Pitcher Eric Reyzelman is new to the south, very new. In fact when he stepped off the plane this summer to officially make his move to Baton Rouge, it was the first time he'd ever stepped foot anywhere in the south.
The California native, who spent the first two seasons at the University of San Francisco, is part of a pitching core that coach Jay Johnson brought in to shake up the LSU pitching staff in 2022. For Reyzelman it's an opportunity he is taking with open arms as he didn't know if this would be a possibility two years ago.
Reyzelman is now 18 months removed from going through the absolute worst surgery for a pitcher, Tommy John. It's a surgery that can be quite scary for pitchers to hear when required but it's something that has helped shape him as a pitcher.
"When a player hears he has to go under the knife for UCL reconstruction, it's immediately bad thoughts," Reyzelman said. "It's not an east recovery process. It's tough on the body, tough on the mind. But something I realized going through it was that it gives you a completely different perspective on the game of baseball and why you play it."
Watching as other players throw on the mound and do things he couldn't gave Reyzelman a different perspective on just how important baseball is to him. Even nearly a year and a half post surgery, Reyzelman says its still a constant battle in terms of his recovery.
When he returned for the 2021 season, he posted a 6.17 ERA in 10 starts and didn't see the results he was hoping for while in San Francisco. As is the case with most pitchers coming off Tommy John, Reyzelman struggled with his command as he isssued 30 walks and hit 10 batters over that stretch.
It wasn't until reaching the Cape Cod league over the summer where Reyzelman finally started to see the hard work pay off. He was able to work with former MLB pitcher Dave Coggin over the summer and was really able to start seeing more control in his command and has been a bright spot in the early going for LSU in fall ball.
"I think I feel better than my old self," Reyzelman said. "I think mentally I have taken a bigger step and I'm able to compete in a different way than I did before.
"We were pretty deliberate in what we were looking for and what we were going after," Johnson said. "Eric was intriguing because he was just getting fully healthy. I would call it a high risk, high reward recruitment but I'm very pleased with where Eric is right now and he can be a real positive contributor."
While pitching in the Cape, Reyzelman posted a 2.93 ERA with 38 strikeouts in 27-plus innings, which would earn him a spot on the Cape Cod All-Star team. With a fastball that can get upwards of 97 mph, there's no doubt that Reyzelman will find a role with this LSU pitching staff, which is still very much up in the air at this time.
A few weeks later and Reyzelman was on LSU's campus getting a feel for his new home and learning just how seriously baseball is taken in Baton Rouge. Only time will tell what specific role Reyzelman is able to carve out on this team but it's worth noting that D1 Baseball has him ranked as one of the top 100 college prospects for the 2022 Draft class.
"It's been amazing, the people here, it's different," Reyzelman said. "It was my first time stepping foot in the South in any place and we're greeted with open arms the first day I was here. Everyone brings something amazing to the table, there hasn't been one guy with negative energy. To be on the same page this early, it's really cool to see."