At 6-4 and 205 pounds, Burnsville pitcher Sam Carlson was noticeable in the field and on the mound. The senior right-hander has command of three pitches, including a fastball that topped out at 96 miles per hour, and was selected by the Seattle Mariners with the 55th overall pick in the second round of the MLB draft Monday. Blaze coach Mick Scholl said a disciplined work ethic and willingness to put in the extra training as keys to Carlson's success. His star agrees. “A lot of it is what you do when nobody is watching,” Carlson said. “You have to motivate yourself. If you work hard, anything is possible.” Photo by Carlos Gonzalez, Star Tribune
Burnsville coach Mick Scholl sat in the dugout talking to one of his assistants 45 minutes after the last of his players and fans left Alimagnet Park after a 5-0 loss to Prior Lake.
As the two were walking off the field, Blaze senior Sam Carlson reappeared. He wasn’t done for the evening.
“When I questioned why he was back, he simply replied that he needed to get his running in to physically prepare for the next day’s game,” Scholl said. “It is examples like this when no one is watching that has forever set him apart in my mind from any other athlete I have worked with.”
That disciplined work ethic launched Carlson over a talented class of baseball peers to become the Star Tribune Metro Player of the Year. The right-handed pitcher was selected by the Seattle Mariners with the 55th overall pick in the second round of the MLB draft Monday.
“He has worked his butt off in the weight room and on the mound to become the best he can,” Scholl said.
Scholl has watched Carlson’s growth through the years. As a freshman, Carlson was 6-0 and weighed 175 pounds. He has since added four inches and 30 pounds.
“I’ve gotten a lot stronger and grown into my frame,” Carlson said.
He also has a dedicated workout partner in teammate and classmate Henry Ristvedt. Their workouts usually last an hour to an hour-and-a-half.
“He’s worked really hard, and I’ve seen how it has paid off,” said Ristvedt, who has been a friend of Carlson’s since they meet at Project KIDS in third grade. “I want to think we’ve helped each other get better through our friendly competitions.”
The duo has to periodically stop at Chipotle after a workout for a burrito. Carlson’s must contain vinaigrette.
“He likes doing everything a certain way,” Ristvedt said. “He might be a little OCD (obsessive compulsive disorder).”
That just might be an understatement, according to Carlson.
“I’m very organized,” Carlson said. “Everything in my room is in a certain spot, and I know exactly where everything is to a T.”
Carlson grew up a fan of former Minnesota Twin Justin Morneau. That’s not the reason though he wears number 33.
“My favorite number is three, but Roman (Ahcan) took that jersey,” Carlson said. “I figured I might as well have two threes. That way I could be twice as lucky.”
Like Morneau, the Blaze standout doesn’t mind swinging for the fences. Carlson, who plays outfield or first base when he’s not pitching, has seven home runs to go with a .493 average.
“He has impressive at-bats,” Ristvedt said. “I’m not so sure he couldn’t have been drafted as an outfielder.”
Pitching, though, is his forte, and the reason he went so high in the draft. He has outstanding command of three pitches — fastball, slider and changeup. His fastball is consistently clocked in the low to mid-90s, and has topped out at 96 miles per hour.
“A lot of it is what you do when nobody is watching,” Carlson said. “You have to motivate yourself. If you work hard, anything is possible.”
Which is why Scholl puts his ace in a class by himself.
“He is the best baseball player to ever put on the black and gold uniform,” Scholl said. “He is blessed with many talents, and what he does with those talents is his gift back.”
2016: Nick Hanson, P, Prior Lake
2015: Eddie Estrada, SS, Litchfield
2014: Sam Hentges, P, Mounds View
2013: Logan Shore, P, Coon Rapids; Max Knutson, P, Mounds View
2012: Logan Shore, P, Coon Rapids
2011: Ryan Busch, P, Roseville
2010: Tom Windle, P, Osseo
2009: Ryan Abrahamson, SS, Tartan
2008: Brad Hand, P, Chaska
2007: Danny Miller, P, Eden Prairie
2006: Jed Hanson, P, Forest Lake
2005: Dan Leslie, P, Henry Sibley
2004: Tim Radmacher, P, Rosemount
2003: Aaron Jenkins, P, Champlin Park
2002: Marcus McKenzie, P, Minnetonka
2001: Joe Mauer, C, Cretin-Derham Hall
2000: T.J. Prunty, P, St. Paul Academy
1999: Luke Appert, SS, Park of Cottage Grove
1998: Ryan Klocksein, P, Minnetonka
1997: Mark Pedersen, P, Mounds View
1996: Ben Birk, OF, Cretin-Derham Hall
1995: Justin Dudinsky, P, Brooklyn Center
1994: Jake Schaffer, SS, Holy Angels
1993: Chris Schwab, OF, Cretin-Derham Hall
1992: Dave Lance, P, Irondale
1991: Ryan Kjos, P, Hopkins
1990: Tom Nevers, SS, Edina
1989: Nevers, SS, Edina