When DP relaxes…

By: Austin Alexander – July 3-13, 2014 Very seldom do I choose to put personal thoughts on paper…But very seldom do I have a week like the one I just experienced! Here at DP, the baseball season begins with a calendar flip from December to January and we run a very strong race through the month of June before picking the pace back up right about now into mid-November. So, those of us with very understanding families, await our window of time with few distractions! We all eagerly mark that time, sprint toward that time and truly enjoy that time spending time together. For yours truly, 2014’s window became July 3-July 13. I don’t do Facebook or Twitter, but do have a website called DP! So, here is a glimpse of my last ten days of heaven on earth, stay with me, it gets really good toward the end, though I enjoyed every moment along the way too. Thursday, July 3: Hurricane Arthur rolled past us prompting a Rocky I-IV marathon, a family Uno tourney, then bowling re-match, which I lost… My wife noticed that the Cubs will be in DC for three days. Friday, July 4: Hoisted a scoreboard (donated by a friend) in my backyard right up against the DP Headquarters, aka ‘Daddy’s Office’. The scoreboard now accompanies foul lines, foul poles and dimension signs for our little ‘field of dreams’. Saturday, July 5: Drove to Washington, DC with my wife and two sons to see a week of MLB games. Upon pulling into the nation’s capitol at 4:00 PM, we realized the Cubs/Nationals game began at 4:05, so what is a baseball family supposed to do? Yep, we arrived in the bottom of 2 and saw a 13-0, 19-hit, double-fest by the Nationals. Sunday, July 6: Back to Nationals Park for the conclusion of the Cubs series. No BP before the game but had the opportunity to see some Nats get early work done on the field. Nationals win 2-1. Monday, July 7: What a day! My crew of four walked downtown DC, was able to see the White House, Lincoln Memorial, Washington Monument and Capitol Building, along with many of the other historical sites. From there we hit the Metro train for the opener between the Nats and cross town rival Baltimore. The field was littered with talent and Stephen Strasburg was on the bump. It was 2-2 after 9 and the Orioles won it with three homers in the 12th. Great game and ending to a long day. Tuesday, July 8: Our good friends, Austin and Jessica Smithwick and two boys,  were driving up to join us on this day and got to DC that afternoon. It was set to be the first MLB game for their boys Tucker (11) and Campbell (9). We entered early and enjoyed BP but ended up sitting through a two hour rain delay, ending in a postponement. But huge positive…Austin Smithwick, now a coach at Conway HS, was able to hook up with a former college player of his, Nick Markakis, this would prove to be a very valuable re-uniting as the series shifted to Baltimore for the next couple of days. Wednesday, June 9: After a humbling trip through the Arlington National Cemetary, we took the short commute to the beautiful city of Baltimore. After checking in to our new hotel, we hit the Inner Harbor’s Bubba Gump Shrimp restaurant before heading to Camden Yards where things really sped up for our crew of eight. Markakis had left us field passes for batting practice which gave us access to the warning track area between the dugouts. As luck would have it, it was ‘Markakis t-shirt giveaway night’ and the whole ballpark was donning his likeness. So we took the elevator down into the bowels of the stadium and quickly saw Anthony Rendon and Denard Span heading back from the cage as we signed in beside the family nursury for players (right). Nick greeted us at the on deck circle and signed autographs for the boys…so did the rest of his teammates. One by one, almost all of them stopped by to sign baseball’s and take pictures with our sons. As amazed as we were at how forth-coming these guys were, it quickly became the norm for the remainder of the week. Nats won that one 6-2. Thursday, July 10: After a morning at the famed Baltimore Aquarium, it was back to The Yard for another day around the batting cage. This day proved valuable again as our boys were able to spend some time with phenom Bryce Harper (left). While they met many others, this young man was very engaging and a real treat to be around. Adam LaRoche and Jayson Werth also stopped in, not something they normally do. Another good game, Orioles 4-3. Friday, July 11: On the 100th anniversary of the date that Babe Ruth made his MLB debut and with the Yankees in town, what were we to do but visit The Bambino’s birthplace and museum? After lunch at Dempsey’s at the base of the right field B&O Warehouse, we walked five minutes to this landmark to see where The Sultan of Swat was born and lived until being sent to boarding school as a child. When 4:00 struck, it was time to shoot back and re-gain access to the field for a third consecutive day. The next five minutes were interesting! As we exited the elevator to sign-in again (which was right beside the baby O’s nursery) Harold Reynolds was standing there on the phone confirming his next interview. Before I could ascertain who he was talking to, I felt a hand on my shoulder and heard ‘excuse me.’ It was Derek Jeter trying to make his way past us to make his interview time with Reynolds! As we entered the field again, I learned the name Bill O’Reilly. I had zero idea who he was, nor did I recognize him, but he …

