around baseball all his life and is a student of the game. He also worked hard to make himself a better player. He went throwing in the low 80s as a freshman to registering 94 on the (radar) guns this year. That’s an incredible improvement and his work ethic had everything to do with it.”
Nola also overcame adversity. As a junior, he missed a month of the season after having what was thought to be season-ending surgery to repair a sports hernia.
Nola returned to the lineup in the second round of the playoffs and helped spearhead Catholic’s drive to the 2010 Class 5A state title, the school’s first baseball crown in more than 30 years.
Shoulder tightness sent Nola to rehab early this spring. Though he missed a few starts, he stayed in the lineup at shortstop. Nola hit .364 with four home runs and 29 runs batted in.
“I worked a lot on velocity and my changeup,” Nola said. “I took the throwing program more seriously than I did before. After I hurt my shoulder, I did a lot of band work to help strengthen the shoulder.”
Denham Springs’ Carroll cautions those who are tempted to peg Nola is just another hard-throwing right-hander.
“It’s not just how hard he throws, it’s the movement he gets on all his pitches,” Carroll said. “That movement is what makes him so hard to hit.”
For now, LSU fans will track any potential movement by the Nolas. Austin Nola also was drafted by the Blue Jays in the 31st round.
“We’re both in a win-win situation,” Nola said. “If I don’t go pro, I get to go LSU, and that’s always been my dream school. Austin loves it there.”
When asked about notching the Mr. Baseball honor, an award his brother, a senior-to-be at LSU did not win, Aaron Nola doesn’t hesitate.
“Well, but he has the national (2009 College World Series) title,” Nola said with a smile.
Winners of the Louisiana Sports Writers Association’s Farm Bureau/Mr. Baseball award:
1996: Joe Lawrence, Barbe
1997: Chucky Son, Parkview Baptist
1998: Aaron Lowe, Parkway
1999: Nick Bourgeois, Barbe
2000: Austin Nagle, Barbe
2001: Austin Nagle, Barbe/Jonathan Zeringue, E.D. White
2002: Greg Smith, Alexandria
2003: Matt Greenwich, Parkview Baptist
2004: Ben Soignier, West Monroe
2005: Beau Jones, Destrehan
2006: Forrest Moore, Parkview Baptist
2007: Carmen Angelini, Barbe
2008: Zack Von Rosenberg, Zachary
2009: Zack Von Rosenberg, Zachary
2010: Bryan Picou, Northlake Christian
2011: Aaron Nola, Catholic-BR