The first time Mike Stauffer saw Aaron Nola pitch was in 2010 at a showcase tournament in Florida, and that is when the Phillies' Southeast area scout started his notes file. There was no "wow" moment for Stauffer. He built a relationship with the family.
Then, when the top Phillies executives deemed Nola a candidate for the seventh overall pick in the draft, their scouts saw Nola themselves. A pair of Phillies eyes saw every one of Nola's 16 starts this season for Louisiana State University but one. They witnessed composure and fastball command.
They did not see much emotion. The 21-year-old righthander once told Stauffer, "I always wanted to pump my fist, but that ain't me. I do it inside." And that, Stauffer said, is what he loves about Nola.
"I'm just ready to start my journey," Nola said Tuesday at Citizens Bank Park.
Nola, according to two sources, signed for the No. 7 slot value of $3.3 million. He will fly to Florida this week so the team's player development staff can learn his tendencies. Nola's professional debut will happen this summer, likely at single-A Clearwater, while most of his peers begin at lower levels.
It is an aggressive plan, but that is why the Phillies selected Nola. They believe he could reach the majors faster than any other starter drafted last week.
"We believe in what we've seen the last few years out of Aaron, that he's a guy that has an aptitude to pitch," Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. said. "He's got pretty darn good command of his fastball, which is [paramount for pitching] here in the big leagues, and he's not afraid to use it."
Stauffer said Nola's ability to throw strikes is what piqued his interest as early as Nola's junior year in high school. He threw his fastball between 88 and 92 m.p.h. then. This season, Stauffer said, he saw some 96 m.p.h. pitches in the first inning of Nola's starts. One Phillies official saw a 97-m.p.h. fastball.
"He maintained his velocity throughout six, seven innings," Stauffer said. "The one thing I'll tell you didn't leave was his location of his pitches. He started on both sides and ended on both sides."
What impressed the Phillies the most was Nola's savvy. Stauffer likened his demeanor to Orel Hershiser's. The scout saw Nola execute a plan. He could show his change-up and curveball on consecutive pitches.
"I didn't want to wait around too long to get back on the mound," Nola said. "I think it's a good decision for myself. My family made the decision with me, and they support it. I think it'll be good for me to get out there as quick as I can."