dp Tribute: Lon Joyce

By: Austin Alexander – December 3, 2020 On Thursday afternoon a Hall of Fame person and baseball man passed away due to a lengthy illness. Lon Joyce, 72, moves on to the Heavenly Gates as his wife Reada plus daughters Brett and Mary Katherine remain with us in our prayers. Coach Joyce, “21” what a champion! Most people saw him everywhere, coaching/scouting genius – and he was but I want to tell you about the man I knew. The year was 1984 and I was ten years old. I attended his summer baseball camp at Spartanburg Methodist College and thought I was a pretty good player. Perhaps I actually was good enough because each day he walked and talked to me on the way to the cafeteria and back to the ballpark. That was my first in-person contact with a guy I had only read about in the newspaper. Little did I know that our paths would cross for another 35 years. Fast forward to 1992…Not only did I continue attending his camps, now it was time make money to gas up my pitiful liittle brown Toyota Corolla! It was ‘my pleasure’ to have a job at Chick-fil-A. I caught word that the former SMC coach, now Los Angeles Dodgers scout wanted to see me play at Travelers Rest High School. The game had been rescheduled following a rainout for a Saturday night. True or false that Lon Joyce was coming to see me? I called in every favor to trade work time with a friend. Coach Joyce was there and I wish I had not showed up on a night I would have been better off making minimum wage in the mall’s food court! Fast forward to 1993…I did not like how my delivery felt so I handed my VHS tape to my grandfather to hand off to his neighbor, Coach Joyce. Coach called me, left a message on the family answering machine. I later called Coach and my mechanics were straightened out. (btw, teens, this last paragraph just blew your mind, never mind – if this is not a video by Dude Perfect so you aren’t even reading this.) Fast forward to 1994…I was now a player at SMC, three teammates drafted by the Dodgers, I was not one despite a pretty good freshman year. But not good enough for the Dodgers or any other team, Coach Joyce did still give me optimism. Fast forward to 1996…Coach Joyce showed up at my parent’s home for me to transport his oldest daughter, Brett, to the College of Charleston. He later scouted me there, but I still was not good enough. But I was honored that he trusted me with his first born. Fast forward to 1997…I had now played with five Dodger draftees and after Los Angeles and 29 other teams had passed on me, I knew it was time to coach. Coach Joyce was amazing from that time on in terms with helping in that area, afterall the dugout is where he earned his first Hall of Fame honors. Fast forward to 2000…I am now a young coach back at my alma mater and he was a staple at our backstop and in our bullpen, a very welcomed addition wherever he inserted himself. But here is the thing, he never was pushy, yet always very helpful, always. Fast forward to 2006…I have a few years under my coaching belt and Coach Joyce meets me in Burlington, NC at a Cracker Barrel and asks me to be an associate scout for the Los Angeles Dodgers. Now understand that an associate in most organizations comes with no pay. Same with the Dodgers. Which was fine with this guy because it meant I had minor league pass each year (that he sent me) and that I had the opportunity become the understudy of the recently-named Hall of Fame scout, Mr. Lon Joyce. I accepted his offer graciously! Fast forward to 2019-2020…All these years later my mentor attended every single Diamond Prospects event until he was physically unable to. Finally got his ring too (left). On Thursday, this pillar of consistency, a winner of life and my good friend passed away. BUT, not before he left his fingerprints all over the game of baseball, including the reigning World Series MVP, who also contacted Coach Joyce in the final hours on this Earth. Here are the facts, it has taken close to eight hours to write this tribute to a Hall of Fame human. Not because I don’t type as fast as you but because my phone has been on fire since his passing this afternoon. Here is another fact. Within minutes of speaking to a quality high school team, I learned of his passing. I have talked to several names you know tonight, ironically one term keeps surfacing as it pertains to Lon Joyce – Gentleman, not a term you often here in sports circa 2020. If you or I, or anyone you know can measure up to the man he was for 35 years of my life…then you were probably a winning person in every aspect of every single thing you chose to do in your time on this planet. So, Coach Joyce, “21” – thank you for the influence you had on so many of us that will miss you dearly, but we all adore your impact in each of our lives!

