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Former FSU star Luke Weaver rockets to major leagues

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Luke Weaver was understandably pleased when the St. Louis Cardinals made him their first round selection in the 2014 draft. After all, the Florida State pitching star was going to one of the top franchises in all of Major League Baseball.

It was something he had dared to imagine. When he signed his first professional contract in St. Louis two years ago, Weaver’s father, Mark, recalled Luke’s answer when asked which team he would like to play for when you had the chance.

“It was generally always the Cardinals,” the elder Weaver told MLB.com.

Before beginning his pro career, Weaver left his mark in Tallahassee. During his sophomore and junior seasons, he posted a 15-6 record, had an earned run average under 2.50 and struck out precisely 204 batters in 204 innings pitched.

After signing his contract in June of 2014, Weaver began his pro career with the Cardinals’ rookie league team in Jupiter, Fla. The native of Deland made a rapid rise through the Cardinals’ minor league system, spending barely two years in the minor leagues.

This year he was 6-3 with a 1.40 ERA in Class Double A Springfield before being called up to Triple A Memphis. After just one start in Memphis, Weaver was sent a ticket to come to St. Louis on August 13.

Injuries played a big role in Weaver’s call-up, but as the organization’s number two prospect, he would have certainly joined the team in September. Major league rules permit teams to expand their 24-man rosters to as many as 40 players on September 1.

Cardinals’ Manager Mike Matheny certainly threw Weaver into the fire right away. His first start came in Chicago’s Wrigley Field on August 13 against arguably the best lineup in baseball.
He left after four innings trailing the Cubs, 2-0. His teammates rallied to win with a six-run eighth inning to leave Weaver with a no-decision.

The second start came last Sunday in Philadelphia, which ended with Weaver tasting his first defeat. Cesar Hernandez homered in the first inning on Weaver’s second pitch of the game as the Phillies went on to a 4-3 win.

Weaver made his first home start on Friday night against the Oakland A’s. He gave up four hits in six innings while striking out seven and earning his first win as a major leaguer, 3-1. The only run allowed was a solo homer by former Miami Hurricane Yonder Alonso.

“I think just believing I can be aggressive in the (strike) zone and just trusting the stuff, it paid off tonight,” Weaver said after the game. “This is where we want to be. I’m just going to enjoy it and hope to be a contributor to this ball club.”

Matheny was impressed with the rookie’s performance and is already looking to the future.

“Today was just a great step in the right direction,” he said in the post-game news conference. “The fans were great and supported him, and I think they’re going to continue to like what they see.”
Weaver is not only making contributions on the mound. His fifth inning single on Friday night was his third hit in five at-bats since being called up.

In the end, the loyal fans of St. Louis will settle for pitching performances like they got on Friday. An occasional hit now and then will be a bonus.

His next start is expected to be Wednesday night in Milwaukee against the Brewers.

Bob Sparks is President of Ramos and Sparks Group, a Tallahassee-based business and political consulting firm. During his career, he has directed media relations and managed events for professional baseball, served as chief spokesperson for the Republican Party of Florida as well as the Florida Department of Environmental Protection and the Attorney General of Florida. After serving as Executive Deputy Chief of Staff for Governor Charlie Crist, he returned to the private sector working with clients including the Republican National Committee and political candidates in Japan. He lives in Tallahassee with his wife, Sue and can be reached at Bob@ramos-sparks.com.

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