For a while, the focus on new Trenton Thunder starter Nik Turley has been on the things he hasn’t done. One of a sparse group of Mormons playing professional baseball, the 6-foot-5 lefty doesn’t drink or smoke and nearly didn’t start his career at all before eventually deciding to forego a mission to sign with the Yankees.
“It’s kind of implied when you’re Mormon that you’re supposed to go on a mission, and I always thought I was going to, Turley said.
“But the way I look at it, I try to live my life as a good example. If I get the chance to pitch in the big leagues, I definitely will speak to kids at my church. I grew up going to firesides, and there were a couple big leaguers that talked to us. What I’m getting at, is that would be my mission. Instead of going out for two years like everyone else does, I would just try to live my life being an example.”
It was, Turley said, a difficult decision. Far less difficult, certainly, was the choice the Yankees had to make on whether to promote the Florida State League Postseason All-Star to Trenton when a spot opened up. Turley posted a 9-5 record with a 2.89 ERA in 23 outings, striking out 116 batters in 112 innings along the way.
“I think I’ve proven myself, at least in Tampa. I’m just happy for the opportunity,” said Turley, who uses a four-seam fastball, two-seam fastball, changeup and curveball and is also working on a slider.
“You definitely have to pitch with confidence, I’m not going to back down, that’s for sure. I try to hit my spots. I’m not an overpowering pitcher, so I’ve got to have command.”
Turley made one regular season start with the Thunder, allowing three runs on eight hits through five innings against the Binghamton Mets. But perhaps given that today’s is a playoff start, it’s appropriate to mention that the 22-year-old has drawn a lot of comparisons to Andy Pettitte.
“I’ve heard that a lot, but I didn’t try to do that,” Turley said.
“I guess we’re both tall, both lefties and have a good pickoff move. I can see why people would compare me. But growing up, I didn’t try to look like him. I just tried to be me, but if people want to compare me, that’s an honor to be compared to Andy Pettitte. He was one of my favorite pitchers growing up.”
Mike Ashmore, mashmore98 AT gmail.com