Remembering Charles Peterson

By: Dale Nelson – September 14, 2020 If you followed high school sports in South Carolina in the early 1990’s, you had probably heard the name Charles Peterson. He was an incredible athlete that wowed everyone with his ability to excel at whatever sport he played. In 1990, he started as a freshman on the best baseball team in Laurens High School history. They went 26-1 en route to winning the AAAA state championship and finished ranked #3 in the country by USA Today. In 1991, he caught the game winning touchdown pass in the 4A state championship game with less than 5 seconds left on a 4th down fade route at Williams-Brice Stadium. If that wasn’t enough, he was selected 22nd overall in the 1993 MLB Draft by the Pittsburgh Pirates. The same draft class that included Alex Rodriguez, Tori Hunter and Jason Varitek. One could make the argument that he was the best athlete in Laurens High School history, perhaps in the history of South Carolina too. Our relationship developed long before he became a local legend. We played Babe Ruth baseball together at Laurens City Park. We were also teammates through Laurens American Legion Post 25 baseball. Over time, as often happens in life, we drifted apart. I ended up coming back home to coach at Laurens and ‘Pete’ ended up making it to AAA with the Pirates before playing in Canada, China and Mexico. Pete stopped by practice one day out of the blue while visiting relatives in Laurens a few years back. I hadn’t seen him in years but he had that same smile and infectious laugh. We caught up that day and I learned he had become a scout with the Cardinals. Eventually that job brought him back to South Carolina. In 2016 I got to see a lot more of Pete as I had a potential draft pick at Laurens named Thomas Jones. Pete would pop in every now and then to watch Thomas practice or play games. He would call me often to check on Thomas but we always ended up chatting about life in general. Working as a scout with DP and as associate scout with Blake Newsome and the Marlins, our paths crossed often over the last four or five years. We always made a point to seek each other out and catch up. He would often call me and ask about potential prospects in the Upstate. The last time I saw Pete (pictured left during the 2020 MLB Draft) was at our DP Pro Day in January. As always he was laughing and cutting up with all the guys in attendance. He was a big man but he was a gentle giant. I got to meet his daughter that day as he brought her along to River Bluff High School. Watching those two interact you could definitely see the father-daughter bond. Although we were there for baseball, most of our conversation ended up being about our kids and our families. In late August I got word that Pete was battling Covid. I really didn’t think a lot about it because I knew he was going to beat it. There’s no way a hometown hero who never lost at anything was going to lose a battle to a virus. Over the next couple of weeks the messages became more frequent and more worrisome. This past Thursday night I got a very somber message that the situation was pretty dire. As I sat in my den watching the Braves I picked up my phone and looked back through our messages dating back to 2016. The one text that caught my attention was June 11, 2016. Thomas was drafted by the Marlins and Pete texted to congratulate me! He told me I had done a great job with Thomas and to let him know if he could help me with anything. As I read that text, tears began rolling down my face. I immediately picked up the phone and sent him a heartfelt message. I told him I loved him and I knew he was going to beat this thing. I knew he couldn’t read it at the time but I was hoping he would when he recovered. Sunday night, driving home from a baseball game in Charleston, I got word that Pete had lost his battle with Covid. Riding with my own son, I couldn’t help but think about his son, his daughter, his wife and his entire family. I pulled over at the next rest area to compose myself. My phone began to blow up with messages from college coaches, agents, high school coaches and old teammates.   The baseball community is a tight circle and Charles Peterson was part a big part of that circle. I’m so thankful we were able to reconnect through the game that first brought us together. Rest easy big guy, you will be sorely missed. “Once a Raider, Always a Raider”! —————– By: Austin Alexander – September 15, 2020 Life and baseball lost a true winner on Sunday. Like Coach Nelson said above, he was a ‘larger than life’ figure long ago and until his final breath. His passing left me to think of my first and last encounter with this athletic freak but quality human too. It was 1992, I was on the mound at Inman Mills Park in an American Legion playoff game and the legend of this dude from Laurens had reached that old cow pasture we played in. But of course, this brash junior RHP was not going to backdown from another teenager. So sure that I could get this guy out, I started him with a fastball that he whistled past my face for a single, then promptly stole two bags. Second AB, gotta make an adjustment, right? Well, let’s see if he can hit the breaking ball – double to right-center. Somehow I am still in the game when his third time came up, changeup down and in, dinger …

