Kumar Rocker, you are appreciated.
Remember the name Kumar Rocker. He’s not only got a potentially legendary right wing, but he embodies everything that the current state of baseball is missing when it comes to its black American players.
His father, Tracy Rocker, played in the NFL. Tracy met Kumar’s mother when she was a student at the University of Maryland and he was balling with the Washington Redskins. The 6-foot-3, 245-pound flamethrower’s maternal grandparents immigrated to the United States from India.
Call him Black. Call him Asian-Pacific. It doesn’t matter, but you have to call Kumar a winner and a highly-touted future MLB player after his performance on Saturday night.
Rocker became the first pitcher ever to throw a no-hitter in the Super Regional round of the 2019 NCAA Division I Baseball Tournament. With Vandy down in the three-game series, 1-0, Rocker threw a masterful gem with 19 strikeouts as Vanderbilt beat a formidable Duke squad 3–0. The performance crushed Duke’s spirit and the next day, Vandy cruised past the Blue Devils 13-2 to advance to the College World Series.
Rocker’s performance was other-worldly but he didn’t come out of anywhere. Rocker attended North Oconee High School in Bogart, Georgia and immediately established himself as a force, wielding a 1.63 earned run average (ERA) with 68 strikeouts in 55 2⁄3 innings as a junior.
In 2018, Kumar Rocker was considered the No. 2 rated pitcher on MLB Draft Boards, but the power pitcher was not selected until the 38th round by the Colorado Rockies, because teams had concerns that they wouldn’t be able to sign him because he was more committed to playing college ball.
So Rocker enrolled in Vanderbilt, which has a prestigious D-1 baseball program. Saturday’s performance has probably made some MLB teams regret not trying harder to convince Rocker not to sign with Vandy. They probably should have tossed a multi-million dollar bag at the imposing pitcher. With the dearth of pitching in MLB, a kid who looks like a young CC Sabathia on the mound, and can produce electrifying performances as he did on Saturday, is worth overpaying for on the front end.
Most baseball fans don’t follow college baseball. Very few baseball players are household names before they hit the league and there definitely haven’t been any Black baseball brand names that came into the league with public fanfare like this since Ken Griffey Jr.
On the other hand, it’s good to see a Black face in college baseball, performing, inspiring kids and changing the narratives on black baseball excellence.
According to TIDES report, 80.8 percent of the college baseball players in 2017-18 were white. They are just as rare a commodity in the pros, where guys like CC Sabathia, David Price, Marcus Stroman, and Chris Archer are definitely a rare breed.
I can speak for all Black baseball fans when I say that word of Rocker’s performance conjured memories of Satchel Paige, Bob Gibson and Dwight Gooden, the Black pitching legends who are etched in MLB lore.
“Satchel Paige, Bullet Rogan and Leon Day are all standing and applauding that incredible performance!!!!”
Rocker’s moment created a sense of pride because even though it was college baseball and not the pros, we haven’t seen a Black pitcher on that stage appear so dominating in a very long time.
He should easily be a Top 5 pick in next year’s MLB Draft and thanks to his dominance in postseason play, he’ll be entering the Draft with some “name recognition” as well as prototypical big-time pitcher size, skills, and clutchness.