Aaron Nola tried to act indifferent.
The LSU pitcher showed little emotion with each passing selection during the first round of the MLB Draft Monday evening. But when the Philadelphia Phillies claimed Nola with the No. 7 overall pick, he couldn’t help smiling.
“My heart has never beat so fast in my life,” Nola said. “I got a text message probably a minute before they made the decision on the TV. I was still kind of nervous even when I knew it, but I’m glad everything is lifted off my shoulders now.”
Nola went 11-1 with a 1.47 ERA en route to his second-straight Southeastern Conference Pitcher of the Year award. The right-hander wooed scouts with his command, evidenced by his 6.63 strikeout-to-walk ratio during his three-year stint at LSU.
LSU coach Paul Mainieri shook his head and chuckled at each pitcher taken off the board before Nola. But the Tigers’ ace was always a shoe-in for a top 10 pick, and Mainieri took one last chance to laud Nola’s abilities.
“I’ve told every team I talked to when they asked me that I thought, ‘Don’t take him unless you want somebody to make 30 starts a year and win about 15 games. If you want that for the next 10 years, pick [Nola],’” Mainieri said. “…That kid’s going to go to the big leagues, he’s going to pitch for a long time and he’s going to be very successful.”
As reporters tried to pick Nola’s brain minutes after the Phillies’ selection, the Baton Rouge native joked about one of the major challenges National League pitchers face.
“I’m just going to have to hit someday,” Nola said. “That will be a pretty big change for me. …It’s been a long time. I haven’t faced a pitcher since high school.”