One-on-one with Georgia Tech’s Deck McGuire

Follow Kendall Rogers on Twitter at @ysportsncaabb.

It’s tough to imagine Georgia Tech pitcher Deck McGuire wasn’t drafted out of high school.

It’s especially puzzling when you consider McGuire likely will be selected high in the first round of the upcoming MLB draft as a junior hurler for the Yellow Jackets.

Looking back, though, both McGuire and the Yellow Jackets are glad fate led the right-handed pitcher to Atlanta.

He has become one of the most decorated pitchers in school history.

“He is just a great pitcher and competitive. I always tell people that he is not going to have the best stuff in the country, but that I believe his pitchability is as good as anyone in the country,” Georgia Tech coach Danny Hall said. “That is essentially what makes him so good. He is the type of guy that can throw any pitch at any time.

“He also is very competitive, so it is really nice to throw a guy with that type of mindset out there each Friday.”

In addition to the attitude displayed on and off the field, McGuire has been one of the program’s most consistent pitchers in three seasons.

As a freshman, McGuire compiled an 8-1 record and had a 3.46 ERA in 78 innings. Then, as a sophomore last season, he went 11-2 with a 3.50 ERA in 100 innings.

McGuire has continued this season where he left off last year. So far this season, the righty has compiled a 4-1 record and a 1.17 ERA in 46 innings. He also has struck out 49 and walked 11, and teams are hitting .213 off him.

Though consistency never has been a problem for McGuire, there are some things he has improved on since arriving on campus.

“I think probably his mindset more than anything else,” Hall said. “Just how he goes about his business each day and how he handles things that come up in games. He is just in a much better place mentally than when he stepped on campus. He has learned to let a lot of things go on the mound and not being worried about things he can’t control.”

As with any competitor, there are still parts of his game McGuire believes he could improve on between now and the end of the season, and even beyond.

But either way, McGuire has evolved from undrafted out of high school to an All-American and shoe-in first-round selection.

Perhaps the Yellow Jackets can add national champion to his resume, too.

Rogers: The team is off to an outstanding 21-2 start. As a veteran, what are your thoughts on what has transpired so far this season?

McGuire: As a team, we have really done a nice job of playing things game by game. I think we definitely have some of the better talent we’ve had in a few seasons, so that’s a huge reason for our success. I think the offensive lineup has been outstanding. It has really helped us pitchers that the offense continues to score a lot of runs, especially late in games when we need them the most. The offense is doing a fantastic job of helping out the pitching staff.

Q: Pitchers often say that a productive offense gives them more confidence. Is that the case with you, too?

A: The offense definitely gives me more confidence. As a pitcher, you really strive for perfection. But you always know that perfection is never going to happen. So, when you have an offense that is as potent as ours, it really helps your confidence and makes you feel like you’re going to be picked up if you make a mistake pitch.

Q: There definitely have been some critics about the team’s schedule so far this season. You guys silenced some doubters with a road series sweep over North Carolina. Did the team approach the weekend hoping to make that a statement series?

A: I still feel like we played a lot of teams that were tough and scrappy early in the season. I certainly wouldn’t say we played a bunch of teams that were pushovers. But anytime you can go on the road in the ACC at a tough place to play and do what we did, it’s very big. North Carolina has some solid pitching and a good team, so I’m really proud of the way the team hung in there throughout the weekend, especially on Sunday. It was a good series for us.

Q: Plenty of observers like to say Georgia Tech almost has an automatic win when you step on the mound on Fridays. What goes through your mind when you hear people say that?

A: It just makes me feel great. My job each week is to go out there on Friday nights and put our team in position to win the game and the series. I’m very committed to doing that. But again, I have to give credit to the offense because those guys have picked me up on several occasions in the past.

Q: What has been the most impressive aspect of the team so far this season?

A: I would just say our overall depth. We all kind of talked about our pitching depth before the season began because we had a ton of guys back and a wealth of experience. There were some holes to fill at the plate, though, without guys such as Luke Murton and Jason Haniger. You know, guys that started in this program for a couple of seasons. But now, it seems like we don’t really have a soft spot in our lineup 1-9. It is outstanding. Our overall team depth has been so impressive this season.

Q: Are there any specific players that have done much more than you or anyone else expected so far this season?

A: As cliché as it may sound, I would have to say catcher Cole Leonida. He spent some time behind previous catcher Jason Haniger last season and made his at bats count when he was in that role. That is really paying off so far this season. And to add to it, Cole is a fantastic leader for our club.

Q: Looking at your game, what have you done well so far this season? What do you think you could do better?

A: I think so far this season I have done a really good job of attacking hitters all the time and in any situation. In the past, I have definitely tended to nibble at hitters at times and not going after them like I should be. However, I’ve been getting my pitch count down and going much deeper into games. On the flip side, in terms of improvements that could be made, I haven’t kept the ball down in the zone as well as I would like at times. Against North Carolina last weekend, I thought I left a few pitches up in the zone a bit. So, that could improve.

Q: How would you describe your stuff? And is there a pitch you would really like to throw someday?

A: I would pretty much just call myself a strike thrower that really likes to go after hitters with my fastball, slider, curve and changeup. I’m not afraid to throw any of my pitches in any count to a hitter. I just love throwing all my pitches. After all, it makes things a bit more fun. As for a pitch I could throw someday, I would have to say a knuckleball. Mixing that in with what I already have would be a lot of fun.

Q: As one of the top MLB draft prospects this spring, how do you handle the incredibly high expectations that people have placed on you?

A: I think I just try to handle the expectations the same way I have in the past. I just go out there and pitch. Every Friday of each week is my one chance to go out there and help my team, so I want to make the best of the opportunity. I just want to go out there and have fun, hang out with my teammates, joke and laugh. When things need to be serious, I am serious. But I also love having fun. I have a blast playing college baseball.

Q: If you had your choice of any Major League Baseball team to draft you when the summer rolls around, which team would it be?

A: I’m not real sure (laughing). I guess I’d just be happy to someday be able to play in the big leagues.

Q: Who has had the most influence on your college career as a pitcher?

A: I would have to say just the older guys on the team since I’ve been in the program here. David Duncan, Eddie Burns and Michael Hutts are guys that really put me under their wings when I arrived here at Georgia Tech. Once my first season started and I threw in some midweek games, they really did a great job of keeping me relaxed and having fun. I have carried what I learned as a freshman the rest of my career.

Q: Just imagine for a second you aren’t playing baseball in a few seasons. What career path would you like to take if baseball doesn’t pan out?

A: I would say I’d really like to open a workout facility and baseball academy type of business. I love working with young kids and teaching them the game of baseball. That is just something I really have a lot of fun with. But overall, I likely would be doing something involving the game of baseball.

Q: Who is the best hitter you’ve ever faced at the Division I level?

A: I would have to say former Georgia shortstop Gordon Beckham. His pitching recognition was just incredible. There were some times when I threw him pitches that I never thought he would remotely swing at. But he would swing and actually hit them. He is a fantastic hitter.

Q: You’re on the mound in the final game of the CWS Championship Series in Omaha. Who would you want the opponent to be?

A: I’m going to go with LSU on that one. In order to be the best you have to beat the best. And right now, the Tigers are the defending national champions. You have to unseat them to win the national title.

Kendall Rogers is the college baseball editor for Yahoo! Sports and Rivals.com. Follow him on Twitter and follow Yahoo! Sports College Baseball on Facebook. Send Kendall a question or comment for potential use in a future column or webcast.
Updated Tuesday, Mar 30, 2010