Cypress Falls' Dynamic Duo
By Richard Justice
"Notice who's still here," he says.
McDonald smiles as he watches two of the country's best high school pitchers methodically pound out their miles, jogging from one foul line to the other and back again, repeating this routine over and over until both are drenched in sweat.
He begins to speak and then stops, searching for exactly the right words. Over the last few months, virtually every major league team has dispatched several people to watch 6-foot lefthander Scott Kazmir and 6-foot-1 righthander Clint Everts pitch.
From Mets general manager Steve Phillips to Reds assistant GM Doc Rodgers to an assortment of scouting directors and scouts, they've come to see whether the reports about the great stuff and the poise and the precision are true.
Teams like the Pirates, Devil Rays and Reds, who have the first three picks in the draft, have focused on Kazmir, who likely will be one of the first three players taken. Other teams have zeroed in on Everts, a probable mid- to late-first-round pick.
"I remember the first time I saw them," McDonald said. "They were in the eighth grade and came over here to try out for our summer league Mickey Mantle program. They just looked different than everyone else. You could tell they walked it and talked it. They hustled everywhere. They'd done it before."
Kazmir Starts With K
Kazmir, 18, and Everts, 17, figure to be just the fourth pair of high school teammates ever taken in the first round. Both players have been so dominant in high school, it has become difficult to tell how good they really are.
Kazmir is a pure power pitcher, with a fastball consistently clocked at 94-96 mph, and a decent curveball and slider. On most nights, his starts become a surreal game of catch with catcher Colby Festner. Kazmir had 172 strikeouts in 75 innings.
Everts doesn't throw quite as hard. His fastball is in the 92-94 range, but the pitch that has scouts shaking their heads is a knee-buckling curve that has been clocked at 84. He had 132 punchouts in 69 innings this spring.
"They're as good as I've ever seen. You gotta be kidding," said Armando Sedeno, coach of rival Langham Creek. "I've seen Josh Beckett and Justin Thompson and Chris George, and I'd say Kazmir is as good as any of them. Everts is very talented, too, and smart."
In one game, the Reds clocked all of Kazmir's fastballs between 94 and 96. In another, his 119th and final pitch was 95 mph. He had two 19-strikeout one-hitters. In another game, he needed just 75 pitches to finish a 14-strikeout one-hitter against Cypress Fair.
Kazmir was so dominant during his tour of Houston's youth baseball system that he was something of a legend by the time he arrived at Cy Falls.
Perhaps the most amazing thing is that he's pretty much a self-taught pitcher. He has picked the brains of players, including Everts, at various events around the country, but he learned his curveball and slider simply by watching others.
"I haven't had that many pitching coaches," Kazmir said. "When I'd go to showcases, I'd ask people that really knew their stuff a few things. I always tried to pick up a couple of things. I always knew how to hold a curveball, but I'd ask different people to see what they did and try to find what worked best for me. I tried to find out what they wanted to do with the ball and get some kind of comfort zone for myself."
So much attention has come in such a rush that his parents, Eddie and Debra, are also adjusting to a new life.
"It makes you very proud," Eddie Kazmir said. "He could be set for life if it works out this summer. He really likes the idea he might be able to go pro. That excites him more than the money. What he wants to do is get to the major leagues and win the World Series."
Eddie Kazmir works for a company, Gulf States Abrasive Manufacturing, owned by Ed Dunn, the father of Reds outfielder Adam Dunn. When a reporter recently told Adam Dunn that Kazmir had thrown another one-hitter, he responded: "Someone got a hit off him? He must be slipping."
Everts Gains Attention
Everts is also a household name among scouts, but his has been a slower climb. He didn't become a regular on the summer all-star circuit until last year. When he decided to join his brother Christopher, a pre-med student at Baylor, he figured he might really end up there. And then the scouts started coming, one and two at a time, now in bunches.
Baylor coach Steve Smith still calls, but he knows Everts likely is headed for the minor leagues.
"It's been a little overwhelming at times," said Clint's mother Diana Spivey, a former software engineer at Compaq. "But I'm so happy for him. He has done a great job."
These days, Clint's dreams stretch beyond Waco. Scouts say he probably will add velocity to a fastball that's already good enough to be a quality pitch in the majors. But it's his ability to throw his curve for strikes that will have some team calling his name around the middle of the first round.
"Clint is quieter than Scott," McDonald said. "He's a little bigger. He's very intelligent. Scott is intelligent too, but Clint is taking calculus and physics. He's got a very strong academic background. But what he lives for is to play baseball. He's a baseball rat. He just plays the game all the time."
"I want to pitch in Fenway and Wrigley Field and those historic places," Everts said. "Right now, it feels like a dream come true to be able to do this. I know there's going to be sacrifices, but playing the game you love seems like a pretty good lifestyle."
Richard Justice is a baseball columnist for the Houston Chronicle.
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