By STEVE KRAH
Drew Storen can trace his love of pitching to front-yard wiffle ball games.
It was there in the Geist section of Indianapolis that the son of Mark and Pam and younger brother of Lindsay discovered he could make the ball do what he wanted.
“At a young age, I was just trying to spin the wiffle ball,” says Storen, now 31 with 470 mound appearances in Major League Baseball behind him. “It kind of worked out well. I learned to spin the ball.”
Once little Drew identified himself as a pitcher, his father took him to get help with his mechanics. The right-hander began working with pitching instructor Jay Lehr at 7.
“Jay taught me how to throw an effective breaking ball without the stress on my arm,” says Storen. “I was a really small kid. I respected the process. I didn’t force it at any point.”
With maturity came size and added velocity.
But it did take time and effort.
“If you’re at my level or a little league level, you need to respect the process,” says Storen. “My dad’s advice was to do one thing everyday to get better. You chip away at it. It does not happen overnight. You’ve got to put the work in.
“It takes a lot of mental strength, but that’s what makes it great.”
Drew came up through Skiles Test Baseball and at 11, his family moved to Brownsburg, Ind. That’s where his father grew up and went to high school and that’s where his son shined at Brownsburg Little League. Drew did his part for a state championship team in 2000. That came between Brownsburg’s appearances in the Little League World Series in 1999 and 2001.
Storen enjoyed a decorated career at Brownsburg High School. He won 30 games with a 1.55 earned run average and 319 strikeouts. He was 9-0 as a sophomore in helping the Bulldogs win an 2005 IHSAA Class 4A state championship. Drew played first base while future major leaguer Lance Lynn was the winning pitcher in the title game.
In Storen’s last two seasons at Brownsburg, future big league Gold Glove winner Tucker Barnhart was his catcher.
Recognition came with Storen’s pitching abilities. He was honorable mention all-state in 2005 and first-team all-state in 2006 and 2007. He was a three-time first-team on the all-Hoosier Crossroads and Indianapolis Star Metro West teams.
In 2007, he was the Star’s West High School Player of the Year and an Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association North/South All-Star Series participant.
Summers from age 13 to 18 were spent traveling with the Indiana Bulls.
Storen was selected in the 34th round of the 2007 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft by the New York Yankees but did not sign.
Instead, he took his pitching talents westward and played two seasons at Stanford University (2008 and 2009). He ascended the mound 59 times (all in relief) and went 12-4 with 15 saves and a 3.64 ERA. He struck out 116 and walked 23 in 98 1/3 innings.
As a draft-eligible sophomore, Storen was picked in the first round (10th overall) in 2009 by the Washington Nationals.
He made his big league debut in 2010 with Washington and appeared in 54 games with the Nationals that season.
In eight big league seasons with the Washington Nationals (2010-15), Toronto Blue Jays (2016), Seattle Mariners (2016) and Cincinnati Reds (2017), Storen is 29-18 with 99 saves and a 3.45 earned run average. He has 417 strikeouts and 132 walks in 438 innings (all in relief).
Storen performed a rare feat on April 18, 2017 in the ninth inning of a game against the Baltimore Orioles. With Tucker catching, he pitched an immaculate inning. That’s three strikeouts on nine pitches. The victims were Jonathan Schoop, J.J. Hardy and Hyun Soo Kim.
“As a bullpen guy, that’s our perfect game,” says Storen.
On Sept. 26, 2017, Storen underwent Tommy John surgery. Reds medical director Dr. Tim Kremchek operated to repair the torn ulnar collateral ligament in the pitcher’s right elbow. He missed the entire 2018 season.
Recovered from the procedure, free agent Storen has been throwing off a mound — usually to Tucker — for about a month. They often meet at the new Finch Creek Fieldhouse in nearby Noblesville.
“I feel really good,” says Storen. “It’s more than a year out. I’ve given myself plenty of time to respect the process. I was lucky enough to play as long as I did without a major break health-wise. I wanted to make sure I came back better than I was.”
Most of his career, Storen threw from a high three-quarter arm slot to deliver a slider, change-up, four-seam fastball and two-seam fastball.
“I’m able to throw any pitch in any count,” says Storen. “That’s what matters to me.
“That’s why I love pitching. I just play wiffle ball. That’s all.”
With the Reds, Storen did drop down and delivered the ball from multiple angles.
He took feedback from bullpen sessions with Barnhart into the game.
“I still throw to him now,” says Storen of Barnhart. “That’s been great.
“He shoots me straight and know what he’s talking about.”
When Brownsburg Little League moved from Arbuckle Acres in the heart of town to the outskirts, Storen and Barnhart donated a portion of their salaries to the cause and the Reds Community Fund also helped the cause.
“It’s nice to give back in that regard,” says Storen. “Brownsburg is near and dear to my heart. My dad grew up there. I take pride in that. I want to give kids an opportunity to enjoy the game as much as I have.”
A self-described perfectionist, Storen acts as his own pitching coach.
“I’d like to think I know what I need to work on,” says Storen. “I know what I’m not good at.
“I need to make the most of whatever situation I’m in.
“I know I’m not going to be the guy I was back in the day. I know I’m going to be better in a different way.”
While getting his arm back in shape, Storen is also exploring his employment options for 2019.
“With where I’m at, it’s finding your best situation,” says Storen. “I’ll showcase for certain teams and go from there.
“It’s been an interesting couple of weeks. My agent (Brodie Van Wagenen) became the GM of the Mets.”
Storen has been dealing with others in the CAA agency.
“Brodie can’t do both (be an agent and a GM). It’s a really great opportunity for him. He knows the game really well. I can’t knock it.”
Storen is the rare pitcher that was used exclusively in the bullpen in college, drafted as a reliever and has been used in late-inning situations in the majors.
In those high-leverage moments, he knows things can go very well or very bad.
“You’re only as good as the day before,” says Storen. “If I go through a whole year and I didn’t have an interview and not on (ESPN) SportsCenter, I had a very good year
“I would prefer not to be noticed. But I enjoy that challenge. I like perfection
“You have to respect the guy in the box, but not be scared by him and trust what you have. That’s the best scouting report you have.”
Besides a professional ballplayer, Storen is a husband and father. Carmel, Ind., residents Drew and Brittani will celebrate four years of marriage this month. The couple has a 2-year-old son, Jace.
Brittani Storen, who is from Brownsburg and a Purdue University graduate, is a pharmacist. That’s the same profession has Drew’s sister, Lindsay, in Asheville, N.C.
Drew’s father, who goes professionally by Mark Patrick, is a sports broadcaster. Pam Storen is a graphic designer.
While at Stanford, Drew studied product design and has put his knowledge of baseball and mechanical engineering into scheming up the look and performance of own custom cleats.
“I’d like to go back and finish my degree,” says Storen. “I can only be so good at baseball for so long.”
Drew Storen, a 2007 Brownsburg (Ind.) High School graduate, made his Major League Baseball debut in 2010. The Carmel, Ind., resident is now a free agent. (Cincinnati Reds Photo)
Drew Storen pitched for the Cincinnati Reds in 2017. He had an immaculate inning — three strikeouts on nine pitches — in an April game against the Baltimore Orioles. He had Tommy John surgery in September 2017 and missed the 2018 season. He is now a free agent. (Getty Images)
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