The summer showcase circuit can do many things for high school baseball players. It can give players exposure they wouldn't necessarily get by staying near their hometown. It serves as a good test for players to pit their talents against the best players in the country. It can help a player earn a scholarship or put their name on a scout's follow list for the spring, but it can also expose their weaknesses.
For righthander Carson Baranik from Parkway High in Bossier City, La., it inspired him to take his game to the next level and he's touched 95 mph recently.
"During the summer I'd be out there playing and I'd look around the field and I just noticed how, honestly, how much weaker I was than a lot of the other guys out there and how much more in shape they were," Baranik said. "So I started putting the pieces together that I wasn't, physically, where I needed to be really. After Jupiter I got home—and I didn't throw as well in Jupiter as I wanted to—so me and my dad started talking and just thought about maybe trying some new things. Because I had the strength to throw hard, I just wasn't putting everything together."
Baranik and his dad decided to try a long toss program and got some a Jaeger Sports DVDs and some J-Bands, which are used in resistance training.
Baranik, who played at several big showcases this summer, including PG National, Tournament of Stars, East Coast Pro, the Under Armour All-America game and the World Wood Bat World Championships in Jupiter, Fla., just missed the cut of Baseball America's High School Top 100 list. Over the summer, he was mostly in the 86-89 mph range with a low-70s curveball and high-70s changeup.
This spring, Baranik's fastball has improved and he's touched 95 mph.
"He's sitting 91-93. He's not staying 95, but he's been there," a National League area scout said. "There's effort behind it—not the head whack and recoil and all that, that's not what I'm talking about—but it's a strong delivery. You can tell he's trying to throw hard, which is fine. I don't know if he's going to stay at 95, but he's been there."
Baranik credits improved conditioning and the new long toss program to the uptick he's seen in his velocity.
"November is when I really started it and I just remember going out there long tossing one day and it just felt like everything was coming together," Barank said. "The ball just felt totally different out of my hand. I kind of knew from that day that I got lucky by starting that long toss program—it really helped put everything together. . . Now that I've been long tossing a lot, my arm feels a lot better. After recovery I'm not nearly as sore and it really helped smooth a lot of things out with my mechanics."
Baranik said he also made a commitment to getting into better shape. He ran with his high school cross country team in the fall—Baranik wasn't on the team officially, but trained with them during practices. He also hit the weight room several times a week and said he's in the best shape he's ever been in.
"They didn't have a spot for me on the team, really," Baranik said. "I would have just kind of hurt the team a little bit. But I practiced every day with them. We actually won state this year in cross country, so I had to keep up with a bunch of guys that were just dominant out there. I was awful at it, compared to them, and it was one of the hardest things I've had to do. But it honestly helped out a lot. It kind of kick-started everything with getting back into shape and all that."
Scouts have noticed the changes as well.
"He's a lot leaner in the mid-section, no question," the scout said. "I had seen enough of him before to kind of know this was in there in the first place, so the fact that it's come back and that he's worked hard is good. He's definitely leaner."
Baranik's Parkway Panthers begin their season on Feb. 24.
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