Jamie Fox was an infant when, well before anyone else, his grandfather, George, surmised he was left-handed. In recounting the tale, Fox’s mother, Jane, remembered the reaction of disbelief. After all, people wondered, how could he tell?
As it turns out, the grandfather’s supposition was right on the mark. That left arm has earned Fox a scholarship to play college baseball.
Fox, a senior pitcher for the Riverhead High School baseball team, signed a national letter of intent on Friday to accept a scholarship from Nyack College. The Warriors are an NCAA Division II team.
“It’s a lot of weight off my shoulders,” Fox said after putting pen to paper and signing the documents in a ceremony in the Riverhead High School library. “It’s relief.”
The funny thing is that Fox had been a relief pitcher not that long ago. Last year he was Riverhead’s closer, posting three saves with an earned run average of about 2.60 and an 0-1 record.
Now, instead of finishing games, Fox is starting them. He is the No. 1 pitcher in Riverhead’s rotation, and that’s what he said he prefers to do.
“The main difference is the stamina,” he said. “You have to be able to throw a lot of pitches, but that’s what I want to do, start.”
A starter, Fox said, needs more consistency. “As a closer, you only need three outs,” he said. “As a starter you need a lot more than three.”
Along with a fastball that travels as fast as 85 miles per hour, Fox also has a wicked curveball that he counts as his go-to pitch.
“If he throws strikes, he’s tough to hit,” Riverhead Coach Rob Maccone said. “His curveball is his out pitch.”
Fox, who is 0-1 in this young season with an ERA over 4.00, also has the benefit of being a left-hander.
“In the big leagues you want a lefty-lefty matchup,” Fox said. “In high school you just want a lefty because a lefty gives fits to righties all the time.”
Asked to describe himself as a pitcher, Fox replied: “Crafty, deceptive, hard to hit. I throw hard, but not overpowering. Just hard to hit.”
When he is not pitching, Fox can play center field for the Blue Waves. His batting average is around .300.
Encouraged to play baseball by his grandfather, who is described as a big Brooklyn Dodgers fan, Fox has been in baseball since about the time he started going to school. He has received pitching lessons from Neal Heaton, a former major league all-star pitcher.
Fox has also been pitching to Riverhead’s senior catcher, James Porco, since they were both in seventh grade.
Fox had given serious consideration to Manhattanville College, but he attended a baseball camp at Nyack in January, was later invited back to the school and received an offer. He said he has accepted it because he likes the school’s surroundings and the program.
Maccone said he has seen a number of former players head off to play in college, and he routinely follows their progress.
“I still check their stats every day,” he said. “Once a week I check to make sure who’s doing what. Next year Jamie will be just another kid on the list of checking.”
Fox recognized the significance of Friday’s signing ceremony in which he posed for photos with his parents, Andrew and Jane, his sister, Allison, Maccone, Riverhead Athletic Director Bill Groth and others.
“It’s big,” he said. “Not a lot of kids get to do it. I’m a little nervous, but I look forward to it.”