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Speed, attitude put Lubanski near top of list
By Alan Matthews
It is somewhat of a foregone conclusion today. The biggest, fastest and strongest high school athletes seem to be found more often strapping on shoulder pads and lacing up high-tops than slipping on a pair of spikes and tightening their stirrups.
But Schwenksville, Pa., remains one place where the best athlete around still lives for early-morning batting practice and late-afternoon fielding drills.
Kennedy-Kenrick Catholic Highs Chris Lubanski is the top-ranked baseball player in the Northeast and considered one of the top high school prospects in the Class of 2003. His combination of speed, size and skill make the Florida State signee one of the gems of this years draft.
Lubanskis trump card, however, cant be calculated by a stopwatch or gauged with a radar gun.
"(Scouts) might overlook Chris from time to time but what separates him from the rest is character," Lubanskis high school coach Steve Carcarey said. "He works harder and shows more determination than any player Ive been around in 14 years of coaching."
Lubanskis work ethic, combined with a healthy dose of natural ability, has put him on the must-see list for scouts this year. Without his makeup, however, Lubanskis name would rarely find its way into comparisons involving some of the talented players in the 2003 prep class.
Though he has always possessed grace and skill, he drew little attention as an underclassman due to an unimposing frame.
"I can remember as a sophomore, my first Perfect Game showcase," Lubanski said. "I was a small kid with good tools, but nothing like I have now. I have always wanted to be one of the top guys and Ive worked hard to get where I am."
Strong Outfield Crop
The 6-foot-3, 180-pound Lubanski is just one player in an exceptional class of high school outfielders that includes Floridas Ryan Harvey and Lastings Milledge and Californias Delmon Young.
"Its great to be mentioned in that group," Lubanski said. "They are probably physically stronger, but my work ethic, love for the game and all the (intangibles) I have are there. Im a hard worker and with that I know Ill make it."
A caveat to Lubanskis development is the challenge that comes with playing baseball where March mornings more often offer snow flurries than warm sunshine. Lubanski is one of just 11 players from north of the Mason-Dixon line to be ranked among the top 100 high school draft prospects this year.
"Being from the Northeast, I know I have to run when its 10 degrees and take swings in the morning, all the little extra things," he said.
But Lubanski isnt a prospect just because of his attitude and work ethic. He also has a skill thats impossible to teach: blazing speed. He has run the 60-yard dash in 6.35 seconds, a faster time than anyone in this years high school class. His speed enables him to cover an exceptional amount of ground in center field and also runs the bases with aplomb.
Furthermore, he hits from the left side and has a fluid, smooth stroke. While speed has been his most overwhelming tool in high school, some scouts feel he may have the makings to become a 30-30 player, with his power coming as he continues to mature.
"He can do it all," Carcarey said. "He not only hits for power but uses the gaps and drives the ball to all fields. And if you play the third baseman back, hell lay one down."
Lubanski showed off his tools as a junior, hitting .592-9-44 with 18 stolen bases in a 26-game schedule. In a standout summer with USA Baseballs junior national team, he hit .415-8-35 with seven doubles, six triples and 13 stolen bases in 106 at-bats.
The College Option
Florida State recruiting coordinator Jamey Shouppe is happy to land a player of Lubanskis ability, but is resigned to the fact that the talented outfielder may never set foot on the Tallahassee campus.
"We are very excited, obviously," Shouppe said. "But (its) guarded optimism because we knew it was a gamble because of the fact he might sign (professionally)."
Lubanski joins catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia as the stars of the Seminoles recruiting class. It follows on the heels of a 2002 recruiting class that Shouppe called one of the Seminoles best classes ever. That class was highlighted by righthander Mark Sauls (Twins) and third baseman Eddy Martinez-Esteve (Mariners), a pair of unsigned third-round picks.
With one season of prep play remaining, Lubanski is on track to be drafted in the first roundperhaps even among the top five picks.
Like seemingly every other challenging situation that Lubanski has encountered, he shows little ambivalence toward making the choice of pursuing a professional career or heading to college.
"My goal down the road is to play in the big leagues and I am eager to continue that path," Lubanski said. "I know I can still play as a pro in three years, too."
One thing is for certain. Wherever you see him playing next, hell be playing every bit as hard or harder than any player on the diamond.