Broward College baseball coach Bob Deutschman doesn’t take any credit for the pitcher Mat Latos has become.
Only 27, Latos has already won 60 big-league games.
He earned 14 wins in three of his past four seasons, prompting the Marlins to bring him home with their recent trade acquisition of Latos.
Latos, who pitched at Broward’s Coconut Creek High, was the San Diego Padres’ 11th-round pick in 2006.
Deutschman said Latos had much better talent than that draft slot, but teams were scared away from his signing-bonus demands.
In those days, unsigned players had until the following year’s draft to come to terms.
So when Latos declined to sign San Diego’s offer, he called Deutschman, who hadn’t even recruited him because it was obvious he was a pro talent.
“We had gone to the [Junior College] World Series the year before Latos arrived,” Deutschman said.
“With Latos, we got off to a 22-1 start and were ranked No.1 in the nation. We had 15 players who had been drafted or would be drafted that year.”
Knowing that Latos had a golden arm and an imminent pro future, Deutschman was very careful, pitching his ace only on Fridays.
Latos never worked in relief, never pitched on short rest and never threw more than 100 pitches in a game.
He wasn’t perfect that season — he had an 8-2 record — but he was dominant. Deutschman recalled a game against Indian River in which Latos gave up one hit, zero walks, zero runs and struck out 13. Deutschman estimates Latos walked just 15 batters all season, in 15 starts.
“There were 12 Padres scouts there to watch him that night, including their general manager at the time, Kevin Towers,” Deutschman said. “I knew [Latos] was going to blow [Indian River] up.”
The odd thing about that season was that Broward — despite all that talent — never got past conference play. Miami Dade College and Palm Beach advanced out of the Southern Conference that season.
But Latos signed with the Padres on May 30 of that year and was in the major leagues two years later at the age of 21.
Deutschman hasn’t spoken to Latos in quite some time, but that’s nothing unusual, he said. There are scores of players who have left the program and lost touch with him and Broward College.
Still, that hasn’t changed Deutschman’s opinion of Latos, a 6-6 right-hander and an all-around athlete.
“He would have been [a] basketball player, too,” Deutschman said. “He would have won a college dunk contest — I had to shoo him off the basketball court.
“When it came to pitching, I have never and I will never coach with or against anyone as good as him. He could throw four pitches for strikes. He pitched at 94-to-98 [mph] and would reach 100 at times. It wouldn’t shock me if he won a Cy Young Award in the next three years.”