As a senior pitcher on the Payson Longhorns' 1997 baseball team, Tom Canale was one of Arizona's best hurlers, earning a starting slot in the post-season coaches association North vs. South All-Star game.
But even that recognition wasn't sufficient to earn Canale a scholarship offer from either Arizona State University or the University of Arizona.
So, "Tommy Gun" packed up his belongings and headed to Thousand Oaks, Calif., where he's become Cal Lutheran's ace hurler.
"He's our franchise. I don't know how those Arizona schools could overlook him. I guess he's one of those kids who slipped through the cracks," Kingsmen sports information officer John Czimbal said.
And with Canale's newfound collegiate success, guess who's come calling?
Both ASU and the U of A are now making gestures they are willing to offer Canale a scholarship if he would transfer.
Such a transfer would be legal without the usual waiting period for eligibility because Cal Lutheran is a Division III school and the Sun Devils and Wildcats are Division I.
Canale said he's not even listening to the overtures.
"No. I think I'll stay where I am," he said. "I'm pretty comfortable there."
In addition to the attention from ASU and U of A, Canale has also captured the eye of professional scouts, who are prohibited from talking to him directly until the end of his junior year.
"But they have given me information cards to fill out, which makes me believe they are interested," Canale said.
So, what has the 6-foot, 3-inch, 185-pound fireballer done to earn all this attention?
It could be the Most Valuable Player honor he earned at the Western Regional Tournament held in Austin, Texas at the conclusion of the regular season.
In the fray, Canale pitched Cal Lutheran to an 8-3 opening win over Texas Southwestern, allowing no earned runs.
Days later in the tournament championship, Canale pitched 3 1/2 innings of scoreless relief to fuel his team to a 9-8 win over Chapman, Calif. College.
With the regional title in hand, Canale and his teammates advanced to the eight-team Division III World Series in Salem, Va.
In the tournament opener, Canale hurled the Kingsmen to a 7-2 victory over Cortland College which advanced as champions of the New York region.
In later games, the Kingsmen beat Marietta 8-2, but lost to St. Thomas 4-2 and North Carolina Wesleyan 6-5, to finish third in the tournament.
Wesleyan went on to win the World Series title.
Canale, who was recuperating from having thrown over 120 innings during the course of the year, did not pitch in the two losses.
The youngster finished the season with a 10-5 record and an ERA less than 2.00.
Canale first caught the attention of collegiate and pro scouts April 10 when he hurled a no-hit, 1-0 victory over the University of California at San Diego. His feat was only the eighth no-hitter ever thrown by a Cal Lutheran pitcher.
In throwing a complete nine innings, the former Payson star struck out 10 and walked only three.
UCSD hitters, Czimbal said, were totally baffled by Canale's heat. "About as close as they could get to a hit was an infield ground ball that was trouble, and a fly ball behind first base that the wind blew foul," he said.
As a high school pitcher, Canale owned a good fastball and a curve.
During his two-year stint in college, he's added a slider and a split-fingered offering he uses as a change-up.
His fastball is also now being clocked consistently over 90 mph. Plus, he's now better able to spot his pitches.
"That's the big difference from high school," he said. "You can't just throw the ball over the plate and expect to get anyone out."
After leaving Payson High, Canale went through a trying adjustment period as a freshman but says that's all behind him.
"The first year is a big learning experience. Everything is so different," he said. "But I'm looking forward to my junior year."
Following Cal Lutheran's elimination from the World Series, Canale settled in Phoenix, where he'll spend the summer.
"I'd like to find a job in athletic or physical therapy because that's my major," he said.
And for the summer, there's no time for baseball.
"After all the innings I pitched this year, I'm going to rest, not play a bit," he said.
But at the end of next season, when scouts may discuss his future with him, Canale might be influenced to give the professional ranks a try.
"That's a possibility, a dream," he says.