This past weekend provided myself and any other observant individual who was at the ballpark with some 11 and 12 year old kids with some baseball talent. Each of the 4 teams that participated (Saturday was a double header with the same two teams) had some young talent on display during these two excellent days for a ball game. Being one of the umpires for these events, I had an up close and personal view of these young ballplayers. Here’s one ump’s scouting report.
On Saturday, the visiting team was called the Express. They came into this game with a record right around the .650 winning percentage. The Express is a “Club” team with members from various towns. Their most talented players also happened to be the two biggest, tallest kids. One of them, a tall, husky kid who pitches and plays first base, and throws right-handed and bats left-handed. While pitched decently, what really made him stand out was his batting. During the two games, he hit a line drive double off the left field fence, a towering home run to right-centerfield, walked 5 times from the clean-up spot, and showed good glove work around the bag at first. With some continued polishing, he could be a dangerous hitter at the next level, high school, and beyond. His swing reminded me of a former MLB player named Darrell Evans. The Express also had a tall, lanky kid who played first and third base, the outfield, and pitches. On this particular day, he was only seen at first base and the outfield due to the fact that he also belonged to another team that had a game later on that evening, and he was going to be the starting pitcher. While in the outfield, he made two running catches along with a diving grab of a sinking line drive, and made a nice throw to second base keep a runner from advancing. At the plate, he had two singles, a long, line drive home run to left-centerfield, a walk, and was robbed of another hit on a diving play by the shortstop on a hard hit ball between shortstop and third base. As with his tall, husky teammate, this slightly built youngster has a chance to be a very good player.
The home team had a few good, tough players on their squad. While not a big and strong as the two aforementioned members of the Express, the host team participants were talented in their own right. Their second baseman, shortstop, and third baseman were quick, slick fielders with good range and accurate arms. Each made a couple of diving stabs and completed the play by throwing out the runner. They also were scrappy hitters who put the ball in play. There was a pitcher, who I had dialogue with solely in Spanish, that had a nice fastball and curveball with pretty good control. He also played very well in the outfield. The standout member on this team was the lefty centerfielder. Although he came in and performed admirably on the bump, he made several running catches in the gaps getting good jumps on the ball. He showed nice prowess at the plate by hitting the ball to all fields for base hits along with speed on the base paths stealing several bases.
On Sunday, the visiting team had one player who showed some good skills. This young, right-handed thrower had an array of pitches including a fastball with some movement, a curveball, and a knuckleball that fluttered like former MLB pitcher Phil Niekro’s. While he gave up many runs, most were of the unearned variety due to numerous errors. Speaking of good pitching, the host squad’s mound dweller was even more impressive. Throughout the game, he displayed a rising fastball with velocity the away team batters could not catch up with, a tight curveball that he threw often for strikes, and a change-up that kept batter off balance. In fact, The home team pitcher had a no-hitter going into the next to last inning when someone hit a seeing-eye single just off of the shortstop’s glove up the middle. He finished with a one hitter. Did I mention that he struck out five of the first six batters he faced? The player I was most intrigued by during this weekend was the host team’s leadoffman and centerfielder. This righty hitting and throwing twelve year old went 4-4 at the plate with a line drive double off the right-centerfield fence to leadoff the game, two hard hit singles, a bunt single, 5 stolen bases, and several running grabs out in centerfield. With his hitting ability, speed, and glove, he should be a very good player at the next few levels. The host squad remained without a blemish to their record.
One of the things I enjoy most about umpiring is checking out the young talent that’s coming up. All four teams that participated had at least one player whose talent stood out. Each of them played at least two positions well, and swung the bat well. Most of them will move up to the next level and the big field next year. We’ll see who’s able to make the necessary adjustments and how quickly or slowly they’re made. Quite a difference from a 50 foot/70 foot diamond to a 60 foot/90 foot field regarding home plate to mound and home plate to base distance. Once again, it was a pleasure to be on the field and watch a few “diaper dandies” show their stuff on the diamond. Hope you enjoyed your weekend.