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Geoffrey Gilbert: Structured Routine

By: Geoffrey Gilbert – June 19, 2020 Throughout this first year as a collegiate baseball player, the amount of information I have taken in is much more than I ever thought. As meetings, then fall practices began, I started a journal to log everything spoken by anyone who addressed us as surely I was not going to remember everything he or she said. Through the hectic schedule of going to classes, practices and study halls, I was able digest what I had written down every day. It allowed me to reflect on the substantial impact this information could have had on myself if I knew then, in high school, what I know now. In the college game, attention to detail is more important than it has ever been in my career. Across the board, the competition is fairly the same which makes it much harder to gain an edge on your opponent. Your opponent could be someone you are trying to beat out for playing time, or another team. Looking through this journal book, I came across many valuable notes that have allowed me to put myself in a successful position each day, but more importantly, they have helped me overcome many obstacles and failures that one faces in this game. As I entered into college, I felt like I had done a fine job of organizing priorities for each day. As days went by, I came to the realization that the only reason everything in my life up to that point had been well-organized is theoretically speaking, it was all easy. In high school, it is not often that one day is much different from another. For the most part, class times are the same, teachers make sure everyone understands what is due and when it needs to be turned in, and all practices are structured the same way. After being in college for a week or two, something needed to change. In college, every day, I have different class times and practice times. Also, I have other necessities that need to be covered such as study hall hours and nutrition. It became obvious that I needed to pay more attention to organization and structure throughout each day. To help with organization, I began to develop a daily routine. As I say “daily routine”, it often changed depending on what each day consisted of, but overall it simplified the days. As it developed, I was able to find more time in each day. This allowed for me to slow my days down and pay more attention to the smaller things. Each day I woke up at the same time, I go to class, I grab lunch, I go to the field for practice, then at night I go to study hall. The more important things that need to be covered become more evident, and you begin to fill in the smaller things you would like to accomplish that maybe you could not find time for before. Every day is like a puzzle that has many pieces that contribute to completing it. As one builds a routine, it allows those pieces to be put in much easier without forgetting other times and needs that must be met. In all aspects of a student-athletes life, organization is key. As a daily routine becomes permanent, it opens the doors to some many other things that can be taken advantage of. As I structured my days around practice times and workouts, I began to find more time that allowed me to get extra stretching, core work, or conditioning in. This is exactly what I wanted but could not find time for before. To maximize my potential, finding extra time each day was crucial to staying healthy and creating habits of success in my first year of college. Though one may feel that the days are long and the work that you put in is enough, that is far from the truth. With my routine, it took the stress of maybe forgetting about meetings or tutoring hours, and left much more time for me to get in extra dry work, drills and anything else that I felt I needed to cover to be able to compete at a high level every single day. In all areas of each day – class, practice, and other needs – a routine can open up many more areas that can allow a student-athlete to fill the gaps in other things that he or she was lacking. Finding more time in each day has a direct impact on the performance of a student-athlete. In college, the days are long, but the weeks go by quickly, and months even quicker. It is very important that one is able to structure each day in a simple manner to allow for more attention to be paid in other areas. Building a routine has directly contributed to success on and off of the field. Though it is a constant process, for me, it has slowed down each day and allowed me to put more focus in other areas I was not paying much attention to before. About the author: Clemson 2020 Freshman All-American LHP Geoffrey Gilbert was a four-time state champion at Bishop England and multi-time Player of the Year for DP, plus a member of the All-Decade Team. For his full bio, click here.

