O’Sullivan Stays Busy

Like most of the top prep baseball players in the country, Sean O’™Sullivan stays pretty busy.

He hasn’™t had much time to relish the final months of high school.
Instead he’™s been concentrating on preparing for the most important
season of his young career.

But when he does find spare time, O’™Sullivan doesn’™t share the
typical tastes of many of his peers. Instead of escaping to the realm
of PlayStation 2 ‘" he doesn’™t play video games ‘" O’™Sullivan prefers to
perfect his other favorite pastime: dancing.

“I love to dance,” he said as he hustled to practice after school. “Whatever (the music) . . . wherever. I just love to dance.”

You see, versatility is O’™Sullivan’™s thing. In a draft class heavily
weighted with two-way standouts, the senior righthander from Valhalla
High in suburban San Diego has the moves to play professionally on the
mound or at the plate. O’™Sullivan’™s package of legitimate pitching and
hitting tools is among the most intriguing in the class, and he enters
the season ranked as the nation’™s No. 3 prep prospect.

Scouts are not certain about his best future position, but they do
agree that he’™ll likely be drafted in the early rounds in June. As an
everyday player, O’™Sullivan profiles as a third baseman or right
fielder, positions that call for a bat capable of fitting in the heart
of a batting order. He has good raw power with a swing that creates
natural loft. He generated a California-best 16 homers as a junior in
2004, when he was one of two underclassmen selected to Baseball
America’™s second-team All-America squad.

While the 6-foot-2, 200-pounder might tell you his most attractive
attribute is his footwork, O’™Sullivan’™s best tool is his arm. He was
touching 90 mph from the mound by the time he was a sophomore and
routinely spots his fastball between 92-93 these days. He features a
traditional, 12-to-6 overhand curveball that changes planes and has
potential to be an out pitch.

“O’™Sullivan is nice as a hitter, but I feel certain about his ability as a pitcher,” an American League scouting director said.

“I value him more as a pitcher,” a National League scouting director
added. “I want to take a good arm like that and take full advantage of
it. He has the makings of a good breaking ball and is competitive on
the mound. He (goes) right after hitters.”

O’™Sullivan’™s determined, if not brassbound, demeanor is a
characteristic found in every big league pitcher and he says the
ability to dictate the outcome of games on his own is one of the most
appealing aspects of baseball.

“I love playing everyday, I like hitting and being in the lineup,”
he says. “But there’™s nothing like being on the mound. I’™m in control
of the game.”


O’™Sullivan’™s youth career is one baseball insiders have followed
closely. At the age of 12, he was featured by Baseball America as the
top player in his age group in our annual Baseball for the Ages package
in 2000. The praise he garnered that year sounds similar to what scouts
say about him today:

“He’™s the most polished player we’™ve ever had in our program,” said
O’™Sullivan’™s summer league coach at the time, Lyle Gabriel, who coached
numerous national championship teams and has several players in the big
leagues, including Troy Glaus.

O’™Sullivan’™s career numbers’".472-22-104 in 271 at-bats, 25-6, 1.87
with 219 strikeouts and 27 walks in three seasons’"in one of the
country’™s most competitive high school regions are illustrative of his
advanced ability at a young age.

He’™s been gaining notice for quite a while. In 2000, as a member of
the powerful San Diego Stars youth program, he was named the nation’™s
top 12-year-old in BA’™s annual Baseball for the Ages rankings, and he
has been a top candidate in his age group every year since. As a
14-year-old high school freshman, O’™Sullivan quickly became Valhalla’™s
No.1 pitcher, and he led the team to the California Interscholastic
Federation playoffs for the first time in 12 years.

Alternating between the mound, third base and right field as a
sophomore and junior, O’™Sullivan helped his high school capture its
first two conference titles ever. He was named the county’™s player of
the year in 2004, beating out the No. 1 overall draft pick, Mission Bay
High shortstop Matt Bush, for the award.

Though the meringue isn’™t O’™Sullivan’™s dance of choice’"mid-1980s
Michael Jackson tunes really get him going, “Billie Jean, that kind of
stuff,” he says – his baseball resume includes impressive performances
on international stages. He’™s spent his past two summers shining for
USA Baseball in amateur international tournaments. In 2003, O’™Sullivan
was the winning pitcher in the youth national team’™s gold-medal win
against Taiwan in front of 14,000 fans in the International Baseball
Federation World Youth Championship.

He quickly recalls that outing as the most intense setting of his
career. “Pitching in their country against the home team with
(thousands) of people going crazy, that was (pressure),” he said.

“But if you can’™t handle the pressure, you aren’™t going to go anywhere.”

Last summer he was plagued by tendinitis in his knee but showed
resolve with a solid outing against Korea in the bronze-medal game.

“He wanted the ball, wanted to be a bulldog, wanted to compete on
the mound,” said Team USA’™s Ray Darwin, general manager for both
national teams O’™Sullivan played for.

“I think he had positive effects from pitching in front of that
crowd. It’™s clear that it’™s something that he wants to do. On the
mound, he wants to meet those challenges.”

Prior to departing for Asia last summer, O’™Sullivan made a stop in
Aberdeen, Md., where he was one of 40 high school juniors to
participate in the AFLAC All-America Classic.

National showcases and all-star events often offer scouts insight
about which position a two-way player such as O’™Sullivan best fits. He
didn’™t make the decision any easier for scouts, however. Just a couple
of hours after sending a handful of towering blasts over the wall’"into
a stiff breeze’"at Ripken Stadium in the home run derby, O’™Sullivan spun
one of the most dominant innings of the game, which his West team won.
He struck out the side in the eighth inning on 12 pitches, including an
impressive three-pitch punchout of Miami’™s Gulliver Prep corner
infielder Chris Dominguez.

While the verdict isn’™t sealed on how O’™Sullivan will make his
living in pro ball, his long amateur career, combined with his mature
body and polished toolset remove some of the guesswork when evaluating
his potential.

“He’™s mature physically and mentally; his present stuff is more
ready than most (2005 draft-eligible high school) pitchers,” an AL
scouting director said. “He’™s more ready. There’™s not as much
projecting to do with him.”

“In scouting we call it track record,” an NL scouting director said.
“You always feel a lot more comfortable with your selections if you
have a history and track record on a player. And in this case, when
you’™ve seen a player compete at high levels it makes you feel a lot
better about rolling in and (scouting) a high school kid and pulling
the trigger.”

O’™Sullivan signed with San Diego State to play for the baseball
player he most admires, Tony Gwynn, but he makes it clear he doesn’™t
plan to carry any ambiguous song and dance routines into negotiations
with major league teams.

“It’™s been my dream to play professional baseball since I was five
years old,” he says. “If coming out this year is the best option, then
that’™s my best option.”