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Kumar Rocker: The Vanderbilt Baseball Legend Looking to Pitch for Independent League Ahead of MLB 2022 Draft

Kumar Rocker: The Vanderbilt Baseball Legend Looking to Pitch for Independent League Ahead of MLB 2022 Draft

  • The right-hander who missed out on the 2021 MLB Draft, despite being selected 10th overall, he’s expected to re-enter this year and make the early first-round selection.

Pitcher Kumar Rocker has announced that he will not return to Vanderbilt University raising speculation that he may pitch for an independent league team. The son of a football coach and an Indian American mother, Rocker played for the Commodores for three years and was named the College World Series Most Outstanding Player. 

Vanderbilt head coach Tim Corbin told the media on Jan. 26 that Rockers wouldn’t be returning for the fourth year. He said Rocker is splitting time between Knoxville and California working out. “He is throwing off a mound and on track to potentially pitch in an independent league this summer,” Corbin said, adding that the 21-year-old, 6-foot-5, 245-pound right-hander “looks as good as he’s ever looked.”

Rocker has been keeping a low profile since last summer, when he didn’t make the Mets, despite being selected 10th overall in the 2021 MLB Draft. NBC reported that Rocker and the Mets “failed to reach an agreement on a contract last summer due to the organization’s concerns about his pitching elbow.” And although he’s not returning to the Commodores this season, he’s expected to re-enter the 2022 MLB Draft this summer and make the early first-round selection. 

At Vanderbilt, Kumar appeared in 19 games for the Commodores, and posted a 3.25 ERA in 99.2 innings, allowing 88 hits, walking 21, and striking out 114. His first few appearances in the NCAA were not bad per se, but he really started gaining momentum in his second half, posting a 2.17 ERA in his last 11 starts, striking out 82 in 70.2 innings. Kumar’s dominance continued into the NCAA tournament – a big reason Vanderbilt won the 2019 College World Series – and on June 8, Rocker made history. Pitching against Duke, he became the first pitcher in NCAA history to throw a no-hitter in the Super Regional round of the 2019 NCAA Division I Baseball Tournament, striking out 19 batters in the Commodores’ 3-0 victory. He followed this up with another record – recording 11 strikeouts in 6.1 innings in the College World Series finals against Michigan, setting Vanderbilt up to win its second national championship.

Rocker’s father Tracy Quinton Rocker is the’ first-year defensive line coach for the Eagles and his mother Lalitha Rocker is a hard-core Orioles fan. And it was she, who traveled with Kumar to his hundreds of ball games, with her husband on the road more often than not. 

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Kumar played both football and baseball when he enrolled at North Oconee High School in Bogart, Georgia, but according to his Mets Draft profile, he stopped playing football completely by his junior year of high school. By then, his skill as a pitcher really began shining through. He entered high school with a fastball that touched the high-80s and it continued improving and improving and improving, and by the time he began focusing only on baseball, the pitch sat in the low-to-mid-90s and regularly touched the high-90s. And although Kumar chose baseball, not part of the Rocker family sports legacy, he told ESPN that he draws on the knowledge and inspiration he garnered during a childhood spent on SEC and NFL sidelines and in locker rooms.

According to ESPN, Rocker, who was born in Montgomery Alabama, moved through seven states as a kid (his father’s coaching career taking the family from town to town). The longest stay was seven years in Arkansas; the shortest was 11 months in Oxford, Mississippi. “Moving definitely made me the person I am today,” Rocker was quoted as saying. “It showed me how people act and go about their business. I took a little from each person in each of those seven states and put it in myself.” 

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