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Derry’s Tim Viehoff delivers a pitch in recent action for the Everett (Wash.) Aquasox. (COURTESY)

Derry's Tim Viehoff showing the right stuff


It isn’t often that Major League Baseball teams ask a player to come showcase their abilities. It’s even rarer for a player to deny such a request.

That’s exactly what Derry’s Tim Viehoff did, though, leading into this year’s MLB Draft. Viehoff was in the midst of a strong senior season pitching for the Southern New Hampshire University baseball team when he rejected the invitation to travel to a handful of MLB clubs, which were presumably considering drafting him, and throw in front of their talent evaluators.

The pass, which came after Viehoff opted to rest his arm, would’ve likely dropped the stock of most pitchers. However, it didn’t stop the Seattle Mariners from selecting the lefty in the 12th round of this year’s draft.

“I had talked to the Mariners months before, but they weren’t one of the teams talking to me before the draft,” Viehoff said. “I wasn’t expecting it. I was listening to the live feed with my dad and heard my name. It was pretty cool.”

Viehoff has rewarded the Mariners’ faith with solid numbers for the Everett (Wash.) Aquasox, Seattle’s short-season Single-A affiliate. Through eight games, Viehoff owns a 2.92 earned run average and 34 strikeouts to just 12 walks while holding opposing hitters to a .157 batting average.

“The biggest thing has been getting ahead of batters with that first strike,” Viehoff said. “My change-up has been really big too, though. A lot of my strikeouts have come with it and it complements the fastball, keeps hitters off balance at this level.

“You don’t get away with as many mistakes here, but if you make your pitches, you’re going to succeed.”

Of the many transitions that come with becoming a pro ballplayer, the toughest for Viehoff has had nothing to do with anything on the field. The 22-year-old never spent an extended period time away from home on his own to this point in his life, leading to quite the culture shock when his baseball dreams uprooted him from one coast to the other.

“I went down to Arizona for 10 days to sign my contract and it was brutal,” Viehoff said. “It was nothing like home with the desert. One day it was like 120 degrees and felt like an oven.

“I got sent up to Everett shortly after, though, and saw all the trees and rain. It was awesome and reminded me of home.”

Extended bus rides for road trips, hotel living and less-than-ideal dining options were among other tough changes, according to Viehoff.

Such big changes might set a player’s game back, but the strong statistics, despite a small sample-size, suggest quite the opposite in Viehoff’s case.

The strong start has been especially reassuring for Viehoff considering his mechanics and delivery have yet to be altered from those that propelled him to an 8-2 record, 115 strikeouts and a 2.91 ERA in 14 starts for SNHU this spring.

The Aquasox instituted a policy for their on-field staff to wait 30 days after a player is drafted before tweaking their game, which gives the staff a full view of why a player was drafted. Viehoff’s hope is that Aquasox pitching coach Moises Hernandez, the older brother of Mariners ace Felix Hernandez, will help sharpen his change-up and slider, among other things, upon finally getting the opportunity to work together. Whether or not he will gain further development is the furthest concern from Viehoff’s mind.

“I’m definitely in good hands here,” Viehoff said. “I’m excited for them to finally be able to work with me because of the endless baseball knowledge they have to pass off.”

jduball@unionleader.com

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