By: Austin Alexander - August 12-13, 2017
-Northeast repeats in dominant fashion among deep cast of talent-
This past weekend was a terrific celebration of high school baseball in South Carolina, again! Well over 100 college coaches and professional scouts, along with our state's top talent, flocked to USC's gorgeous stadium on Saturday for Opening Day of the 10th Annual Palmetto Games. With the Gamecocks National Championship reminders around the yard, it served as the perfect backdrop for our all-star event!
As always, the format had a championship flavor pitting players against each other that hail from their geographic region. In the past we have made this a three day affair, in 2013 we made the move to a two-day approach with the schedule calling for batting practice on the field, along with pre-game infield/outfield, and 60's on Saturday, followed by games.
It has become a running joke with coaches and scouts that Mother Nature is not a Palmetto Games fan, as we are accustomed to every sort of weather and delay imaginable over the years. This Saturday marked only the third time that the tarp stayed in it's cover and all six teams were able to hit on the field! Albeit quite balmy, the skies remained clear and allowed us to execute our gameplan, thus setting the stage for some quality baseball! Then there was Sunday...Day 2 was a circus of adjustments due of lightening delays and two torrential storms, the second of which ending our party prematurely.
Each team was able to participate in their post-game, however, with awards being handed out for: Golden Arm, Silver Slugger, Gold Glove and Charlie Hustle Awards.
For the second straight year, the Northeast (2-0) group was the only undefeated club in a 6-team field at the Palmetto Games to claim their second title. Head Coach Travis Pitman of Riverside High School guided a group of talent that blew away the field plating 19 runs while surrendering 4.
Taking our top awards during the weekend were Dorman's Tanner McCallister (Most Outstanding Player) along with Chesnee's Nathaniel Lamb (Most Outstanding Pitcher). The Tony Osterman Award, given to the player that exhibits excellence and perseverance on and off the field, was earned by Bishop England catcher Will Bastian. In honor of our recently deceased friend and staff member Jeff Young, the inaugural "JY" Heavy Hitter award was issued to Dorman's Dylan Rogers (right).
Quick Notes: A total of 56 different pitchers worked at 85+ MPH, 20 in the upper-80's, 13 more hitting the magic number 90 or better, with Nathaniel Lamb as the winner at 92 MPH...A record 42 runners shot through the finish line at 7.0 seconds or less, atop that list was Dillon's Jon-Mitchell Carter turning in a 6.52 for the second time at the Pal Gms...
The JY Tribute: Two weeks ago a family, DP and the baseball world lost a treasure in Jeff Young to a heart attack at age 49. We honored JY this weekend in a handful of ways, a small gesture but one that meant a lot to our staff. JY was set to work this event for DP, therefore we kept his rightful place on the concourse vacant in his honor. We had a moment of silence on Saturday evening which was emotional for most. Many of you helped contribute to the Scholarship Fund for his teenage daughters and we are proud to claim that close to $1000 was raised for those young ladies. Additionally we had an honorary award given to the top hitter of this event, not so ironically a former pupil of his was the recipient! JY may be gone but will never be forgotten!
Special Appearance: Most people in this state know the last name Tolleson, certainly in the Upstate. On Saturday we were very fortunate to have the patriarch of the family, Wayne Tolleson join us for the Palmetto Games again. The Northeast team was blessed to have the 9-year MLB veteran supporting them but he also moved around the stadium speaking to quite a few players, parents and scouts. Wayne is the father of former USC standout and big-leaguer Steven, former PGA golfer Clint. Always a win to have this awesome man associated with anything that we do!
Back in the Saddle: Within a few weeks of 2015's Palmetto Games, two DP soldiers - Tony Osterman and Rita Alexander (right) were diagnosed with cancer. After an insane round of chemo treatments, radiation and numerous surgeries, guess who was back in the same roles they have filled for 12 years...two cancer-free winners of life. Miracles do happen!
And the Johnny Carson Scouting Award goes to... Even though he did not lobby for this esteemed honor at all, DP has chosen to name Atlanta Braves super scout Billy Best the repeat winner of Palmetto Games Scout of the Year. There is no criteria for this award. It comes with zero fanfare, perks or pay raises. It's really not even a big deal whatsoever but this individual did alert each of us - meaning the whole ballpark - as to any reduction of prices in hot dogs and t-shirts. He even led the peanut gallery of Neil Avent (Athletics) and Paul Faulk (Nationals) as they essentially ran the 60's session for us on Saturday. This Best fella enjoyed his Bob Uecker V.I.P. seat on Saturday and can now re-add this phony award to his illustrious resume! A fist bump most certainly goes to the Hall of Famer Lon Joyce (Dodgers), locked in for every pitch as always...Grinders this year is an easy one, Gary Randall (Mets) and George Swain (Diamondbacks), neither missed a pitch and were right there with us during Sunday's crazy Mother Nature curveballs!
Buck Hall Award 10.0: We have had ten Palmetto Games now... other than scouts, one man has not missed a single Palmetto Games or Pro Day, and I cannot recall a single event, fall or summer, that he has missed either. So the winner of this award goes to Buck Hall, of course! His son played in the first one, every other event he has attended is because of his love for baseball and desire to to see the future of our sport in SC!
The 2017 Palmetto Games saw a wealth of talent with a handsome number of scouts in attendance again, thus making this weekend another successful event! We are often complemented, but could never have pulled off the feat without a ton of help from every edge of our state and in between.
The DP staff would like to send out a giant fist-bump to the following:
Sleep Inn on Bush River Rd, CrazyBaseball.com, Rawlings, Mizuno, LDH Sports, Anchor Bat Company, All-American Imaging along with the many coaches and scouts that stuck around all weekend...Also, our main man at the mic Bill Petty, "the East Coast Vin Scully!" Last but not least, the University of South Carolina, new skipper Mark Kingston, his entire coaching staff and the assembled support staff that handled every request in stride, especially on Sunday when some tough decisions were having to be made. Thank you to all for your support of prep hardball in South Carolina!