By: Austin Alexander - August 22-23, 2020
-Mideast returns to title form; White steals show with event firsts-
This past weekend, our 13th Annual Palmetto Games was an amazing celebration of high school baseball in South Carolina, yet again! Seventy plus college coaches and professional scouts, along with our state's top talent found their way to Sumter’s Riley Park. With an immaculate playing surface prepared for us and first-class hospitality at our beckoned call, the talent on the field matched all the preparation behind the scenes!
As always, the format had a championship flavor pitting players against each other that hail from their geographic region, unless we had to even out positional needs. In the first five years we 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 theme with coaches and scouts that Mother Nature is not a Palmetto Games fan, as we have become accustomed to every sort of weather (except snow) and delay imaginable over the years. On Saturday, low-80’s and overcast was perfect and allowed us to execute our game plan, thus setting the stage for some quality dudes to do their thing! Day 2 morning came with an ominous forecast…Folks, this is the Palmetto Games, it's never without a threat! A monsoon hit 20 minutes before the first pitch and the field appeared unplayable to most. But not at Riley Park...and not on this day as the grounds crew attacked the challenge and had us playing baseball in 90 minutes following the last drop. Their playing surface and staff salvaged Sunday action!
Each team was able to participate in their post-game with awards being handed out for: Golden Arm, Silver Slugger, Gold Glove and Charlie Hustle Awards.
Like no other Palmetto Games in history, parity proved itself by creating some very competitive contests, resulting in two ties. No one ran away in Sumter and due to some heroics by Northeast in the final frame of the weekend, the Mideast team was garnered the winner going 1-0-1 on a team managed by new Lugoff-Elgin head coach Frankie Ward and assisted by Newberry College skipper Russell Triplett. It was their 4th Palmetto Games championship but first since 2014, Congratulations to Team Mideast!
Taking our top awards during the weekend were the following: Fort Dorchester freshman PJ Morlando (Most Outstanding Player) who made every play but impressed at the plate most with plenty of loud contact and one game winning RBI... Greenville’s Rocco Reid (right) only threw one inning but it was the most impressive frame with 'electric stuff' over the six games; for his efforts he was awarded the Most Outstanding Pitcher Award...In honor of our deceased friend and staff member Jeff Young, the 4th annual "JY" Heavy Hitter award was issued to a former pupil of his, Dorman’s TJ White, two jacks made this one the easist call of al-time! Congratulations to each winner with a stage loaded with legit winners!
The TO Award: Within a month following 2015's Palmetto Games, DP MVP Tony Osterman was diagnosed with cancer. After an insane round of chemo treatments, radiation and numerous surgeries, guess who was back in the same role they have filled for 14 years...a cancer-free winner of life! In honor of our Warrior, we began an award that honors one participant that shares TO's zest for living and overall excellence as a person, this year's recipient was Pinewood Prep’s Noah Cadiz (pictured together).
Swift Stuff: A total of 26 arms worked at 88+MPH, 12 more hitting the magic number 90 or better, with Boiling Springs’ Tristan Smith and North Myrtle Beach’s Billy Barlow topping the list at 94 MPH...A solid number of 29 runners shot through the finish line at under 7.0 seconds, atop that list was Goose Creek’s Caleb Singleton and Caleb Oakley (Pee Dee Academy), both registering a 6.53.
-Palmetto Games History Made-
1) TJ White’s power display in Saturday’s BP was a preview for our event’s first wood bat jack… 2) White’s second homer (with wood again) marked the first person to hit two in the same weekend, much less the same game (Riley Park dimensions - 338’ down both lines & 400’ straight away, both were no-doubters)… 3) Live stream becomes part of the DP lexicon… 4) College coaches in the dugouts… 5) First Palmetto Games hosted by anyone besides USC, more info later… Extra #1) We had our first 1-6-3-4-1-5 pickoff putout, all 9 defenders ended up on the dirt… Extra #2) 100 percent more masking than in history was displayed inside of a difficult spring and summer just to play baseball… Extra #3) Our loyal PA announcer Bill Petty said ‘my mistake’ over the PA. He is a modern-day Vin Scully and has never made an error that I can recall. We are so fortunate to have him on our team, if you heard him over the weekend, it is obvious how good this man is at his craft!
Sumter Hospitality 1.0: After 12 years as the Palmetto Games’ home, USC had to pull the plug for Covid reasons about six weeks before the annual event. Yours truly was thrown into a tailspin…but Al Harris with the City of Sumter came to the rescue! From the moment that we ‘shook hands’ over the phone, he and his staff were nothing short of outstanding from the beginning stages of planning, leading up to and through our finishline too. Every member of his staff took this weekend as seriously as we did, which is appreciated beyond imagine. Special shout out to Brock McDaniel, Bill Lyons and Frankie Ward as well, you were each a stud prior to and during…could not have pulled this off without you!
Special MVP Guest: Exactly 24 hours before we began, we were able to confirm that Sumter’s own and 1960 World Series MVP Bobby Richardson would be on-hand to speak prior to Game 1 on Saturday. The recently turned 85-year old former head coach at USC, Coastal Carolina and Liberty delivered an amazing 12-minute speech telling stories of Mickey Mantle and his life in baseball. Following that he prayed over everyone in the stands and players before we began the event. Thank you to Bill Lyons for setting that up and bringing a legend in front of us all. Was a LEGIT thrill for my father, his childhood hero (left)!
Live Streaming, Twitter: This year has forced us all to be creative and how to foul off nasty breaking balls, agreed? To the many Division I coaches out there that remain unable to get out and see baseball in the capacity that you are accustomed to, it was not the same having you roam around at the Palmetto Games. As a result, we set up the first live stream in DP history and hope that it was of some service to those who could not attend. Shout out, Cory Welch and Will Chitty-wow, thanks for taking the lead on this aspect of the event. Thank you for all the scouts that did attend this weekend, just hope we are at full strength again next year!
Happy Birthdaaaay...To Youuuu: Another first, our loyal and well-respected umpire, plus crew chief Tome’ Higgins spent his 43rd birthday officiating for us on Saturday. But it was not without fanfare! He had 20+ family members in the stands as his birthday song was sung over the PA to him, definitely a memorable moment in DP history for a very deserving person who just happens to be a very good umpire. This guy has a lifetime contract with DP!
AA's Pitch: The 2020 Palmetto Games saw a wealth of talent with another handsome number of scouts in attendance, 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. Thank you to the prep coaches that assist us daily, your help is huge. I also want to publicly complement our DP team. Loyalty, dedication, pursuit of perfection...I am insulated with a group of winners which is the biggest reason this Diamond Prospects train continues to roll on...Next: Our state remains on the cusp of something that we believe is special. It has been a few years since our staff, scouts and college coaches have been as excited about what is coming down the pike as we presently are. Legit prospects are coming, in our opinion. Time will tell of course, but I look forward to watching young men blossom and create options for themselves!
The DP staff would like to send out an additional giant fist-bump to the following: Post 15 Baseball, City of Sumter+, Comfort Suites, Hampton Inn, LDH Sports, Rawlings, I.T.S. Sports, Chick-fil-A, Anchor Bat Company, Lee Alexander, Bobby & Tara Pellerin