2020 & You: Now What? Part II

By: Austin Alexander – March 27, 2020 Part I Recently, we ran a piece to assist prep players in terms of how to adjust to the downtime, yet remain being prepared when the time comes to re-take the field. So, since many of the All-Decade players are still active and have time on their hands too, DP reached out to a handful of them and the question read this way, “What are you doing to stay in shape and ready, perhaps any advice you have for young players trying to do the same?” Here is the feedback we received in their words:  CJ Edwards – Seattle Mariners, RHP: Couple things I have been doing is mirror work & watching videos. And the sock drill allows you to play catch with yourself if you cannot be around others right now. You get a long baseball sock, pull it up your arm get some duct tape and tape it above bicep and you can play catch with yourself to avoid contact with others. Nick Ciuffo – Texas Rangers, C: With all the uncertainty going on in the game and in the world right now, I try to do everything I would normally do in January like I am getting ready for the season. With that being said we don’t have an official date to be back so everything will change constantly which is why a routine is going to be critical. Grayson Greiner – Detroit Tigers, C: I would tell guys to take this awful situation and use it to better yourself in everything. Work out harder, swing more, eat better, sleep better, control what you can control. No matter what stage you’re in in your career, be ready when the time comes where we can play again. I am working out every morning, hitting/throwing/catching pens in the afternoons/evenings. TJ Hopkins – Cincinnati Reds, OF: A routine. I like being in a routine where I know what I’m doing each day and at what time. And now I try to hit every day and lifting has been the hardest part. I do a bunch of lifts just in my garage because all the gyms are closed. Chris Owings – Colorado Rockies, UTL: I’m continuing as if this were January and I’m getting ready for spring training again. Just a lot different than a normal year would be. I’m doing my normal workouts but not as easy to get out with the group I normally work with in the offseason. I’m spending a lot of my time taking dry swings in the mirror, visualizing favorite swings from the past, watching old swings and doing drills to keep me ready for when baseball starts up again. Imagery- I use this a lot to prepare for games. Visualizing myself in the on deck circle telling myself & body how to get ready for my at bat. I walk to the plate and go through at bats. End the session with some of your favorite swings and the feeling of the ball jumping off your bat. Madison Stokes – Philadelphia Phillies, INF: I do a lot of core work and body weight workouts. Fortunately, I have some weights so I get to use those as well. Lots of tennis ball off the wall drills with barehand. Dry swings in the mirror to break it down and continue to make adjustments. My main advice would be to stay active as possible and avoid sitting down, worst thing for you especially when we get back into playing games. I do a lot of pilates and yoga which I find all of my stuff on YouTube. dp Fist Bump: It was such a pleasure years ago to have a front row seat in watching these guys go from prospects to professionals, teenagers to husbands and fathers too! We thank each of them for getting right back to us as a form of encouragement plus advice to the next wave of superstars.

THE Lineup!

Compiled by: DP Staff & More - April 20, 2020
Nothing in sports discussion is a more enjoyable exercise than a 'dream team' listing or ranking! But how about filling out a lineup card and every single player in High School baseball is at your disposal? For instance, what if we were putting together a lineup of all-time greats, it might look li...

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2020 & You: Now What?

