LONG BEACH–Headaches and travel go hand and hand, so it came as no surprise when I arrived in Orange County and Delta informed me my luggage was still in Atlanta.
But my misfortunes were miniscule in comparison to Brett Lawrie's.
A rising senior from Langley, British Columbia, Lawrie was crawling out of a cab as I was walking into Blair Field at 9:15 this morning, carrying his luggage, an equipment bag full of wood bats and catcher's gear, and a glazed over look. Lawrie competed in the East Coast Showcase in Lakeland, Fla., spent the night in the Orlando airport Saturday night, hopped a 6:45 a.m., flight to Los Angeles and was dressed and taking batting practice at 11:00.
"I just slept in the airport because I knew I had to be there so early," Lawrie said. "Well, I didn't really sleep."
The Area Code Games have been a prime stop for amateur scouts for more than 20 years, and Lawrie's effort to attend was indicative of the showcase's significance in the minds of those invited. Fortunately for the Canadian third baseman, his Yankees team wasn't scheduled to play, but was one of eight teams to take batting practice, which was followed by a doubleheader.
Midway through the second game, two pitchers have already made a positive impression, as righthander Austin Dicharry and lefty Kyle Lobstein both turned in strong outings.
Lobstein (Coconino High, Flagstaff, Ariz.) is somewhat of a personal favorite, as he was one of the players the class had to evaluate last fall when I attended Major League Baseball's Scouting Bureau scout school. That day, Lobstein pitched at 84 mph, but we thought he had a chance to add velocity because of a projectable frame and smooth delivery.
Ten months later, it's exciting to see our prediction beginning to come to fruition. Lobstein ranked as the No. 2 prospect at the Tournament of Stars in June when he dominated the tournament's best lineup for six innings, and his outing tonight was strong, if not less spectacular. In three innings he pitched between 87-89, touching 92, and showed feel for his circle changeup and curveball. He allowed one hit, an unearned run and struck out three, needing just 34 pitches, 24 of which were strikes.
Dicharry (Klein-Collins High, Spring, Texas) doesn't do it as pretty, but his stuff is even firmer. He struck out seven of the 10 batters he faced with one walk in three shutout innings. His hammer curveball is one of the better breaking balls I've seen this summer, checking in at 77-79. His arm action is a little funky in the back of his delivery, but he gets on top of his pitches upon release, pitched to both sides of the plate and established his fastball for strikes early in the pitch sequence.
"Lobstein's delivery is really good, and you can project on the stuff as well as the command," said a crosschecker with an American League team. "You're not going to be as quick to project on (Dicharry). His curveball is really good and he's got arm strength, but there are some things he can clean up there."
Perhaps it's just the 74 degrees and nonexistent humidity, but my early impression of the Area Code Games has me eager to come back tomorrow.