It was the spring of Gavin Floyd's senior year, and professional baseball scouts were flocking to his games at Mount St. Joseph High School.
A right-handed pitcher with a blazing fastball and knee-buckling curve, Floyd was considered one of the top prep pitchers in the country and perhaps the closest to being major league-ready in 2001.
"Pitching that year was really fun," reflects Floyd, now 30, a dozen years after drawing national attention. "I remember the visuals. It was a long time ago."
Born in Annapolis, Floyd grew up in the Chartwell neighborhood of Severna Park and honed his skills with the Green Hornets at Kinder Park and in youth leagues in Gambrills, according to his mother, Elaine Floyd.
The experts were right: Nearly three years to the day after he signed with the Philadelphia Phillies, who had taken him fourth overall in the 2001 draft, he made it to the major leagues.
Twelve years after that draft — after a minor league stint and several years with the Phillies — Floyd has become entrenched as a starting pitcher for the Chicago White Sox, where he has made at least 29 starts every season since 2008. Last year he was 12-11 with an earned run average of 4.29.
The road was not a straight shot. Floyd was 2-0 with an ERA of 3.49 in his first six big league games for the Phillies in 2004, but he posted a whooping ERA of 10.04 in seven games in 2005 and a mark of 7.29 in 11 starts the next season.
After the 2006 season, he was traded to Chicago, where he's become consistent and durable.
"It has been a long process. The White Sox gave me an opportunity to pitch" on a regular basis, said Floyd, sitting in the White Sox dugout at Nationals Park in Washington several hours before last Tuesday's game.
He recalled his minor league days — the manager on his Lakewood, N.J., minor league squad in 2002 was Jeff Manto, who slammed 17 homers for the Orioles in 1995 and is now the hitting coach for the White Sox.
"He was the most grounded [prospect] I had been around," Manto said. "Nothing fazed him."
Floyd's father, Rodney, is a dentist and his mother is a nurse, and Manto credits the pitcher's level head to his upbringing.
"He came from a good family," Manto said. "He has not changed a bit."
Floyd returned to his home base this week with the White Sox and was the starting pitcher Wednesday in Washington against the Nationals. He gave up a long homer to 20-year-old phenom Bryce Harper and was charged with the loss as Washington won, 5-2.
"I thought I made pretty good pitches. I felt pretty good out there," said Floyd, who allowed five runs in 51/3 innings and is 0-2 this season, after the game. "I get to see my family. It's definitely special when you come back near home so you can have some time together."
Floyd is signed with the White Sox through this season and has no plans to retire.
"Hopefully I can play for another 10 years. That would be awesome," he said.
Floyd was a youth standout, but he feels much has changed in the world of youth baseball since his days — including expectations.
"I see a lot of times baseball is taken really seriously, especially earlier and earlier in kids' lives," he said. "I don't see it firsthand, but I hear about it. Parents emphasize it a lot. [Kids should] focus on school and have fun playing sports.
"At that age you can't groom someone so early. ... You don't know in 10 years what they are going to look like [as a player]. Just enjoy it. Baseball and sports in general have become super-competitive at an early age. There is much more to life than sports," said Floyd, who lives with his wife, Leanna, and son, Jax, in Palm Harbor, Fla.
As for his own grooming, Floyd said he started throwing curveballs around the age of 12 or 13 ... and developed tendinitis.
"I wasn't used to it first of all," he said, "and I probably wasn't throwing it correctly."
Hometown: Severna Park
High School: Mount St. Joseph, Class of 2001
Major league team: Chicago White Sox
Height/weight: 6-6, 235
Major league stats: 70-68 with an ERA of 4.47 in 196 games through Wednesday
Did you know? Floyd grew up in the same Chartwell neighborhood as Mark Teixeria, who also played at Mount St. Joseph and is now a first baseman for the New York Yankees. Floyd has reached double figures in wins in the previous five seasons, one of just four American League pitchers to do so. His brother, Michael, played college baseball at Virginia and South Carolina and in the minors with the Phillies as an outfielder.Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun