Ex-Angels prospect Whittington trades glove for police badge

Ex-Angels prospect Whittington trades glove for police badge

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By JOHN RABY AP Sports Writer

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) -- Radar guns no longer clock Anthony Whittington's fastball. They help him catch speeders along West Virginia interstates.

The former pitching prospect has turned in his glove for a State Police badge.

It's not where he thought he'd be at age 22, at least not when he was drafted by the Anaheim Angels in 2003 out of Buffalo High School.

"I enjoyed playing ball," Whittington said recently. "To be honest with you, my heart wasn't in it."

It was in law enforcement.

Whittington became a member of the Wayne detachment in April following graduation from the State Police Academy. Over the Memorial Day weekend he worked 47 straight hours getting more acquainted with his new job. On a typical day he fields 911 and public-service calls, and goes on patrol.

"I've always liked helping people," Whittington said. "It's everything I thought it would be."

In 2003, baseball scouts couldn't get enough of Whittington. As many as 20 scouts would show up to every Buffalo game to clock the 6-foot-5 left-hander's pitches. The high school senior was featured in Sports Illustrated's Faces in the Crowd section that spring and he was named the 2003 state player of the year.

He went 13-2 as a senior, striking out 187 batters in just 82 innings while walking only 18. His earned-run average was 0.77. He threw three no-hitters and four one-hitters, along with 10 games of 10 or more strikeouts.

Anaheim selected Whittington in the second round of the 2003 amateur draft and he turned down a scholarship at Oklahoma State to enter the Angels' minor-league system.

But in three seasons he advanced no further than rookie-league teams in Arizona and Utah. His career record was 3-8 with 90 walks, 20 wild pitches and 105 strikeouts in 108 innings. In 2005, his final season, he walked 31 batters in 33 innings at Orem, Utah.

"Everybody up there can hit a 95 mile per hour fastball," Whittington said.

After 2005, he sought and was granted a release from the Angels.

"I wasn't disappointed. I always knew it wasn't going to be No. 1 for me," he said.

A big steering mechanism for his new career path was his cousin, Sgt. Ron Arthur, head of the State Police K-9 unit. As a teenager, Whittington was a volunteer firefighter who often spent his days hanging out with Arthur, whom he considers a brother.

When Whittington's baseball days concluded, Arthur's influence rubbed off.

Whittington worked as a police officer in the Kanawha County community of East Bank for 11 months before entering the State Police Academy last September.

"It was his decision. It wasn't me pushing him one way or another," Arthur said. "I don't think it was anything negative on the baseball end. He feels like he would get more of a self-worth feeling from being a trooper rather than being a superstar ballplayer.

"It wasn't a talent thing. He's got the talent -- and the world by the tail. His dream wasn't to be a ballplayer. His dream was to be a trooper."

(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.) APTV-06-12-07 1046MDT

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