CERRITOS, Calif.—The predominant feature of junior college baseball in Southern California is eardrum-busting, mind-numbing, window-shattering pregame and between-innings music. Thundering from high-tech loudspeakers which possess thrust equal to a NASA launch, the artists responsible for these musical assaults share two characteristics: questionable taste and lack of talent.
Lack of talent is not a trait associated with Joe Terry, a 6-foot, 185 pound second baseman who plays for Cerritos CC. Drafted in the 17th round by the Mariners in 2009, Terry did not sign with Seattle and has returned to the Falcons for the 2010 campaign.
A Cal State Fullerton signee who bats left and throws right, Terry is perhaps the finest lefthanded hitting JC prospect in the nation whose initials are not BH. Terry enjoyed a spectacular 2009 season in which he hit .426/.490/.746 with four home runs and 14 triples.
A dozen major league scouts were in attendance Thursday as Cerritos opened its season with a come-from-behind 6-5 win over Fullerton CC. Terry’s performance, while a bit erratic, showcased the ability that makes him a top-five-round candidate for the 2010 draft.
In five plate appearances, Terry homered, walked twice, struck out twice, drove in two runs and scored two runs. Early in the game, he booted a routine grounder but otherwise handled his chances flawlessly.
After taking a called third strike in his first at bat (“I thought the pitch was off the plate,” he said), Terry led off the bottom of the fourth inning with Cerritos down, 4-0. Sensing that Fullerton was trying to work him on the outside corner, Terry fouled the first pitch down the left-field line. In came another outside pitch, and Terry hammered the ball deep over the fence in left field for an opposite field solo homer.
It must be noted at this point that the Cerritos ballpark is similar in dimensions to several Arizona League or Gulf Coast League parks. Unusually spacious, the field measures 350 feet down both lines and 410 to the power alleys. There is no distance posted on the tall center field fence, probably to prevent mental depression among hitters. The grass at Cerritos is extremely lush, good for grazing farm animals or laying down bunts, depending on one’s preference.
Terry’s next at-bat occurred in the bottom of the fifth with the bases loaded. After the count had run to 3-0, Terry turned around to look at head coach Jack Brooks. BA jokingly asked Terry if he was given the green light: “Yeah, I sure was!” he said. Ball four was off the plate, and Terry received what can be described as an unintentional intentional bases loaded walk.
From a scouting perspective, Terry’s primary tool is his bat. He hits from a crouched stance, beginning with nearly his entire body weight set on a bent back leg. As Terry draws his weight and head back pre-pitch, he appears to be attempting to eavesdrop on a conversation in the stands. A line-drive hitter, Terry possesses an extremely quick bat and the ability to hit the ball hard to all fields.
At this stage, Terry is too much of a guess hitter, getting fooled often on two-strike counts. On Thursday, he kept his head on the ball and tracked the pitch on his home run, but he does have a tendency to wheel his head off the ball on some swings.
While not as fast as his former Long Beach Poly High teammate DeSean Jackson, now a superstar wide receiver for the Philadelphia Eagles, Terry still flashes well above average (6.6-6.7) speed.
Some scouts are rumbling about a position change for Terry, but he prefers to stay at second base. “I can see the signals, and I’m right in the middle of the action,” he said.
It's a locale he is not unfamiliar with. Terry has a fine arm, which is easily suitable for second. He will need to quicken his release and improve his double-play pivot. His fielding actions are a shade stiff, and Terry will need to soften his hands and receive the ball with greater ease. Both issues should be resolved with practice reps and game experience as Terry advances.
As Cerritos mounted its comeback, the musical choices on the PA system became, thankfully, less harsh. The Chuck Berry classic “Johnny B. Goode” was played, much to the delight—and auditory relief—of the crowd.
In between pitches and songs, Joe Terry’s father summed up his son’s baseball gift: “I never messed with him, and I never let anyone mess with him.
“His talent is a gift from God.”