Kentwood High catcher Reese McGuire ($) isn’t Washington’s only marquee talent for the 2013 draft. But that shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise. Over the past 10 years, the only states to produce more high school picks from the top three rounds than Washington are California, Florida, Texas, Georgia and Puerto Rico.
Righthander Dustin Driver from Wenatchee (Wash.) High first put his name on the map as a rising junior at the 2011 Area Code Games. With teams hand-picked by scouts, any time an underclassman makes one of the squads, it typically means they’re pretty special. Just consider some of the other rising juniors at the 2011 event and where they wound up on Baseball America’s High School Top 100 rankings more than a year later: outfielder/lefthander Trey Ball (3), shortstop J.P. Crawford (5), first baseman Dominic Smith (6), lefthander Rob Kaminsky (12) and first baseman Rowdy Tellez (16).
Driver checked in at No. 22 thanks to his 6-foot-2, 200-pound frame as well as his fastball that sits in the 90-92 mph range and tops out at 94.
When Driver started dating his girlfriend about two years ago, he also got a new pitching coach. It turned out that his girlfriend’s father, Bud Adams, has been coaching pitchers in Central Washington for more than 20 years. Adams pitched and played basketball for Vanderbilt in the mid 80s. He was a ninth-round pick by the Royals in 1987 and spent three years in their organization.
|High School Players Drafted|
|Rounds 1-3, 2003-2012|
|10:||AL, LA, PA|
|5:||NV, NY, SC|
|4:||IA, KS, MO|
|2:||AR, BC, CO, DE, MA, MN, NH, NM, UT, WV, ON|
|1:||ME, MD, MI, OR, RI, WY, DC, QC|
|0:||AK, HI, ID, MT, NE, ND, SD, VT|
“The thing that is so intriguing about Dustin, number one, is his body,” Adams said. “God gave him a body to pitch. And the second thing is his athletic ability. You can ask him to do something, physically, and he can immediately do it. That’s special. I know from experience because I’ve worked with tons of kids over the years and I haven’t seen a kid that can physically do what he can do.”
That athletic ability has gone mostly untapped during his high school career. Driver stopped playing football after his sophomore year of high school.
“Dustin, from an early age, was targeted as a pitcher so, unfortunately, he hasn’t been able to play football,” Adams said. “And had he been able to play football, he’d easily be a Division I linebacker or running back or something like that. The fact of the matter is, he just couldn’t risk getting hurt. So, it’s kind of sad in that he couldn’t spread his wings a little bit in other sports, but at the same time, you can empathize with his situation because if he did get hurt, there’s a potential big loss there.”
After the showcase circuit this summer—in which Driver attended every major event from the Perfect Game National Showcase to USA Baseball’s Tournament of Stars to the Area Code Games, Perfect Game All-American Classic and the Under Armour All-America Game—he returned home and started really working to improve his secondary pitches.
“He’s a big strong kid,” former Wenatchee High head coach Ed Knaggs said. “His secondary stuff has a ways to go, but he’s definitely gotten better. He never threw a curveball until he got to high school.”
While Driver mostly pitched with his fastball and tight 75-78 mph curveball this summer, he now has four pitches in his arsenal.
“I’m not sure how many pitches he’ll throw this spring, but we work on his changeup everyday,” Adams said. “And he’s starting to get a lot of good movement on the ball with his two-seam fastball. We’ve developed a cut fastball that moves like a slider . . . and it’s nasty.”
He’s also been working to improve his posture on the mound and to get better direction to the plate. But one thing that comes naturally to the UCLA recruit is his no-nonsense demeanor on the mound.
“The other thing that I like about Dustin, that I think is very unique, is just his mental makeup,” Adams said. “Nothing rattles him. You can’t tell if he’s upset or mad or anything like that. It’s a unique combination of having that great athletic ability and then that makeup.”
“I’m a bulldog on the mound,” Driver said. “I just get after people and never let go, just keep going after them.”
Wenatchee’s season is set to begin March 9, presumably with Driver on the mound. Below is video (shot by Alyson Boyer Rode) from one of his outing at Tournament of Stars last June . . .