— COURTESY — WEATHERFORD COLLEGE
Now that he’s returned to the starting pitching rotation, things are starting to look up more than ever for Tejay Antone.
The Weatherford College sophomore pitcher has signed a letter-of-intent to pitch for Auburn University next season.
It came after his return to a starting rotation when he joined the Coyotes this season. That was after spending his first year of college pitching out of the bullpen for TCU.
“TCU was great. I met a lot of people and learned a lot from the upperclassmen on the baseball team,” said Antone.
“At the year-end meeting with the TCU coach he said he saw me as a bullpen guy for them next year (this season). I wanted to start in college, so I let him know I was going to transfer to Weatherford College to start and get my innings in.
“I love Weatherford College and I have learned a lot from both Coach (Jeff) Lightfoot and Coach (Flint) Wallace.”
Antone was drafted by the New York Mets in the 22nd round out of high school at Mansfield Legacy, but he decided to bypass professional baseball to work on his education and baseball skills.
At Legacy, Antone was one of their top players, learning much from a big-time teammate.
“I started playing varsity baseball my sophomore year and was able to watch Noah Syndergaard, a first-round draft pitch, as our starting pitcher,” said Antone.
“I learned a lot from watching him and working with him, which pushed me to try and be even better than I was.”
His Legacy teams reached the postseason all three of his varsity seasons, advancing to the regional semifinals (four rounds) his sophomore season, and two rounds as a junior.
Antone was an All-District pitcher in 2011, academic All-District in 2010-11, and the district Pitcher of the Year in 2012.
In his only season at TCU he saw action in the Big 12 Tournament, throwing several innings and giving up no earned runs.
Antone said that while he’s happy to be starting again, he learned from his experience in the bullpen some things that will help should he return there someday.
“As a starter you are able to set the pace of the game, and I love to work fast as a starter,” he said.
“As a reliever you have to change your mindset a little. You must throw a lot more strikes and be really aggressive in the strike zone.”
At TCU, Antone was pitching in one of the premier NCAA Division I conferences in America. Now, with the Coyotes he is at one of, if not THE, premier junior college conference in the nation.
“This conference is for sure one of the top in the nation,” said Antone. “I would say the only difference between D-1 and JUCO is the age of the hitter.”
Odds are, Antone will get another look in the draft, but he’s not focusing on it. When that happens, he’ll make a decision about pro baseball.
“The draft is always up in the air, so there is no telling what will happen with that,” he said. “The only thing I know for certain is that I have signed to play for Auburn next year.
“It’s not so much the round or slot I get picked at. I just want to make sure the team is going to make a commitment to me and my baseball future.”
And, it seems, Antone has been working on investing in his own future. It’s a hobby he’s picked up when he’s not playing baseball.
“Lately I have been investing in stocks, which I find fun and interesting,” he said.
“I also love to play golf and shoot clays.”
At press time, Antone had a 2.48 ERA, the eighth lowest in the North Texas Junior College Athletic Conference. He was 7-5 with 94 strikeouts and only 31 walks.