6 August 2009
Wareham’s Armstrong: A Jack of all Trades
By Katy Fitzpatrick, CCBL Intern
WAREHAM, Mass. – We’ve all heard the term “Triple Threat” referring to people who are well-rounded. Academics, personality, athleticism – these are all categories where most people are lucky to be able to excel in just one. But for Wareham pitcher Jack Armstrong (Vanderbilt), he is a master at all three. Armstrong has one of the best arms in the Cape this summer, but this is just one example on a long list of achievements for the 6-foot-7, 230 pound hurler from Vanderbilt.
“Jack is one of the hardest workers we’ve got in our club, “ said Wareham Field Manager Cooper Farris. “He comes out everyday and gets his work done and he’s just a joy to be around. He never complains, he just gets out there and gets done what he needs to do.”
Armstrong’s work is clearly paying off on the mound. While he didn’t see a lot of action in his freshman year at Vanderbilt after being drafted out of high school in the 36th round, he is certainly making up for lost time. He is tied for the league lead in wins (4) and shutouts (1) with a low 2.57 ERA. Over 35 innings pitched and 151 batters faced, he has given up just 10 earned runs, 18 walks, no homeruns, and has recorded 33 strikeouts. These stats aren’t quite as impressive as Armstrong’s fastball, which has clocked in at its highest at 97 miles per hour, harder than any other pitcher has been recorded throwing this summer.
“Jack’s been outstanding every time out,” said Farris. “He’s given us quality starts. The big thing is he competes and he loves to do it. He’s having a great summer for himself and for the Wareham Gatemen.”
Jack’s performance was good enough to earn him a spot on the Western All-Star Squad. While the game was shortened do to rain, Armstrong was still able to have his moment in the spotlight at Fenway Park. Armstrong relieved teammate Brandon Workman (Texas). He pitched a strong inning, allowing no runs or hits, and giving up one walk with no strikeouts. Even with impressive numbers, the red-headed righty was a little nervous beforehand.
“I had a little adrenaline rush in the bullpen,” said Armstrong. “My heart rate was up and I had to take some breaths to calm down, but when I got out there, it was an experience I’ll never forget. I enjoyed every pitch of it.”
Armstrong has even caught the eye of ESPN Hall of Fame writer and acclaimed baseball guru Peter Gammons. After speaking with Gammons at Fenway for the Cape League All-Star Game, he said Jack Armstrong was one of his favorite prospects.
“The Cape League has a lot of talent and Jack Armstrong is one of them, “ said Gammons. “I actually met him when he was 6 years old working out with his father during the [MLB] strike. He certainly has caught my eye the most.”
It’s quite possible that the baseball gene runs thick in the Armstrong family. Jack Armstrong Sr. played for the Wareham Gatemen during the summers of 1985 and 1986 and went on to pitch at the major league level with the Reds, Indians, Marlins, and Rangers. Armstrong learned through his father the importance of playing on the Cape.
“It meant a lot to him besides baseball and it really put his name on the map,” said Armstrong. “He had good success after that and it got him to where his career ended up. It’s a great opportunity to play against the best competition in the country, and it’s a great confidence booster. My skills have been getting a lot better over the course of the summer.”
Baseball isn’t the only sport that runs through Armstrong’s blood. Up until college, Armstrong was a skilled basketball player. In his senior year in high school, Armstrong was the captain of the Jupiter High School Varsity Basketball Team, leading his squad to the 2008 District Championships. He is no stranger to academics either, attending a top 20 university as a Biological Sciences major, Armstrong won the Lamp of Knowledge award in high school for maintaining a GPA higher than 3.5 All of these talents, baseball included, are miniscule compared to what most consider to be Armstrong’s greatest talent – a standing back flip.
“To be quite honest, it’s like poetry in motion seeing a 6-foot-7 guy do a back flip, I had never seen it before,” said Armstrong’s teammate Derek Dietrich (Georgia Tech). “A couple of our little infielders can do it, but seeing Jack do it is a pretty impressive sight.”
Armstrong attributes his ability to do the flip to his long career in basketball which gave him great spring in his jump. It became a pre-game ritual last year in his rookie season at Vanderbilt, when one of the coaches suggested he do it in the team’s “energy circle”, a tradition the Commodores do before every game to get themselves psyched up. Armstrong performed the flip, and they went on to crush their opponents. Since then, he has done it before every game.
“It scares me, “ joked Farris. “I haven’t seen it yet and I don’t know if I want to.”
With Wareham battling Cotuit in the first round of playoffs, the Gatemen will look to Armstrong to continue his dominant performance on the mound and off the field with his positive attitude and acrobatics. Whether it be on the diamond, on the court, in a biology lab, or in the gymnastics ring, it is certain that we will continue to see Jack Armstrong make strides in the years to come.
Katy Fitzpatrick can be reached at [email protected]
Interns: Chris Blake, James Chandley, Ashley Crosby, Phil Garceau, Michael Campbell, Katy Ann Fitzpatrick