Editor's note: This is part two of Ashley Brown's column continuing an in- depth look at Greenbrier's Nolan Belcher. Part one ran Sunday:
Nolan Belcher was seemingly born to play baseball.
His dad had a batting cage in the family's backyard, and when he got home from work Nolan was there ready to hit a bucket of balls before dinner.
While most elementary school kids were watching cartoons or building forts, Nolan was busy tagging along with his big brother, Jordan. That usually meant playing baseball with some of the top young ball players in Columbia County.
Guys such as Bradley Key, a four-time all-county performer, were Nolan's "playmates," and from early on his ability was quite evident.
Here's a question and answer session with Nolan's father, Brian Belcher.
Q: Was Nolan always a pitcher when he began playing baseball?
A: Well, we did not let him actually pitch until he was 8, but even in machine pitch ball he played pitcher. He just loved being the center of the action. The first time he got to pitch he was pretty good from Day 1.
Q: So Belcher was groomed to be a pitcher - a left-handed pitcher?
A: Sure, we always would get him to do things with his left hand, but it became natural to him pretty quickly. We let him throw some curve balls pretty early, but he was not allowed to throw sliders. They are really tough on your arm while a curve ball, when thrown properly, was fine.
Q: Were you stunned by his early dominance on the high school level?
A: Well, we knew he would be pretty good. He had already been playing with all those older guys, and when he made the move to Greenbrier he had faced most those kids in summer ball, but I have certainly been a little surprised by the numbers he has put up.
Q: What sets Nolan apart?
A: He obviously can throw, but I tell you he just is a student of the game. He has tapes of all his games, and he will go back and watch the tapes and watch his mechanics. He loves Tom Glavine too, and he would always watch him closely ... He has always just been dedicated to the game.
Q: What about the next level? Rumor has it Nolan is leaning to Georgia Tech. Any truth to the rumor?
A: Well, he has always liked Georgia Tech in basketball and baseball. So Brandon (Cumpton) and Jeff (Rowland) going there just makes it even better. He has not made a decision or anything, but I'd say he definitely likes Georgia Tech.
Q: What about pro ball and the MLB draft?
A: After watching how tough that can be with Jordan, I would prefer he go to college. He'd have to be taken pretty high in the draft for him to sign, but I think he will go to college.
Q: Does he know how good you were as a player?
A: He has seen some newspaper clippings. I showed him some of my high school articles from my senior year at Butler. I had pitched about the same number of innings he did last year, and my brothers all played at Butler, and some of his friends' dads did too like Shawn (Ward)'s dad.
Brian Belcher is a proud father, but as I had already heard before interviewing him for this story, he has no ego at all regarding his son's accomplishments. In talking with him, there is no doubt he and his wife have brought Nolan up the right way.
That is why I'm sure they are more proud of something Nolan did after the state championship series had just ended than they were of his three-hit gem that locked up Greenbrier's second state title.
While all the Greenbrier players followed tradition by racing for the retention pond just beyond the outfield fence, Nolan had other ideas. While the others were leaping into the water, Nolan was busy shaking the hand of every single player and coach from Heritage High School.
I am in no way condemning the other players for celebrating the way many other teams have in the past. Nolan' s gesture, however, shows you what kind of kid he is.
I'm not sure if it was the respect for his opponent that caused him to stay behind or his respect for the game. Either way, it made a big impression on the fans, Greenbrier and Heritage alike.
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