By: Austin Alexander – March 19, 2020 Part II In times that we have never seen the likes of before, the question remains among us, “Now What?” We have never had all the answers and certainly do not now but if you are a player or parent of a player, you must be asking yourself what to do when there is no where to go…no cage, no catcher, no coach? In short, the hard ‘stuff’ is going to fall on YOU (the player) to stay in shape and be ready in case the bell to resume rings and you have met hardball parole. Because the MLB Network is constantly on at the dp Headquarters, some valuable information has been passed down through the fingertips writing this to you. For pitchers, Hall of Famer John Smoltz said this in a stoppage such of this on MLB: The first thing is to stay in cardio and physical shape, secondly-find a catcher that will be your best friend. Via dp chat…Catchers-Per Travis Barbary, catching instructor/Manager for AAA in LA Dodgers organization: Maintain mobility, in the hips, feet and ankles. Catch and keep your arm in shape. Via dp text…Hitters-Per Mike Hessman, hitting coach in Detroit Tigers organization: Hit, high reps, get instruction if you can, find some velo off machines if possible or etc. Condition – run, get in the gym if you can. Get creative to stay in shape! If you are a player or parent of a player, you have at least heard from people smarter than dp on what these young men need to do in the interim. Many of you have places to work out and some do not, we are just providing you options so that you are ready when the games begin again.

Covid-19 & dp

By: Austin Alexander – March 16, 2020 What a wild last week we have all experienced! From seeing sports ripped from the landscape at every level and leaving us nothing to watch on TV to the recent decisions made by the governor and school districts, this virus pandemic has affected every single person in the country. And for those of you reading this, the cancellations have interrupted baseball season, just as we were getting started. My youngest son and I were supposed to be in Arizona all this week bouncing from one Spring Training site to another, the father-son trip of a lifetime. As devasted as he remains (his dad too), we are hopeful to give it another shot in a year. My oldest son is depressed because he had gotten off to a good start, but at least he has four or more years of baseball ahead of him. However, those seniors…my heart breaks for the many of them in high school and in college playing all sports who do not have a ‘next level’ to play at, it’s potentially over and they never saw it coming. Those teams that were poised to make a serious playoff run, potentially derailed…it really is sad. Sports are a huge part of our lives recreationally, socially and professionally, so all this stinks – no doubt. For many of us athletics make the world go ‘round! BUT, the epidemic is something that the majority of us cannot wrap our minds around and must trust that those in charge are actually looking out for each of our families. The experts have more information and knowledge than we do, likely because they don’t watch sporting events as much as we do. This is a trying time for our country and for many young people that just want to resume the endeavors they have worked so hard to achieve. Our prayers should include our national/local leaders, the stamping out of this virus and that this season of our lives will be a thing of the past very soon. Perhaps we all need to pause and think about all the things we take for granted, like our families. Hustle and bustle, even with them is often a checklist of things on a crazy calendar that we build for ourselves. Maybe one positive out of this would be strengthening of household bonds, taking the time to reunite with friends and things of that nature. In the meantime, Diamond Prospects will miss seeing these young men play each night but we will continue to churn out some valuable posts, some new but also some oldies but goodies from the past until the kids compete again! Let’s face it, there is absolutely nothing we can do about which shoe is the next one to drop but we can control how we view it. As my pastor said on Sunday, we can choose to live in fear or attack the valley’s of our life with confidence. Confidence that ‘this too shall pass’ and our America Strong will thrive once more! Be safe and we hope to see you at a ballpark real soon!

