By Alan Matthews
July 14, 2005
MARIETTA, Ga.—At Perfect Game’s summer tournaments, many high school players will use wood bats exclusively for their first time. This week in suburban Atlanta, that hardware has come in handy, more often as paddles than bats, however.
Hurricane Dennis and its remnants caused flooding across much of the area, canceling the championship round of last week’s World Wood Bat Association 17-Under tournament and postponing 95 percent of Monday’s and Tuesday’s games in the 18-Under tourney.
The weather invented a whole new meaning of pool play, though all 109 teams entered in one of the summer’s most heavily scouted events were able to begin play Wednesday. Most of the approximately 1,200 players in attendance were just glad to get out of their hotel rooms.
The afternoon’s highlight game featured righthander Shawn Tolleson’s Dallas-based DBAT team versus All American Prospects, a club consisting of a collection of South Florida’s best underclassmen, which also played in last week’s event and finished as co-champions.
Tolleson, recently chosen to play for USA Baseball’s junior national team, shook the rust quickly, airing out a 90 mph fastball on his first pitch and dialing it up to 93 on his way to a thorough performance. The rising senior from Allen (Texas) High struck out nine over six innings while allowing three walks and a hit, dealing All American Prospects a 8-0 defeat. A couple of memorable moments during the outing were Tolleson’s showdowns with Estero (Fla.) High’s John Tolisano, one of the top players in the high school Class of 2007 and Tolleson’s teammate in Mexico last summer on USA Baseball’s youth national team. Tolleson twice retired Tolisano on strikes, once in the first on a 92 mph fastball and again in the fourth on an 82 mph slider, which he held in reserve until the second trip through the lineup.
“I know him well and we had a chance to talk before the game. He’s a great player,” Tolleson said following the game. “I’m pretty sure he didn’t want to talk (afterwards).”
Though his delivery requires some effort, Tolleson breezed his way through one of the event’s best lineups, doing so primarily off his fastball alone, which sat at 89 mph in his final frame, touching 92.
“He just shut down a good-hitting team, a team that won it last week. I didn’t think anyone here would come out and shut them down,” a scout with a National League team said.
“There’s a lot of life on the fastball and he has the ability to control a game,” another scout said. “He was terrific.”
“I thought I threw well,” Tolleson said. “I had not thrown in a couple of weeks so to come out with my fastball was important. Then I worked in my offspeed stuff a little bit.”
Former major leaguer Chet Lemon organizes a competitive summer league team, the Juice, each year, and the 2005 entry opened the event with a convincing win Wednesday.
Kyle Maulbetsch, a rising senior from Jacksonville’s Wolfson High, and Ryan Pushkar, a rising senior at Winter Haven (Fla.) High, combined for six hits, three runs and three RBIs as the Juice knocked off one of two Perfect Game entries, 8-0.
“We got here Sunday but everything was too wet to practice, but we’ve managed to go to a field just to a throw a bit, run and hit Wiffle balls,” Lemon said. “It’s important to make sure we stay prepared, although there’s not much you can do when it rains like it has.”
Some of the players found gyms to workout at, while video game marathons filled the time of others.
Justin Edwards, a 6-foot lefty entering his senior year at Orlando’s Olympia High, tossed four shutout innings for the Juice, pitching at 86 mph with good control. His mid-70s breaking ball kept hitters off balance for four innings. Edwards allowed one hit and a walk with five strikeouts.
• Though the rain deterred some scouts, more than 100 college and junior college coaches and upwards of 50 professional scouts stuck around despite the weather, and overall were pleased with the turnout once play finally began. “Talent-wise it’s like it always is, the talent has been exceptional,” a scout with an American League team said. “It seems like this week a lot of the major ’06 guys from the high school class are here and for us, it’s just invaluable to see these guys going up against other top players.
“But later in the week is what we’re really looking forward to. You get all these guys together going after that trophy–now that’s when it really gets fun.”
• Chris Parmelee shook off an 0-for-4 afternoon Tuesday with four hits Wednesday. The rising senior from Chino Hills (Calif.) High has a good all-around package of tools with a good arm and powerful swing from the left side, which he showed off with a home run and triple.
• Coconut Creek (Fla.) High’s Matt Latos was establishing himself as one of the top righthanders in the Class of 2006. At 6-foot-6, 205 pounds, Latos oozes projection and possesses good present stuff, with a fastball that touched 93 mph Wednesday and a low-80s slider. “He’s a tall, loose kid and it comes out of his hand real easy,” a National League crosschecker said. “He wasn’t challenged much today but a little later in the week in the championship rounds, when he really has to tee it up, it will be fun to watch.”
• Two years ago at the fall installment of the WWBA championship in Jupiter, Fla., the On Deck O’s made a surprising run deep into the tournament and Chase Austin paced their bid early this week. A lean, athletic 6-foot-2, 170-pound middle infielder from South Mecklenburg High in Charlotte, N.C., Austin showed a nice, smooth line-drive stroke from the left side. Jared Bard, a rising senior from Charlotte Christian High and the younger brother of North Carolina’s Daniel Bard, has significant upside. Bard’s fastball sat at 86 mph Wednesday morning and he pitched to both sides of the plate effectively. “He’s having trouble with his breaking ball and it’s obvious he’s not as far along as his brother was at the same stage,” said an NL scout who evaluated both Daniel and Jared. “It looks like there’s something that that’s not letting his arm come through, something preventing him from getting that really good whip on his release. He definitely needs to go to college, but he’s athletic and could really come on.”