Kansas City Royals starter Jeremy Guthrie, a former BYU pitcher and LDS missionary, set a World Series record Wednesday night in the championship final.
The record came for the shortest work by two starting pitchers in Game 7.
One fan glued to his TV set in Utah County was Guthrie’s pitching coach at BYU, Bobby Noel, who's now retired. Guthrie’s work ended in the fourth inning with the score tied at 2. It marked the first time in World Series history that neither Game 7 starter lasted 3 1/3 innings.
Guthrie was the first pitcher recruited to BYU who consistently could throw the ball over 90 miles an hour, according to Noel.
“We had Rick Aguilera, who threw at 86 to 88, and Colby Ward, who could throw in the 80s, and Peter Kendrick was an 80-mile-an-hour guy but he had control of four pitches he could throw anywhere he wanted," said Noel.
“Now these days, when I went down there for tryouts (at BYU) there were two walk-ons who were throwing over 90. I said to myself, 'Where were these guys when we were coaching there?'”
Noel saw early, more than a decade ago, Guthrie’s potential.
“He is the kind of guy who worked to be the best he could be. He was a very hard worker. He would go the extra mile to get better. He had to learn in college he couldn’t just blow it by batters like he did in high school. I only saw him discouraged once and that was when Texas Arlington got to him pretty good, but he didn’t let it get him down very long.”
BYU had Guthrie for one year. He then accepted a call to serve a two-year mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Upon his return, he transferred to Stanford.
Noel said BYU couldn’t hold on to Guthrie after his missionary service because Guthrie wanted to play closer to home so his family could see him play and he wanted to appear in the College World Series, "something we couldn’t get for him where we were at that time."
Guthrie pitched for BYU as a freshman with little success. He appeared in 15 games with a 5-3 record and 6.10 ERA. He didn’t like pitching at altitude, an issue that took him to Stanford after his mission to Spain. It remained an issue for him as a professional pitcher, and he had an arrangement with the Colorado Rockies to avoid pitching at home.
At Stanford, Guthrie had a 26-6 record and 2.65 ERA and became one of the best pitchers in Cardinal history. That led to Guthrie being a first-round pick in the Major League draft in 2002 by Cleveland.
Guthrie considers himself a Cougar, according to BYU baseball sports information director Ralph Zobell, who covered Guthrie’s speech last January in the Marriott Center during a fundraiser. Guthrie lives in Pleasant Grove in the offseason and it was an easy invite for the school.
Before and during the World Series Guthrie has spoken openly of his faith and his two-year mission.
“The two years I spent on my mission is the foundation for everything I’ve done,” he told sportswriters in a press conference leading up to Game 7. He has used his language skills interpreting and helping Royals players from Latin countries.
“There is no way to take out what the gospel has meant to me,” Guthrie told the gathering at the fundraiser in Provo.
Guthrie worked five scoreless innings in Game 3 at San Francisco, departing with a 1-0 lead as the Royals won 3-2 leading up Wednesday’s starting job in Game 7.
Noel called Guthrie a “great man, a great athlete and a great teammate” who was quiet and kept to himself and went about his work with determination.
Dick Harmon, Deseret News sports columnist, can be found on Twitter as Harmonwrites and can be contacted at [email protected].