If you are pulled over driving 102 mph on I-635 around Overland Park, Kansas, at the very minimum, the fine will be $470.
For now, however, it only costs $6 to see Riley Pint throw that hard, or nearly that hard, every time he pitches.
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Pint was clocked at 102 mph in February at the Premier Baseball Pro Day Showcase in Kansas City. Because of that velocity, the St. Thomas Aquinas (Overland Park) senior right-hander and Louisiana State commit would be considered a potential first-round draft choice even if he wasn’t 5-1 with a 0.49 ERA this season, with 65 strikeouts in 35 innings.
He’s also pretty good at the plate, hitting .590 with four homers and 34 RBI in 61 at-bats as the team’s cleanup hitter. Most mock drafts have him going high in the first round, though a high school right-handed pitcher has never been chosen No. 1 overall. When he’s not pitching, he plays second base.
“This whole year, I’ve been getting good pitches to hit,” Pint said. “It also helps that I’ve gotten stronger and can hit the ball a little further.”
Knowing that he’s coaching someone with that potential, St. Thomas Aquinas coach Lorne Parks says he can be a little protective.
“You cringe sometimes when he’s diving head-first into the bag,” Parks said. “You never want to tell a kid to stop being aggressive. If he can take an extra base on a hit, he’s going to take it.”
Pint is 6-5 and 225 pounds and comes from an athletic family. His father Neil played baseball at Iowa State and his mother Missy played basketball and volleyball at Hutchinson (Kan) Community College and at Kansas State.
“My dad has been everything for me, baseball-wise,” Pint said. “He’s been amazing to have help me through the process.”
Pint was also an all-state player in the 2014-15 season on St. Thomas Aquinas’ basketball team, but skipped basketball this past season to get stronger as a pitcher.
“To stay away from injury, the best thing for him with where he’s at was to not play basketball this season,” Parks said. “Even when he was playing basketball (in previous seasons), he always got his reps in with his conditioning program. He’s always done a program that his dad learned at Iowa State.”
Pint grew up playing a variety of sports and interestingly enough, one of his friends growing up playing in the Catholic Youth Organization was Joey Wentz, another potential first-round draft choice now pitching for Shawnee Mission East (Prairie Village).
“We’ve played on the same basketball team since we were in the second grade, so we’ve become close over the years,” Pint said. “I think we’ve both just become all-around athletes. We both played basketball and baseball since we were kids and both stopped playing (basketball) this past year. I have to give a lot of credit to our throwing program guy, Bob Zimmerman (with Premier Baseball KC). It has been seemed like everything clicked for us this spring. It is kind of an weird thing because we have two guys from this area, but it’s awesome at the same time.”
As a freshman, Pint was 3-2 with a 3.19 ERA and threw in the 80s, when he began working with sports performance coach Joe Potts of TopSpeed Strength and Conditioning.
“At the time, he was 6-3 and 180 pounds and not real strong,” Potts said. “That’s what we attacked first. We tried to improve his base of strength and his power. We’ll focus on both strength and power in the same week. What’s impressed me is his steady improvement, in not only strength, but his ability to produce force at a high level. Testing his maximum jump touch, he’s up there at 11 feet and 3 inches, with NBA players like Klay Thompson and Damian Lillard.”
As a sophomore, Pint went 8-0 with a 2.58 ERA and 59 strikeouts in 57 innings. Last season, he was 5-2 with a 2.20 ERA and 47 strikeouts in 35 innings. He combines his fastball with a knuckle curve and a changeup. If he has one weakness, however, is that wicked fastball is sometimes difficult to control. His strikeout-to-walk ratio is 2.6 this season.
“What he’s really trying to work on is spotting his pitches,” Parks said. “There are a lot of scouts who have been attending our games and I think Riley is trying to show them he can throw something other than a fastball. He wants to be a pitcher. Everything that he’s doing, he’s trying to progress.”
One concern for every pitcher, especially power pitchers is injury. Throwing a baseball in the high 90s puts a lot of force on the arm. Pint has stayed healthy so far.
“One of the things that has helped Riley a lot is we focus a good amount on force production and also the ability to absorb force. The ability to land it and absorb it safely throughout the body,” Potts said. “We also focus on strengthening his connective tissues with isomiometrics and isometrics, that’s not something you see done very often.
“Unfortunately, a lot of coaches don’t know how to do and it’s not a lot of fun, it’s not flashy. What I’ll make him do is go to the top of a pull-up movement and instead of taking reps, he’ll go up and hold for 10 to 15 seconds per rep. That way, he’s getting a lot of time under tension and inducing the connective tissues to improve their strength as well.”
Pint is enjoying the crazy last few days of high school. He pitched a complete game Tuesday afternoon to finish the regular season and then had to rush to a baccalaureate Mass that night. He graduated Wednesday night, but the Saints, the top-ranked team in the state in 5A, continue the playoffs with a regional game next Tuesday.
“This whole year has been awesome since this is such a great group of guys,” Pint said. “We have 10 seniors. I am hoping we can end the season on a high note.”