WHITING — Standing 6-foot-6 with plenty of room to fill out his 189-pound frame, Mike Madura has the classic, intimidating pitcher's look.
From an early age, Madura showed significant baseball talent. His mother, Sherrie, pitched to him in the backyard when he was just a toddler. His father, also named Mike, ran a recruiting company called SportsWorx for 15 years and coached him throughout Little League.
Before his sophomore season at Munster had even started, the younger Madura already was committed to play Division I baseball at Central Michigan. Without even pitching once, however, he was already back close to home at South Suburban College after transferring.
It was one of the few major bumps in the road for Madura. He's already poised to overcome it, as he announced his commitment to Purdue Fort Wayne on Tuesday.
“It's awesome,” the younger Madura said. “Each step you're at, you just want to learn more and grow more. After being at juco for a year, I graduated from there and I was just ready to get back. I think there's a lot of stuff that I was able to learn from there and take to the next level again.”
As a recruiting expert, the elder Madura had a big role in his son's choice both times around. When Madura committed to Central Michigan, his father said the program gave assurances that it wouldn't redshirt the promising pitcher or try to change his mechanics.
Those were big factors for the Maduras, and the pitcher committed partially as a result. When he arrived on campus, however, the elder Madura said the Chippewas reneged on both pledges.
The Maduras sought out a family friend for advice: Bill Bryk, a Schererville resident who works as a scout and special assistant to Arizona Diamondbacks general manager Mike Hazen. Together, they decided on a transfer to South Suburban in order to avoid burning a year of eligibility.
By the end of the younger Madura's stint with the Bulldogs, he had interest from Big Ten and ACC schools. Purdue Fort Wayne offered the best combination of scholarship money and playing time. Plus, there was familiarity on both sides.
“After he got his offer from Central Michigan, we actually contacted Purdue Fort Wayne — or IPFW at the time — but they just didn't do things that early,” the elder Madura said. “Now you look around six years later, and they remembered him from coming to camps and everything, and we remembered them. So it's just full circle coming back to them.”
The younger Madura is a natural lefty but threw equally well from each side as a youngster and throws right-handed now. At 2 years old, he had surgery to fix webbing between two fingers on his left hand and was in a cast afterward.
He still writes and eats left-handed — he even kicks with his left foot. Sherrie Madura bought both right-handed and left-handed gloves for him as a hedge and returned the right-handed glove saying she had accidentally gotten the wrong one.
Oilmen manager Kevin Tyrrell said he doesn't notice Madura's ambidexterity on the field. Evidently, he doesn't need it. He was named a Midwest Collegiate League All-Star on Friday thanks to a 4.58 ERA and 21 strikeouts in 19 2/3 innings.
“I think he's definitely a Division I player, and projectability-wise, I think he can play pro ball if he gets a few more miles per hour out of his fastball,” Tyrrell said. “His arm is so loose (that) I think there's gonna be a lot more in there.”
With a fastball between 83 and 86 miles per hour, Madura will look to bulk up and add velocity. Tyrrell, however, said he thinks the pitcher will start for Purdue Fort Wayne.
Tyrrell lauded the younger Madura's “advanced” command of the running game and his improvement throughout the summer. But a new pitch has made the biggest difference.
The former Mustang reflected on his own weaknesses upon leaving Central Michigan last summer and determined his fastball and slider-curveball hybrid — a “slurve,” Tyrrell calls it — wasn't enough. He needed a change-up to keep hitters guessing.
“You definitely need a third pitch in college — especially a change-up, I think,” the younger Madura said. “I think it has come a long way, and I'm really confident throwing it in any count and anywhere I need it.”
Father and son couldn't be happier for the younger Madura's return to Division I. The lanky Oilman laughs when asked of his father's influence and their relationship.
The years of work have paid off, and now the elder Madura can sit back and watch his son live his dream.
“He's like one of the my best friends,” the younger Madura said. “He's awesome, and I love having him in my life. He's the best dad.”