Derek Law was 5 when his father built a pitcher's mound in the side yard of their Beechview home. For years, the Laws would go to the yard, son pitching and dad catching.
Derek Law hasn't taken the family mound for a few years -- he throws too hard these days for dad to catch. But the son still stands atop a hill: The 6-foot-3, 180-pound senior right-hander at Seton-LaSalleis considered the top pitching prospect in the WPIAL. He might be the best prospect overall.
Depending on how Law performs the rest of the season, scouts have told him and his coaches, he might have a chance to go in the first 15 rounds of June's Major League Baseball draft.
Law is 3-0 this season and it's rare when he gives up a hit. He allowed only three in his first three games before yielding three in a four-inning stint Friday against Brentwood.
Law credits his father for mentoring him and his brother for inspiration.
• What: Baseball amateur draft.
• When: June 9-10.
• b Washington has first pick. ... Pirates select fourth.
Law's father, Joe, was a standout pitcher at Langley in the late 1970s and eventually made it to the major leagues for four days with the Oakland Athletics, although he didn't appear in a game. Joe has taught Derek plenty over the years and is an assistant coach at Seton-LaSalle.
Joe and Tracey Law have another son -- 14-year-old Dustin, who is autistic.
"Before every game, I usually say a prayer and think about my brother," Derek Law said. "It kind of gets me in the right mental mode. Anytime things are going wrong, I think of him and it brings me back to earth and reality."
Derek says his father has taught him every pitch he has ever thrown. Dad says Dustin has taught Derek a few things.
"I think Derek is very humbled with everything going on, like the scouts coming to games and things like that," Joe Law said. "But I think Dustin is the reason Derek is the way he is. He's like best friends with Dustin."
Derek Law, who also plays first and third base, has been on Seton-LaSalle's varsity since his freshman year, but really started to show promise as a sophomore when he starting throwing harder. Last year, Law was 8-0 and the only junior selected to the Post-Gazette All-Area Team (top 10 players in the WPIAL and City League).
"He has really worked hard on his breaking pitches," Joe Law said. "I think that's what puts him above everyone else. That's what all the scouts say they love -- his curveball and his slider."
But while the curveball and slider might be good, what scouts want most from a high school pitcher can be seen on a radar gun.
For a right-hander?
"They want to see that magical 90 miles per hour," Joe Law said.
Derek has regularly thrown in the high 80s this spring, but he reached the low 90s late last summer. Joe Law said his son also hit 91 a few times a few weeks ago against Carlynton.
"At the end of last summer, I was playing in Florida and I was hitting 92 and 93," Derek Law said. "I think once it starts getting warmer here, we'll see what happens."
Seton-LaSalle coach Shawn Trainor said, "I think the weather this year has bothered Derek some. You save him for certain games and then that game gets rained out. Then you save him for another one. I think he was more into a rhythm last year."
Law has committed to Miami Dade College, a strong junior-college program in Florida.
"Obviously, every player would love to get drafted high and I would, too," Derek said. "If that doesn't happen, I have college to go back on."
Mike White can be reached at email@example.com or 412-263-1975. First Published April 29, 2009 4:00 AM