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MLB Draft Breakdown

By: Austin Alexander – June 5-7, 2014   In a year that professional scouts will admit there was far less draftable prep talent in South Carolina than recent years, only two young men managed to have their names called over the three-day event… but one in the 1st Round for the fourth straight year!   The more you peer into this year’s draft, the event itself took on a very different look due to drastic changes within the rules pertaining to signing players and by reducing the draft by ten rounds over past seasons, thus affecting who and how many in-state guys were selected. AND, by looking at recent years, in-state Division II baseball made a banner showing across the MLB Draft.   The longer you follow the draft, the more you think you understand it. Just the opposite is true, however! Any baseball sage will tell you it is really a crapshoot!   Many variables come into play when you sit back and look at the picks, the rounds they fell in and the names that get passed over.   One term people must understand is “signability”. Especially near the top of the draft.   In many cases, most of the players selected in the first 4-7 Rounds are similar in ability. Maybe in the Top 15 Rounds? Conventional wisdom tells you that the first pick in the draft must be the best player and that the last pick is the 1,530th best player in the country. Not so. A player’s signability can vault him near the top of the board; low signability can force that player to fall through the draft entirely.   Scouts often spend more time researching a player’s signability than they do evaluating their talent. We’ve all heard of clubs that take a kid in the top two rounds and cannot come to terms with him. Sometimes it is because the area scout has not done his due research or he would have known better than to select that player that high in the draft. But it has also happened before that a player and his family or advisor was not truthful as to their dollar figure. Sometimes a player’s “advisor” or his known desire to attend school will force his draft stock to fall, though he may be a first rounder ability-wise.   A couple of examples:   In 2006, Florida University first baseman Matt LaPorta fell to the 15th round and 433rd pick of the draft. It was believed LaPorta was a sure-fire first-rounder but in the days before the draft he hired agent Scott Boras to represent him. Boras’ reputation with big-leaguers is well-earned as he has some of the top clients in the game. But, some big league organizations had begun a trend, however, of steering away from his players in recent drafts to avert expensive, drawn-out negotiations.   As high school seniors, South Carolina products Justin Smoak and Reese Havens were projected to go high in the draft. In the moments leading up to early picks for the Boston Red Sox, both were contacted once more in an attempt to agree to terms before they were selected. Both declined lucrative deals citing that their intention was to play college baseball. As a result, Smoak fell to the 16th round, Havens to the 29th. Both were later selected in 1st Round as college juniors out of USC.   In each case, though for opposite reasons, these players had a “low signability” tag, thus falling to lower rounds.   Clubs have until midnight of July 13th (up from August 16 in 2011) to agree to terms with a draft pick. Some of the early rounders will forego the drama and sign quickly so they can begin their journey to the big leagues. Others will drag it out until the deadline in an attempt to drain every penny out of a club. Many players chosen will continue to be under the watchful eye of the organization that selected them in case they make a significant jump during the summer, in which the club may, then, offer a contract or “up the ante” in an attempt to sign the player.   Draft picks are made largely on a players present “tools” and how he “projects” down the road. Many selections will turn the heads of baseball people. More selections will blow the mind of casual fans because the layman only sees black or white, ie. base hit versus out, win versus loss.   Understand, just because a pitcher strikes out Madison Stokes does not automatically vault that arm to prospect status. If a good high school pitcher beats Conway High School with Grant Holmes (left) on the mound, it does not mean he will see his name on a draft board. When a “punching judy” flairs one into the outfield off of Charlie Barnes, that does not guarentee that he will even play past high school. If a fast runner steals two bases off of Robert Jolly, it does not necessarily mean he has a future in professional baseball! See where I am going with this?   Scouting is not a science. Players do get over-scouted and some do get over-looked. By in large, however, these guys who scout for a living are good at what they do. VERY good, in fact! They run up tens of thousands of miles riding through the countryside away from their families looking for the next Steven Strasburg and Mike Trout. Sure, they’ll miss on guys from time to time but they are still smarter than most of us and their eyes keener than you can imagine. Did they find the next MLB All-Star in our state in 2014? Only time will tell. Below we have broken down the 2014 Draft: *Note: Players accounted for either played high school or college baseball in South Carolina this spring. Selected Day 1 (1-2 Rd) Day 2 (3-10 Rds) Day 3 (11-40 Rds) Total SC Players 2  10 28 40 College players 1  10  27  38  HS players 1  0  1  2  Pitchers 2  4  14  …

