Marshalltown native Jake Whaley is going to have options regarding his future in baseball.
For now, the Marshalltown Community College pitcher plans to move on to Kansas State when his collegiate baseball career continues next season.
The Tiger sophomore signed his National Letter of Intent to play for the Wildcats on Wednesday, choosing Kansas State over West Virginia.
T-R PHOTO BY TROY HYDE
Marshalltown Community College sophomore Jake Whaley, front center, signed his National Letter of Intent to play baseball at Kansas State on Wednesday. He was joined at the signing by MCC baseball coach Rich Grife, back, and parents Terry, left, and Sharon.
"It was a really tough decision for me, but it is closer to home and I know one of the assistant coaches there," Whaley said. "I know Mike Clement and was comfortable playing for him. The facilities are also nice, too."
Whaley will have one more season at MCC under coach Rich Grife, who will be starting his seventh season as head coach this spring. Grife though says Whaley may have to make another tough decision soon.
"He had a lot of choices this year as to where he was going to play next season, but I think some schools were scared off because they were unsure about his draft status," Grife said. "He has a pretty good chance to be drafted. We may have five or six guys this year that will have to make that same decision."
Clement also prepped at Marshalltown High School and played for Steve Hanson, the same man who coached Whaley.
"Coach Hanson wouldn't steer us wrong and he told us that (Whaley) was a good kid," Clement said. "So he checked out from a character perspective. He'll fit right in with what he brings on the field. He has gotten a lot bigger and stronger over the past few years."
Whaley was a starting pitcher at Marshalltown High School and is a starter at MCC. He pitched in 12 games and threw 54 innings last season for the Tigers, finishing with a record of 3-5 and an earned run average of 5.83. He also had a save.
Grife said Whaley improved as the season went along. Whaley also was able to earn a win over conference champion and eventual national champion Iowa Western. Whaley hit 94 miles per hour during the fall and will feature a fastball in the low 90s during every start this coming spring.
"We have been working together since the fifth grade," Grife said. "He pitched real well this fall. And him moving on to another school is great for him and great for this program."
Whaley said Kansas State plans to use him out of the bullpen and maybe even at closer when he arrives on campus at Manhattan, Kan., next season.
"When you look at him, he is big and has a clean arm motion," Clement said. "He throws hard and looks like guys you would see coming out of the bullpen in a major league game. Obviously we don't think he is ready for the major leagues yet but we think he is ready for the Big 12."
He has never pitched in that role before but is excited at the opportunity to pitch at the Division I level.
"I hope to come in right away and earn a spot on the team," Whaley said. "I like being a reliever better actually. You come in and can be great for an inning. It will help me stay focused on what I have to do out there."
Grife added that Whaley fits the mold of a collegiate closer and feels like the Marshalltown native will relish in that role.
"He has a pretty good chance to extend his career to the next level as a bullpen guy," Grife said. "He throws hard and can throw even harder if he has to throw less pitches per appearance."
Clement expects an easy transition to the bullpen for Whaley.
"He has three outs and he'll go and get those three outs here," Clement said. "He can help us here, and he is only going to get better."
The 6-foot-5 Whaley will try to do his part to get the Tigers to the top of the ICCAC Conference this season. The Tigers were 28-31 last year and were third in the league at 17-15.