Cook-ing without gas

Published 12:54 pm Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Plymouth pitcher D.J. Cook helped the Vikings get to the NCHSAA 1-A East Regional round of the playoffs and finished the season with an 11-2 record and a 1.44 ERA en route to being named the WDN Pitcher of the Year. (WDN Photo/Brian Haines)

PLYMOUTH – He’s 5-feet-7-inches tall and weighs about 125 pounds and while D.J. Cook does not have the fastball or the physique of dominant pitcher, he has the stats. This year Plymouth’s senior ace compiled an 11-2 record and a 1.44 ERA to lead the Vikings all the way to the NCHSAA 1-A East Regional round of the playoffs.
The pint-sized pitcher is far from a classic power thrower – his fastball tops out at 79 MPH – but he has the savvy to know what he is and what he isn’t, and what he is, is a tremendously crafty righthander whose ability to change speed and eye-levels enabled him to win the Washington Daily News Pitcher of the Year.
“When a kid can change speeds and locate and play within himself he’s going to have success. That’s what pitching is about,” said Plymouth coach Terry Perry.
A big part of any sport is what’s called “the eye test,” where a coach or scout looks at a player and tries to determine if his height and weight fits the role of whatever position that athlete is looking to play. As a junior, it’s safe to say Cook’s dimensions didn’t exactly scream pitcher, but reluctantly, Perry gave the determined Cook a shot on the hill.
“We were looking for a pitcher last year and he kept saying, ‘Hey coach I can do it, I can do it,’” Perry said. “You look at him on the gun and there was some question marks there but when given the opportunity to do it, he did it. Then this year he came in and really exceeded expectations.”
The humble Cook, whose repertoire includes a fastball, changeup and curveball, brings a basic approach to the bump saying, “I just throw strikes and let my defense back me up. That’s all I try to do.”
Perry said it’s a little more involved than that.
“It’s not that simple. He locates very well and changes speeds very well; probably about as good as any high school pitcher you’re going to see,” Perry said. “He definitely got the most out of what he had … He’s a Greg Maddux-type of guy. He won’t throw it by you but he’ll come up and in and down and away and mix it up.”
Cook did not register many games with high strikeout totals but his style kept hitters from being able to fully square up on the ball, like the day he threw a three-hitter against Camden to lead his team to a 2-1 eight-inning victory.
While his game speaks for itself, Perry said that Cook, who played shortstop when he wasn’t pitching, had an impact that extended beyond the box score.
“His leadership by example and his love for the game was important,” Perry said. “He’s a good teammate and he doesn’t just make himself better he makes the people around him better. That’s what’s important. The more kids that you have that make each other better and push each other the better, and D.J. was one of those kids.
Those factors combined to lead the Vikings on the longest playoff run of Perry’s 13 years at Plymouth. Cook said it was a season he will never forget.
“It was unbelievable,” Cook said. “I just can’t believe how strong we came together as a team.”