COLLINSVILLE, Ill. — It's always a cool feeling to be able to say, "I saw ___ before they made it to the big time."
There are likely going to be quite a few people who will be saying that about 17-year-old Zander Mueth.
From his long blonde hair to his hair-raising fastball, Mueth is hard to miss.
This MLB All-Star Weekend, he'll get his chance on his biggest stage yet at the High School All-American Game at Dodger Stadium.
"I found out over an email actually. It was kind of surprising. It was about a month ago. And it was amazing to get that kind of recognition," Mueth said after a throwing session at the Collinsville Extreme Baseball training facility
And it's an exclusive club heading to LA. Only 38 players from around the country will compete in the game, featuring some of the best high school prospects for next year's MLB Draft.
"It's a huge honor," he said. "Just to know the people I'm going there with, to see what they've done already and what I want to do, it'll just be great to be around those people."
And there's the added bonus of the game being at All-Star Weekend and at Dodger Stadium. It's a big stage that Mueth isn't taking for granted.
"It's real exciting. Especially with a stadium like Dodger Stadium. It's up there one of the most historic stadiums in the country. So it's amazing," Mueth said.
Mueth will likely be one of the hardest throwers to get into the game on Friday, recently touching 99 miles per hour in a bullpen session. But he wasn't always a flamethrower.
"At 14, I was probably only throwing 75 maybe. When I was 14 I saw kids in my class throwing 90 and stuff, and then whenever I hit 15 I kind of got with my pitching coach a lot more and then started getting a little taller and my velo started growing a little bit," Mueth said.
And that growth is no accident. The life of a prep baseball star is a busy one, and Mueth said the grind is all worth it when he thinks about his lofty goals.
"It's a lot. I'm up here pretty much every day for like three or four hours, getting my throwing in, stretching and working out and stuff. And being out of town for all the time for like four or five days at a time. And then coming home and doing it all over again. It's a grind, but I know what a want to do. So keeping that in mind fuels me even more," Mueth said.
The 6-foot-5 righty may have some of the biggest buzz for next year's draft, but he said right now he's just trying to focus on his work for this summer.
Mueth is also committed to play in college at Ole Miss, who just finished off a cinderella run to the College World Series title this past season.
"Thinking about the coach down there, Coach Bianco, one of the best coaches in the country. I was just happy to see him get the national championship. And it just adds to his resume and makes me think of what I can do when I get there," Mueth said.
But when he does think about the future, Mueth has some big dreams at the biggest level of the game.
"MLB All-Star and then hopefully in the Hall of Fame soon after," Mueth said of his baseball dreams.
And with other Metro East products like Josh Fleming (Columbia) and Tanner Houck (Collinsville) reaching their MLB dreams, Mueth is hoping to be next in line.
"It's booming now. A lot of people are taking notice of southern Illinois and it's no joke down here. A lot of people got that grind down here, and nothing is given to us so we have to work for it," Mueth said.
You can watch the 2022 High School All-American Game on Friday, July 15 at 5 p.m. on MLB.com, and rebroadcast at 11 a.m. on MLB Network.