Mike Fiers (Houston.Astros.mlb.com)
Many sports fans may be hearing the name Mike Fiers for the first time after he threw a no-hitter for the Houston Astros in his first complete game as a professional pitcher last week, but many fans in this area will likely recognize Fiers from his short, but very successful stint at University of the Cumberlands.
Fiers, whose no-hitter came against the Los Angeles Dodgers last Friday, is a native of Florida. He was pitching for a junior college in his home state when Patriots baseball Head Coach Brad Shelton began recruiting him.
“We recruited him against some of the best schools in the country,” said Shelton. “He had a good year for us as a junior (2006-07), going 7-2 and helping the team to 35 wins. He was All-Conference Honorable Mention, and he went on to play in the New York Collegiate League where he earned Pitcher of the Year honors.”
No doubt, Fiers star was on the rise, but then tragedy struck in the winter of ’07.
“He had a great fall during his senior year, and had a lot of scouts looking at him,” said Shelton. “We expected him to be our number one guy as a senior, but then he went home for Christmas break. On his way back he decided to stop at a friends house in Orlando to watch the college football national championship. After the game, he decided to keep driving. He fell asleep at the wheel, and had a terrible crash with severe injuries.”
After the accident, Fiers was out for a year. Shelton said that the team was devastated, but they all pulled together and decided to dedicate their season that spring to their injured teammate. That year the Patriots went 43-16, winning a Mid-South Conference championship and becoming the sixth ranked team in the nation.
“To imagine what we could’ve done with him is scary,” Shelton said of Fiers’ would-be senior season at UC.
Fiers eventually healed up, but decided to finish his collegiate playing career back home in Florida, a decision that Shelton says he completely understood and respected. “He came up to me that summer and told me that he had decided to go back home. He got healthy, went back to Florida, went to a Division II school, got drafted late and made his way into the minor leagues.”
Fiers has paid his dues and then some on his way to throwing a no-hitter in the pros, and Shelton could not be happier for his one-time ace pitcher. “I’m really happy for Mike,” he said. “He’s been through a lot over the past several years, but we always knew that he was going to be something special. It took him a couple of years to come into his own, but I believe he is going to be a good big leaguer. He’s had success at every level, and he just keeps getting better and better. He is a good kid, a hard worker, and I consider it a blessing that I got to coach him.”