Transfer from UH takes the mound for Jaguars in season opener
Jan. 27, 2011 at 8:04 p.m.
Updated Jan. 26, 2011 at 7:27 p.m.
University of Houston-Victoria coach Terry Puhl has helped former Cincinnati Reds outfielder Bobby Tolan find players for his summer league team in Houston.
Tolan returned the favor last fall.
"He contacted me and said hey I've got a pitcher that you really need to take a look at," Puhl said. "If Bobby Tolan says I need to take a look at a pitcher, I think I need to look at him."
Puhl added John Touchton to the roster in the fall and was impressed enough to name him the starter when the Jaguars open the season against Northwood University in a doubleheader on Friday at 3 p.m. at Riverside Stadium.
"I'm champing at the bit to get out there and throw the rock against Northwood," Touchton said, "and get us our first W."
Touchton pitched for three seasons at the University of Houston before electing to leave the school before his senior year and look for somewhere else to play.
He left Houston with a career record of 10-12 with two saves, and had 88 strikeouts in 126 innings.
"My junior year didn't start out the way I wanted at UH," Touchton said. "I ended up transferring out and sitting out."
Touchton took classes at Lone Star College in his hometown of Kingwood last spring and went without baseball for the first time since he started playing as a youth.
"It really made me realize how much I love the game of baseball," said Touchton, who was drafted in the 35th round by the Reds in 2006 as a senior in high school. "It kind of brought back that passion and made me feel like a little kid again.
"It feels good to get back out here and be a member of a team again and have a relationship with all the guys out here. To be able to compete that's probably the thing I missed the most."
Puhl wondered why a pitcher with Touchton's ability hadn't received more offers and did some checking.
"I contacted the scouts around the Houston area and said what's the deal with John Touchton," Puhl recalled. "A guy throws in the 90s why aren't you interested in him? Because his ball's straight and flat was the response. OK, we'll fix that."
UHV pitching coach Doug Heinold worked with Touchston during the fall and made some adjustments.
"He came in throwing a pretty straight ball so we got him throwing a two seam and a cutter and we kind of took away the four seam for the most part and his ball moves a lot," Heinold said. "He throws 90 miles per hour and his ball moves a lot and those two things are a good combination."
Heinold was also pleased with Touchton's attitude and work ethic.
"His work habits are excellent," Heinold said. "He really works hard. He really wants to pitch. I can tell. I can see it in his eyes and you can tell by his actions.
"He seems to be really excited about being able to come back and throw for another year."
Touchston is looking forward to getting back on the mound and making the most of his second chance.
"I developed a lot more in the time I was here in the fall," Touchton said. "I learned how to throw a sinker and a cutter and polish my curveball off. I've fixed my mechanics and everything seems to be right on schedule."
NOTES: Broc Haymon will start the second game of the doubleheader for the Jaguars. Haymon had 6-2 record with a 1.18 ERA last season... The Jaguars went 2-5 against the Knights last season... Robert Tripson, who was recently inducted into the Texas High School Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Fame, has returned as a volunteer coach for the Jaguars. Tripson will coach first base at home games... Wells Fargo Advisors will sponsor a Hit for the Cycle contest during the season. A fan's name will be drawn at each home game and if a UHV player hits for the cycle, that fan will win a free bicycle of his choice up to $500 in price. Fans can sign up at Wells Fargo Advisors located in the Heritage Mark Building at 5606 North Navarro St... The teams will return to Riverside Stadium to play a doubleheader Saturday at 1 p.m.