[ed. note - "This is the fourth piece from Federal Baseball intern Patrick Kenney. For much more from him on the Syracuse Chiefs follow him on Twitter @PRyKenney."]
By Patrick Kenney
AUBURN | There aren't a lot of guys that like science fiction movies and can throw a baseball 100 miles per hour.
"As weird as it sounds, I am really into sci-fi movies," said Auburn Doubleday starting pitcher Jake Johansen.
Johansen was the Washington Nationals' first pick of the 2013 MLB draft, No. 68 overall, and he has yet to pitch competitively for the Short Season Single-A Affiliate of the big league team, but he isn't afraid of admitting his taste in films.
"I liked the Avengers, Iron Man 3, that kind of stuff," he said on Doubledays media day last week.
At six feet six inches tall, and armed with a 100 mph fastball, Johansen's pitching could be the stuff of comic book legend when he unleashes it Sunday night at Mahoning Valley (Cleveland's affiliate in the New York-Penn League). That is when the newest Nationals' pick is scheduled to take the mound for the first time.
"It's incredible," said Johansen about his triple digit pitch, "The first time I hit it, I was pretty shocked to say the least. It's pretty awesome."
Like many of the superheroes in the movies he enjoys, the Texas native has an arsenal of pitching weapons to take down foes, including a change-up and a slider that can morph into a cut fastball.
He struck out 75 of his opponents in 88.1 innings of work in his final season at Dallas Baptist University this spring.
"I like to try and keep things simple and work one pitch at a time," said Johansen, who went 7-6 with a 5.40 ERA this year for the Patriots. "I kind of use a reliever's mindset but I also conserve for the later innings."
Johansen arrived in Auburn last Friday and like many heroes, he hopes to improve his skills to compliment his physical attributes. There is more to pitching than just throwing the ball.
"We like what we see physically from him and now its time to see how his physical abilities work for his pro game," said Doubledays manager Gary Cathcart. "We have a great pitching program here which will help him to understand all there is to know about pitching. Like holding runners, covering and backing bases and fielding bunts."
Before donning a red and blue Auburn costume, Johansen must first prove he is ready through work and development.
The Washington throwing program already has him in bullpen sessions and working out with Auburn pitching coach Sam Narron.
"All you really want is someone who is willing to come in and get with the program, fit in with the guys and get his work done," said Narron, "This first year is about getting a foundation for his career."
Like most superheroes, and villains for that matter, Jake Johansen has an interesting background.
Drafted by the Pittsburgh Pirates in the 27th round of the 2012 draft, with 40 strikeouts in 44.1 innings during his freshman year at Dallas Baptist, Johansen elected to return to school for another collegiate season.
He went from the 27th round to the second, and an $820,000 signing bonus, in a matter of a year.
"When I got the phone call from Mr. Kline it was a dream come true," said Johansen about draft day. "The first words out of [Kline's] mouth were ‘Are you as excited as I am?'"
Just as fans of sci-fi film are 'excited' and 'anxious' to see the next blockbuster released, Auburn and Nationals fans are waiting to see their newest crusader make his debut.
"I have a huge adrenaline rush right now," said Johansen. "The excitement of starting my professional career is off the charts. I'm extremely excited to be a part of this organization."