Image credit: (Photo by Alyson Boyer Rode)
SANTA ANA, Calif.—There’s not much that seems to faze Santiago (Corona, Calif.) High shortstop Brice Turang.
Not the stiffest competition in Southern California, not getting hit in the chest on the first pitch of a game—which happened Wednesday morning in Turang’s first at-bat—and certainly not the amount of scrutiny on Turang this spring as dozens of scouts watch his every move just two months shy of the 2018 draft.
“They are just people,” Turang said of the scouts. “They have to watch the game too. And I can’t control what they think about me other than play my game. That’s it. That’s all I can do. And that’s about it. God has a plan and whatever happens, happens.
“I tell everyone, I’m more nervous when my family comes and watches me then when (scouts) are here.”
But the pressure on the Louisiana State commit this year is more than it’s ever been. Turang has played varsity for Santiago head coach Ty De Trinidad four straight years and has been a standout on the showcase circuit for many of those years as well. He’s been seen by pro teams as much as any high school player in the class and he constantly has to try and reach the high bar that he set for himself during those previous looks.
“I think there are times where he’s trying to do too much because there’s a lot of pressure on him,” De Trinidad said, just after Santiago lost a 2-1 game to El Toro (Lake Forest, Calif.) High in the Boras Classic South consolation bracket. “This year’s group probably isn’t as talented as the years before. I think sometimes he feels he has to do (everything). Overall, he’s doing a good job. The problem is he’s been on varsity for four years and I think at times they just start to pick him and look for flaws in his game… looking for reasons to fault him.
“I think for the most part he does a good job. But he’s still a kid and it bothers him, absolutely. Because he wants to do a good job, he wants to please. At the end of the day I think he stays pretty level-headed—probably sometimes better than I take it. He stays calm even after a mistake.”
It’s rare to see Turang, who is ranked No. 5 on BA’s Top 300 draft prospects list, get too high or too low on a baseball field. It’s also rare to see him make multiple errors in one inning defensively, as a slick-fielding shortstop with a strong and accurate arm. But in the bottom of the fifth inning Wednesday, Turang made a throwing error that allowed a runner to reach first and two batters later dropped a pop up down the third base line that allowed another runner to reach and eventually score the first run of the game.
Instead of getting down on himself, Turang stayed calm and moved on. The second batter in the next half inning, Turang stepped into the box and jumped on the first pitch he saw—an elevated fastball—sending a no-doubt home over the netting behind Mater Dei’s right field fence—netting whose sole purpose is catching home runs.
“It’s a game of failure,” Turang said. “You’re going to fail in this game. Even the best players make errors, even the best players strike out. And it’s just, why be upset and let it control my whole game? Yeah, I was frustrated after today after those (errors)… But I can’t let it affect my whole day.”
Turang’s home run made it obvious that the fielding mistakes hadn’t gotten to his head. And it also allowed him to show off a hitting approach that he worked on throughout the offseason and has focused on this spring. A year ago it might have been surprising to see the thin and speedy infielder pull a ball with such easy power—he doesn’t want that to be such a surprise this spring.
“I always have something I work on,” the top-ranked shortstop said. “I’m working on something every time I go into the cage. This year it was more of, ‘Let’s try not to just make contact, let’s try to crush this ball.’ That’s what’s really gotten me into going to the home runs, hitting more gap-to-gap shots. Just running through my head, strikeouts, I only strike out a little bit. And maybe it’s not a bad thing if I’m taking good aggressive hacks.
“I just go up there and I’m trying to crush the ball. I’m not trying to strike out, I’m not trying to not strike out. And so I need to go up there and hit with authority.”