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MLB Draft Preview: 2014

Compiled By: DP Staff – June 5, 2014 The workouts have concluded, the notes have been made, scouting miles have been logged and final organizational meetings have been had… and now it’s finally draft time! As we mosey around South Carolina throughout the calendar, we are often asked to make predictions on the upcoming draft, who will be taken, which round will they go in, who is most signable, etc. We’ve asked a few questions of our own to some ‘bigwigs’ and threw in our two cents as well. But this year is a different animal altogether… Check out the drastically new draft rules from year’s past: 2014 Draft / Slotted Signing Bonus The entire process has always been a crapshoot, even for those making the final decisions so we aren’t going to take a stab at which round, but below is what we did come up with regards to who has a chance to be drafted this week. Admittedly, every single scout that we spoke with said we would learn alot from this draft to be a little more bold with our prognostication in future years. Our crystal ball comes with far less confidence than past years, with only one sure thing, but here it is: -Palmetto State Players Receiving Pro Interest this Spring- Name High School Position Signed  *Grant Holmes  Conway   RHP   Florida   *Madison Stokes  AC Flora   SS   South Carolina   KJ Bryant  Wade Hampton   OF   Clemson   Clark Scolamiero  Greenville   OF/LHP   South Carolina   Charlie Barnes  Sumter   LHP   Clemson   Drew Ellis  Blythewood  1B/RHP   Citadel   Ke’Shaun Samuel  Darlington   SS/RHP   Sptg Methodist   Henry Davis  Darlington   SS/OF   Appalachian State   Justin Hawkins  Mid-Carolina   3B   USC Sumter   Shy Phillips  Hartsville   OF   Citadel   Connor Pate  Marlboro Co.  RHP  Coastal Carolina  Adam Renwick  Dorman  INF  Clemson *Selected in 2014 Draft

The Harrison Experience

By: Austin Alexander – May 23, 2014 In the spring of 2006 I first laid eyes on a Harrison from Hilton Head. It was actually Diamond Prospects’ first year of existence and I was beating every bush tracking down players that I had been told were pretty good. I heard there were a pair of brothers on the Island that ‘had a chance’ to be okay. I literally located Brian and Greg Harrison amongst the pine needles at Beaufort High School. Indeed they did have a bright future and it became a future that has since inter-twined with my family. That summer of 2006 I had the privilege of coaching the oldest brother Brian and met his parents as well. I don’t typically become friendly with parents of players but I quickly connected with their father Jamie and mother Patty. I eventually got to know Jamie’s parents well when they would visit from Upstate New York or when we played in Canada. Over the next three years I had the opportunity to coach both boys. Now understand this, these Harrison’s are a legit baseball family. At the peak of his own professional career, Jamie left a very successful accounting job to become a full-time dad. With Patty having a great career of her own at Gulfstream, Jamie was then freed up to make sure that the boy’s academic and baseball needs were met. He became Mr. Mom! Well, in the span of time that I have known this crew, I have been close to them every step of the way through recruiting processes, Wrigley Field, pro ball, transfers, slumps and injuries galore, etc. I have stayed in their home, played billiards with my kids in their man room (which is a bon-a-fide baseball shrine) and our families visit each year during the week after Christmas. Stay with me, I am building to something here. It should be mentioned that both Brian and Greg were exceptional students (1400+ SAT’s), honor students and all that comes with academic accolades. They were also pretty solid baseball players. I now have two young sons that are playing baseball and I shared a picture last week with Jamie of my son and his battery-mate following a no-hitter. His response was a powerful one for me regarding the circle of a baseball life, it truly resonated with me. With Brian now retired from a pro ball career in the Mets organization and Greg in his final days of baseball as a senior at Furman, what happened on Thursday night made me so incredibly happy for Team Harrison. With grandfather, parents and Brian in the stands, Greg stepped to the plate with the Paladins tied 1-1 in the bottom of the ninth versus Appalachian State in the Southern Conference tourney. One pitch later he was circling the bags having hit a two-run, walk-off bomb advancing Furman to the next round. But more than that, it was a frozen moment in time that was full of family euphoria as it delayed their lives as a baseball family for one more day. It should be noted that as Greg (#22) approaches his teammates, his older brother is atop the dugout in the distance sporting the Hawaiian shirt with arms extended! It should be noted that the blast made a winner of Alex Abrams, who I first met in 1995 and have remained very close to his parents too all these years after I left The College of Charleston…perhaps a story for another day! The point here is this…our game is such a great game! There are so many awesome people in the game of baseball. It is amazing how path’s continue to cross so many years after an acquaintance becomes a friendship. Parents: Cherish the moments your child experiences, Players: Cherish the moments you have during your window of time to play, Coaches: Cherish all the relationships that cross your path… Regardless of your place in the game, baseball is filled with amazing experiences and so many outstanding people, cherish every day that you can spend in the midst of it!

