Tallahassee, FL - As Carson Sands sits back in his chair at his kitchen table, he starts opening one letter after the next. There's a pile of fanmail he's been holding onto (mostly for the purpose of the interview) and he's itching to see what's inside. But, like all of the other letters he's received, he knows what the "pen pals' are looking for.
About three times a week, he gets letters, all with the same request, almost always from a different person. They want his autograph.
"Of course, I love it. It let's me know they know I'm there," he says.
He normally sits down once a week and signs his own baseball cards - which were created when he made Team USA last summer and has to buy himself. That same right arm putting his John Hancock on his own picture isn't why Sands is famous. It's his left arm.
The North Florida Christian sophomore can throw 90 mph.
"Not very many sophomores throw as hard as I do, " he says. "Not many lefties throw that hard, either. But, it's always good."
Lorenzo Areama think it's pretty good. He's been a Major League Baseball Scout for 10 years for three different teams. He now works for the Cleveland Indians.
"Speed matters. In pitchers, basically, that's the first thing we look for," Areama says.
A player's velocity has become so important, it's even on local high school scoreboards, such as the one at Lincoln High School. What appears to be a pretty neat add-on, Areama warns, can be a distraction.
"They don't need to know what they're throwing," Areama says. "You just get up there and pitch."
Let's face the facts, though. Speed can earn a college scholarship or a big signing bonus from the big leagues. Sands almost finds himself on that level.
"My scouting of him, and again that's basically what matters if he keeps his arm in shape," Areama says, "and I would be very confident that I would sign him and he probably will go in the top five."
Areama says it's an assessment based all on speed.
In a couple of years, Sands hopes to improve his speed by at least a couple of miles per hour, which means he'll reach around 95 mph. It's just a couple of notches faster, but a million dollar difference.
"You gotta be able to control the game the way you want," Sands says. "Throwing hard is a big, big part of it."
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