Published Date Written by Lloyd JonesCONWAY — Jeff Locke landed on the mound in Major League baseball last fall, and this spring "The Redstone Rocket" has landed on the cover of the Town of Conway's annual town report.
Three color photos of Locke, the son of Pam and Alan Locke, of Redstone, are featured on the town report, which was released Monday. There's a picture of Locke throwing as a toddler in Cooperstown, N.Y.; a shot of him pitching for Kennett High; and the largest photo of Locke on the mound for the Pittsburgh Pirates from last fall.
"It looks beautiful," Pam Locke said by phone Tuesday. "It really turned out very nice, we love it."
It's the second year in row that a hometown athlete has graced the cover of the town report. Leanne Smith, the daughter of Paula and Joe Smith, a member of the U.S. Ski Team who competed at the 210 Winter Olympics, was featured racing in her USA colors.
Locke, 24, landed in Indianapolis late Tuesday, it's where he'll begin the 2012 season with the Triple-A Pirates' affiliate, the Indianapolis Indians. The Indians, who play in the International League, will open their season this Friday on the road in Toledo against the Mud Hens (Triple-A affiliate of the Detroit Tigers), the first of seven games on the road to begin the campaign. The Indians are scheduled to play their home opener on April 13 when they host the Mud Hens.
Locke will again be in the starting rotation and is expected to be one of the mainstays of the Indians' rotation along with with his roommate Justin Wilson.
Prior to leaving spring training in Bradenton, Fla., Locke made his final start there on Monday, pitching in an intrasquad game to stay on track to start one of the games this weekend in Toledo. He worked five sharp innings in which he struck out five; didn't walk any; yielded just two hits and picked off both batters who reached first base.
"He said he feels good and is ready for the season," Pam Locke said.
Locke said she visited her son for a week in Florida two weeks ago and was able to see him throw five more innings in a minor league game where his pitches were crisp once again.
"When we were there we heard this guy talking about Jeff and saying how he had good composure and a good head on his shoulders," she said, "I didn't know who he was, but it was Roger Clemens."
Locke, the lone two-time New Hampshire Player of the Year, was called up Sept. 6 from Indianapolis, where he had a 2.22 ERA in five starts, opened the 2011 season in Double-A Altoona, where he was 7-8 with a 4.03 ERA while being eighth in the Eastern League in strikeouts.
Although 0-3 in four starts with the Pirates, Locke impressed teammates and the coaching staff with his composure, competitiveness and willingness to pitch inside to challenge hitters.
"I think he just stayed focused on making the next good pitch," Clint Hurdle, Pirates' manager, said. "That part of it was good to see; there was no panic, there was no hurry. The takeaway was experience he'll use in the future."
"It was a great experience and a lot of fun," Locke said last fall, "and the biggest thing I learned from it is that you've got make pitches and get ahead in the count, especially against these guys in the big leagues."