LONG BEACH, Calif. — For the third-consecutive day at the Area Code Baseball Games presented by New Balance, it was a catcher that stood out the most. Clint Coulter from Union High in Camas, Wash. was actually the Royals' designated hitter today, but he's normally a catcher that's still learning the ropes back there.
Aside from Area Codes, Coulter spent time with his summer team, the Vancouver Cardinals and had the opportunity to tour the country on and off for several weeks with the Bobby Valentine All-American team. That experience was comparable to life in the minor leagues and helped Coulter prepare for an event like this, going up against some of the best talent in the country.
"I'm just looking for a good pitch to hit," Coulter said about his approach when facing a pitcher for the first time. "I think I've gotten one pitch on the inside part of the plate, so I'm not really sitting on that inside pitch as much as I would usually, because I know these guys aren't going to give me the best pitches to hit. I'm just looking for a ball I can drive hard."
He got those balls today, going 3-for-3 with two singles and a double. On the first single, Coulter aggressively took second base when the center fielder bobbled the ball. The double was absolutely crushed to the left-center alley and would have been a home run in most parks, but Blair Field is another story and there hasn't been a home run at the event yet. He ound up scoring on the same play as the double, thanks to a couple errant throws.
"When I hit first, my coach was saying, 'Slow down! Slow down! Slow down!' because I was right on the tail of the runner in front of me," Coulter said about hitting his double. "So I started to slow down and was watching the play unfold a little bit and I saw our guy hit third and he started heading home, so I was going to take third on the throw, because it was a little high, and then once I hit third, the ball wasn't at home and nobody was really covering it, so I just took off for home.
"I like to be on the edge of disaster every once in a while."
Coulter walked me through each of his at-bats today.
"The first at-bat was that drive to right center and I had one strike on me," Coulter said. "Once I have one strike on me, I'm going to open up my zone a little bit and get something I can drive. The pitch was right down the middle, a little bit out, so I just tried not to pull off it because I know I've been pulling off a little bit. Last game, I missed two underneath, so I was sure to err on top of the ball.
"Then my second at-bat was the one to left-center. I was 3-0 and, at an event like this, you don't really want to walk. I know it shows good discipline, but I like to at least try to hit it. It was a little high, but I knew there was a guy on third and less than two outs, so a high pitch was beautiful because you have a high chance of hitting it to the outfield and getting that run in.
"Then the third at-bat was the first pitch that I've gotten inside the whole tournament, pretty much. I got a little excited and was a little out front, but still barreled it up pretty good."
Coulter has a physical build at 6-foot-3 and 200 pounds. He's muscular through his core with strong thighs and forearms. Along with baseball, he used to also participate in football, basketball and wrestling. In high school, he's only played baseball and done wresting, but he'll give that up this year to focus solely on baseball—especially after gaining 30 pounds during workouts since last year (he wrestled in the 189-pound weight class).
Coulter, who is looking at several Pacific-12 Conference schools, is a relatively-new convert to catching. He grew up—like many top prospects did—mainly playing shortstop and pitching. But his high school coach, Tom Lampkin, caught for 13 years in the big leagues and suggested he make the transition. So Coulter has been behind the plate for just three years now. It's not an easy transition, but it certainly helps having a former big leaguer there to guide the process.
"It's fun, I love being back there," Coulter said. "It's awesome having Coach Lampkin there with all his stories and being able to help out with all the little things that he picks up. I'm calling my own game, but in between every inning I'm picking his brain about pitch selection and different situations."
Long Beach Leftovers
• The Brewers team loaded the mound with interesting arms this morning. Trevor Megill, a 6-foot-7, 225-pound righthander from Marina High in Huntington Beach, Calif. was 90-92 mph with a sharp, 78-80 mph slider. Righthander Shane Watson from Lakewood (Calif.) High was 89-92 with a 76-78 mph slider and Cody Poteet from Palm Desert High in Indian Wells, Calif. was 90-93 with a 76-78 curveball and struck out five batters over his two innings of work.
• Shortstop Vance Vizcaino from Wakefield High in Wake Forest, N.C. went 1-for-3 at the plate today with a double. Vance is the son of Royals national crosschecker Junior Vizcaino, who said it's not easy when it's your own son out there on the field.
"It sucks," Junior Vizcaino said. "It's nerve-wracking. I never get anything done when he plays. I'd rather face Juan Marichal 20 times than watch him play. It's not that I'm nervous, I just know how hard he works, so I just want to see him do well."
• Yankees outfielder Fernelys Sanchez from Washington High in New York is normally a switch-hitter and hit from both sides of the plate during batting practice on Friday, but has only been hitting righthanded during the games this week.
"I'm still switch-hitting, I just hurt my right hand a little bit taking BP," Sanchez said. "It's just swollen a little bit, right on the thumb, so it's hard to control the bat when I hit lefty," Sanchez explained. "I'm just taking a rest right now."
Sanchez, a natural righthanded hitter, said he has been switch-hitting for about two years now. He is one of the few players at the event for the second time.
"The first time was really hard, it was tough," Sanchez said. "But the second time is still good competition, but I know what to expect a little more."
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