The State of DP Address

By: Austin Alexander – February 12, 2020 As Diamond Prospects’ embarks upon our fifteenth prep baseball year and while the Holiday Season has now closed, a 2020 campaign awaits us! And you can tear up the papers if our predictions differ your from opinions! The purpose of this 6th annual The State of DP Address is aimed to accomplish a handful of things, mostly to inform our loyal viewers and pass out a few kudos as well. DP came into inception a few moons ago, January 2006 to be exact! All the way back then, we burst onto the scene and coaches, players and parents everywhere were thankful…all of a sudden SC high school baseball was getting attention…noticed and scouting breakdown was being giving to on-field accomplishments away from the usual local publications. This is where it becomes personal. Awesome contacts and great friends helped DP vault onto a new level! Most reading this now will never understand. Essentially there was a time when prep baseball coverage was minimal…there was a time that parental emails were thankful in that someone rolled through their facility…there was a time before social media, shocker! For what it is worth, many of our emails these days surround why we did not see a given team a half dozen times! Fifteen spring seasons ago when we emerged, folks were so pleased to have us at their game and excited about this new DP thing… Players and most parents now have never known a time before DP, and while we have raised the expectation levels of folks, coaches and scouts remember a time before Diamond Prospects existed. Through the work of an awesome staff, God’s blessing of our goals and plenty of help along the way, it’s very satisfying from my view to know that we have positively affected the landscape of high school baseball and recruiting in this state. We firmly believe that baseball in South Carolina has been advanced since 2006 through the work of so many people that helped us do our job! Our staff of very credible baseball people are deployed each spring, summer and fall to beat the bushes, hunt and fish for prospects. I remain so blessed and our state is so fortunate that we have been able to assemble such a formidable group of scouts to help push our great game of baseball forward.  As the years have moved along, several new events were added through the great ideas of many different people. Our 14th Pro Day was a couple of weeks ago and quickly became a kick-off of the high school baseball season for players, but also the scores of pro scouts that flock to Columbia each January to get an early peak at the top prospects across South Carolina. In the previous 13 Pro Day’s, 178 participants have gone on to play professional baseball…which explains why most of all 30 MLB clubs are represented most winters, averaging more than 90 scouts the past seven years! Pro Day has become a DP staff favorite over the years with all of the high rollers present to see a grouping of prospects that possess tools-galore. Added note, 61% of attendees have been drafted over the years.  The Palmetto Games is an event that has been the most identifyable that we host. It has become the all-star game in our state for the top underclassmen hailing from every corner of South Carolina, it is also a scouting bonanza. The University of South Carolina AD and then Head Coach Ray Tanner was instrumental in getting this marquee weekend off the ground back in 2008 and we have never looked back. USC has been our gracious venue each summer for scouts and college coaches to lock in on 120 players, both committed and uncommitted, as premier prospects go toe-to-toe with the best-of-the-best that the Palmetto State has to offer. The 2019 Palmetto Games marked our 12th anniversary of something we are quite proud of! In 2009, DP partnered Dynamic Baseball for our first South Atlantic Border Battle played at The College of Charleston. What a decorated cast of talent graced the diamond that year and every year since as seven players off of the original South Carolina roster have played in the MLB! The Border Battle pits the cream of the crop from the junior and senior classes as our Sandlappers square-off each fall against the top guys from North Carolina, Virginia and the Mid-Atlantic region. The 2018 fall marked the introduction of our first Futures Game for the top freshmen and sophomores across 7 states, it was huge hit as well! The alumni list from this event is deep with household names in the baseball world from the various states as we have moved the site each year between various major colleges venues and pro stadiums, eventually settling into a centrally-located home in Holly Springs, NC. In 2012, Major League Baseball partnered us and our allies to suit the players up in MLB uniforms and to be coached by professional scouts and instructors. Pro baseball’s influence at the Border Battle really did help evolve a very good event into one of the best showcase weekends in the country. Our 12th DP Developmental Fall League was another hit in 2019 as 88 teams covered the Upstate, Greater Rock Hill Leagues along with our second year in Lowcountry! Plans to include other regional leagues in 2020 exist to provide an affordable, competitive weekday opportunity to gain time on the field without burning out pitchers, also without taking away from those still playing travel ball on the weekends. The Fall League has also proven to be a weekday recruiting option for many colleges during the past nine seasons. Our All-Star sites were at Clemson, Winthrop and College of Charleston again. Over the years, our various teams have played at five minor league stadiums and on twelve different Division I campuses, in addition to dozens of high school fields. DP’s “open showcases” are our best avenue to give every player …

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Pre-Season Hall of Fame: dp’s Top Hits

By: Austin Alexander – February 12, 2006

dp_logo1.pngIt’s cold, it’s windy, it’s wet and baseball outdoors is not endearing to most people. So, quite a few players, parents and coaches are looking for something to pass the time… DP to the rescue! We went into the archives and pulled out some articles from the past that drove up hits and previous viewers enjoyed the most. Not to mention the many coaches over time that have requested the replay of what is below!

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