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updated: 10/10/2012 11:13 PM

Lake Zurich's Foote finds a future at Indiana

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Koufax? Or fiction?

The grandfather of Lake Zurich senior pitcher Austin Foote once played baseball in the Los Angeles Dodgers organization?

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According to grandson, it's a fact. Call it a Foote-note, so to speak.

Richard Foote, in fact, played ball with, ahem, Mr. Sandy Koufax. Which, at this point, means Austin Foote is not the best lefty his grandpa has ever known.

"He said he was (Koufax's) roommate at some point," Foote said.

Austin Foote may never be as good as one of baseball's all-time great hurlers, but that doesn't mean he doesn't have the potential to do great things on a baseball mound. And we're not talking about Foote's footwork necessarily. Fact is, Foote can pitch.

He recently accepted a scholarship offer from Indiana University, making him the second Lake Zurich player who is committed to a Big Ten school. Catcher Anthony Drago, Foote's classmate, decided this past summer that he would attend the University of Illinois.

Foote took an official visit to Indiana's Bloomington campus a couple of weeks ago, after he had given his verbal commitment. He met with future teammates and even attended an IU football game. The chance to play Big Ten baseball and attend IU's highly reputable business school appealed to him.

"It was just a good fit all around," Foote said. "I really like the campus."

When you're a 6-foot-3 left-hander who scored a 31 on the ACT, there will be ample schools that like you. Miami (Ohio), Michigan State, Notre Dame, Valparaiso and Bradley also expressed interest in Foote, whose increasingly heavy fastball was clocked at 84 mph at IU's camp in July.

He plans to study finance or accounting in college.

"(Academics) were a big factor in my decision," Foote said. "I wanted to focus on a good business school and see what they had to offer."

Funny, at this time a year ago, Foote was still an unknown when it came to varsity baseball. As a sophomore, he had pitched for the sophomore team.

He then experienced a breakout season in the spring. He went 6-3 with a pair of saves, posting a 2.18 ERA with a team-leading 63 strikeouts in 5113 innings. His win total tied Wyatt Spector for the team lead. Foote, Spector and Purdue-recruit Mike Lutz gave the Bears in a trio of top-notch starting pitchers.

"I was definitely surprised because coming into the year I knew they had Lutz and Wyatt Spector, who was also a really good left-handed pitcher," Foote said. "The first time they gave me the ball I actually did really well, and we just went from there."

In Foote's first appearance, he pitched a complete game against Walther Lutheran.

"I think I had 10 or 11 strikeouts," the varsity rookie said. "It was like a wake-up call for me. I thought, 'I could be pretty good at this.'

"That really gave me the confidence to go forward, work hard, and go out there and have fun," he added.

A turning point in Foote's development, he said, occurred following his freshman year. He started attending Fastball USA in Schaumburg with a couple of high school teammates. He would train three days a week.

"It was like speed and agility and throwing and stuff," Foote said. "It focused on moving fast, fast-twitch muscles, building up strength. I ended up gaining a lot of velocity, almost 10 miles an hour on my fastball."

The tall kid is still growing, as evident by the fact he weighs just 165 pounds.

"I'm not a big kid, yet," Foote said. "The (IU) coaches are calling me projectable because I'm not filled out already."

Athleticism runs in Foote's family. Besides his grandfather, his dad, Mike, also played baseball. Mike Foote caught for Millikin University. Austin's big sister, Ashley, ran four years of track at Lake Zurich. Collin, the youngest of three children of Mike and Laura, is a sophomore playing varsity soccer for LZ's Bears.

On Wednesday night, Austin had to hustle to go referee a travel soccer game.

"I don't know how I got into it," he said with a laugh.

C'mon, a Foote involved in futbol?

It's fact, naturally.

jaguilar@dailyherald.com

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