Stay Away Rain!

By: Austin Alexander – March 29, 2014 Rain, rain, go away, come back another day…like maybe during basketball season! The real March Madness has been the monsoon month of March… What a year it has been so far in terms of spring baseball and aweful weather. Coaches and scouts have long since had to have a little feel for meteorology, but it has been some time since we have had to follow the radar, tarp fields, drop diamond dry and re-arrange schedules like we have in 2014. Precipitation of all types has been the theme of our young campaign. Our staff has seen fewer games and teams to this point than in any other spring, it’s really frustrating! It almost makes you wish we had all chosen basketball as our sport of choice! No other sport must deal with the constant change of the wind, of clouds, of storms. In our sport, we play or practice nearly every day and our fields are always subject to the heavens and what may rain, snow, sleet or blow in from above. When trying to arrange bus departures, meals, hotels, umpires, pitching rotations and budgets around surprises makes a high school baseball coaches job so much more difficult than the guy who is in charge of his hoops facility and biggest problem is often making sure that he has not forgotten to pack his easel and dry erase markers! Now consider the college coach that has all of those same issues with his own team to deal with, not to mention trying to jam a sixth game into every week as to not lose RPI points toward a possible NCAA berth, sorting out recruiting visits, along with the ever-present decision of whether he should jump in the car to see a prospect and drive “X” amount of miles/hours only to watch it rain, then turn around and drive the same distance back…all while trying to retain his job. How about the plight of pro scouts who have to be somewhere watching baseball almost every single night. Depending on the scout’s territory, the race against Mother Nature turns into many nights of dodging the Doppler nightmare that covers your region and eventually costs you another opportunity to knock out 2-4 teams in a day. Then there is the matter of arranging the flight plans of your cross-checker, whose nationwide nights are already limited. You’ve finally got it all sorted out, the guy you are courting is on the mound and your boss is all set to board an airplane to roll in…then you check the most recent weather report and your territory is covered in green, yellow and red! All of the aforementioned examples make the best of us wonder how life would be different had we chosen basketball! I am reminded of a recent example that appropriately puts my theory into play: In my last coaching job, our offices were in an auxiliary gym, we shared it with the softball staff and the gym was attached, housing an occasional team practice that may be moved indoors for various reasons. One December afternoon, all four coaches on our staff were hard at work when the women’s basketball coach barged in wanting to use the phone and forge a complaint to someone in the athletic department as to why the floor had not been mopped after the men’s practice 30 minutes before. The only reason they were even displaced was because of a concert that night and the main gymnasium was off limits. One day out of their element and literally minutes to make their playing surface “playable” and all of Hades had broken loose! Now, we really liked this coach and greatly respected she and her staff. But after seeing just how riled up she became over something that probably set them back five minutes was absolutely comical to us after her rant on the phone, then her departure! We immediately began to reminisce some of the memories we had of making constant adjustments to the elements, bundling up to move snow, pushing water and sacrificing your teams practice to get a field ready to go. Then you start to think about the many times during a game that the personnel you use and how the decisions you make is affected based on weather reports you get from inning to inning. Imagine if basketball coaches had to polish the floor every other day and line the entire court before each game. Imagine if the scoreboard fell to the deck moments before tip-off. What if every shot were contested by the wind and if the trainer informed a coach that a tornado was approaching, that they better be leading by the end of the third quarter when the game would become official? Here’s you another image! Can you see Rick Pitino, John Calapari or Coach K pulling a tarp in torrential showers wearing Armani suits to secure a victory? How different are these two sports in regards to dealing with the elements? Our game is a great game! We follow it and have given our lives to it because we believe it is the best game of all! When we hear that our daily destination is in the path of rain, sleet or snow, man-o-man you can’t help but wish you had chosen basketball as your first love! BUT, perhaps baseball mirrors real life more than any other sport. The constant bout with the weather in baseball forces you to adjust on the fly and make important decision on your feet…almost every single day. You must roll with the punches and deal with the surprises without skipping a beat, much like reality outside the lines. Having said that, I did say a special prayer this morning at church requesting sunny skies for a while, fewer adjustments and more baseball to be played…because Lord knows we have sure earned some good weather!