High school arm Cisco has strong roots
Family with pro baseball background provides support
When most high school pitchers have trouble with their mechanics or their delivery, they have to rely on their high school coach for help.
While that might be fine, Drew Cisco can do a whole lot more than that without leaving his family. He can talk to his grandfather, the one who spent parts of seven seasons in the big leagues and nearly three decades as a pitching coach. Or his dad, who spent three summers in the Minors. Or his uncle, who has pro experience. Or his brother, who's currently with Double-A Reading in the Phillies organization.
"Whenever Granddad comes down, we take a trip to the bullpen," Cisco said. "He doesn't change too much, but it's amazing what little things can do. It's great having him. He comes down a good bit, He's really helped me and my brothers out. And if I want to ask questions, he's only a phone call away."
"Granddad" is Galen Cisco, who pitched for the Red Sox, Mets and Royals in a big league career that saw him collect 659 innings. He's more known as a pitching coach, one who handled Major League staffs for almost 30 years. Dad is Jeff, a catcher who played at the lower levels of the Expos and Padres systems. Brother is Mike, a 2008 draftee of the Phillies who's reached Double-A and has a career 2.81 ERA in the Minors.
"No one gives advice unless you ask," Cisco said. "I try to ask as much as I can. My dad played Minor League ball, my granddad comes down as often as he can and I talk to Mike a lot."
This week's Draft Reports
|Drew Cisco||Wando HS (Mt. Pleasant, S.C.)|
|Derek Dietrich||Georgia Tech|
|Nico Goodrum||Fayette County HS (Ga.)|
|Jacoby Jones||Richton HS (Miss.)|
|Ty Linton||Charlotte Christian HS (N.C.)|
Clearly, it's working. As might be expected coming from such an extensive baseball family tree, Cisco has an extremely good feel for his craft. His pitchability gets rave reviews from scouts, who praise his three-pitch mix and, more importantly, his ability to command it better than most high school arms can.
Those are important skills because Cisco doesn't fit the typical mold teams look for in prep pitchers. He's not tall and gangly with tons of projection. And while his stuff isn't bad -- he's generally in the 90-93 mph range with his fastball -- he doesn't light up radar guns in a manner that gets other high schoolers more attention. It's not something that concerns Cisco. After all, the Wando High School senior has gone 6-0 with a 0.41 ERA this season, striking out 45 and walking just five over 34 1/3 innings to date. He knows it's not just about throwing as hard as possible. It's about putting up zeroes.
"Pitching is about getting people out," Cisco said. "Some say I don't throw as hard as other guys. I'm in the 90-93 mph range -- I've hit a 94 early in the summer. With that aside, it comes down to whether you get the guy out. People want guys who can go out there and compete with great stuff and get batters out. It doesn't mean anything if you don't get the guy out at home plate."
It's that kind of mindset that makes Cisco stand out, and it's something he's undoubtedly learned from the elders in his family and watching his two brothers go through Wando High. The second he began his career at Wando, it was obvious he was going to excel. He's been the ace of the staff since his freshman season, and he'll leave behind quite a legacy as the last Cisco, at least in this generation, to go through the South Carolina school's program.
Some coaches might not appreciate having a player on their team who's been so well-coached at home. There could be butting egos or simply fear of doing something to mess up what the player had worked on with his family. At Wando, however, coach Jeff Blankenship is nothing but appreciative.
"It makes everything a lot easier for us," said Blankenship, who's squad is 18-1 on the season. "He's been a two-year captain. We haven't had that before. Drew being the leader he is, we wanted him to be the captain his junior year and again this year. He's the first one here to get his work in, and he's team oriented after that. I can't ask for anything more out of Drew. I'm glad he's getting the recognition he deserves after all that hard work and putting in all the time."
Cisco vividly remembers the time he put in on the Veterans Stadium turf when his grandfather was the Phillies pitching coach. He got to hit and throw on the field, and he received better instructions than most kids could ever think of getting. But more than that, he got to get an early glimpse of a life that he knew he wanted to have once he was old enough.
"Just seeing those guys, how much fun they had, and it's their job," Cisco said of the big league players with whom he got to rub elbows. "It's crazy you can play a game you love for money. That's what I got out of it: How big of a dream it would be to one day play Major League Baseball and one day be where they are and he is."
With the Draft not so far off, that dream doesn't seem so far-fetched, though Cisco clearly has his head firmly on his shoulders. Perhaps that's because, though he's gotten invaluable teaching from various family members about how to play the game, some of them also provide first-hand knowledge that chasing the dream doesn't always mean reaching the ultimate goal.
"I know how hard it is to get there. People have been saying that my whole life," Cisco said. "Baseball doesn't last forever, and things can go wrong. I know there are a lot of things that can go into it. I haven't thought too much about it, but I'm definitely grounded by it. But I think anything can happen if you have the dream and you work hard enough."
Jonathan Mayo is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.