Talent + scouts = fun; Chilly but baseball season is here!
By: Austin Alexander - January 30, 2021
Saturday was another banner day for high school baseball, prep players, pro scouts and Diamond Prospects! For the first time, Columbia's Blowfish Stadium played host to our most enjoyable event of the year, the 15th Annual Lon Joyce Pro Day! Originally scheduled for January 31, Sunday's forecast showed a 100% chance of rain so we made a decision 72 hours in advance to roll the dice a day sooner. Though we had to brave typical winter temps, every single component of a successful showcase collided just in time...Heaven shined on us and all 30 Major League clubs were represented, a top-tier facility and talent on the roster commanded attention too... plus we serviced each player in a tidy 3 hours and 02 minutes. It was a great day to be back on a baseball diamond!
DP's Pro Day has a very decorated list of players over its decade plus history, 179 performers from this event have been drafted, many of which are still presently playing professional baseball, 19 Big Leaguer's once wore this same jersey, likely with all of the same nerves and anticipation as this year's crop. There is a good chance that 2021's field will add to the growing total of success stories.
With around 75+ scouts and MLB video veteran Christie Wood plus coaches huddled around a lane, we fired off the 60's at 10:00 AM and 10 players shot through the finish line under 7.0 seconds; Dutch Fork 2021 Evan Stone (6.75), pictured above edged out Legion Collegiate 2020 Cody Craig (6.85) to take top honors in this category on the thawed out grass.
Another aspect we began two years ago is putting the radar gun on defensive player's throws. The top outfield bolt came from Stone at 92 MPH. The top velocity during the infield portion was turned in by Billy Amick (2021, King Academy), left, and David Lewis (2021, Blue Ridge), both registered 87 MPH across the diamond.
The catchers were also a group that did not disappoint as three of them registering a time under 2.00 seconds. Junior Jacob Jarrell, (P27 Academy) won their popping contest shooting a 1.97...
Then the part we enjoy the most! High school hitters holding wood in the cold is not always the most endearing of acts to witness, not so at Pro Day!
Fortunately this year's weather permitted us to hit on the field again as Clemson-bound seniors Tristan Bissetta (JL Mann), right, and Amick put on an exhibition with their lumber and were just two of the young men losing baseballs at the spacious Blowfish Stadium! But they were not alone as ball after ball was deposited out of play. Many more guys stepped in and found the barrel at a high rate; Noah Carter (2021, Lake View), Tucker Toman (Hammond, 2022), Garrett Dill (Greer, 2021) and PJ Morlando (Summerville, 2024) to name a few. DP Disclaimer: The names in this category could be far longer. Please see video when available. DP Note I: We originally lost an estimated 100+ baseballs due to the power display, but well-worth the laser show...DP Note II: We raided the woods afterwards and retrieved about half of them, some were too deep in the forest!
The bullpens are what normally pull in quite a few cross-checkers, and even a couple of scouting directors in some years. With a minimal list of invited arms in 2021, we went one at a time on the live mound and a steady stream of upper-80's fastballs blew in, per usual. After former 6'8" MLB right-hander Max Povse (right) led off the parade of arm talent, one legit guy after another took the mound to impress our new present - Rapsodo! P27 senior Roman Kimball (upper left) was the cream of the crop sitting at 92-93 and impressing the analytics with high spin rates! Daniel Brooks (Bishop England, 2021), left, traded in his hoops sneakers from the night before for spikes and was also 92-93 and just barely took the silver medal with his Rapsodo results.
Kimball, Brooks and Billy Barlow (2021, N. Myrtle Beach) sort of ran away with the best overall 'stuff' this year, never throwing a fastball under 90 and filling up the zone with plus breaking balls with late movement and command...In all, on Saturday 11 different guys eclipsed the 88 MPH barrier, 2 more hit 87. Six total moundsmen touched 90 MPH or better...not too shabby for a very cool January morning on the Eve of prep practice!
The usual prospects showed up and served as the cornerstone to another successful event, but the new names to pro scouts pushed Pro Day into what we'd consider as very productive day for high school baseball in South Carolina, again, and that is the goal!
Lon Joyce Remembered: If you have followed DP in the past two months, you have learned of Lon Joyce's recent passing and the impact he made in baseball and on yours truly. While we have had 14 other Pro Day's, we have never had one without "21" until this year. Well, we have now named this event after him and even on a cold January day, his widow Reada and grandson Logan made the trip to sit in on this event and later deposited some of his ashes on the field to honor him. While he was sorely missed, at least his family kept the streak alive and this amazing family will always be welcome at anything DP-related!
AA Appreciates... At so many of our showcases, I am often told by coaches/scouts and some parents how well-run, well-organized, etc our events are, and typically they praise me personally - and that is much-appreciated. BUT, what you see at any DP event are the fruits of labor from so many awesome people that have their fingerprints on anything we do. As with any xyz, quality humans are imperative to any successful operation, we are no different. Selfishly I do believe our execution of a gameplan is a well-oiled machine, but only because of the folks there and behind the scenes too! This year we lost four staff members the day before, due to various reasons, but just like any successful team, quality reinforcements immediately said YES so that the show could go on! So again, I want to publicly acknowledge my sincere appreciation of the legit guys and gals that I have been blessed enough to insulate myself with. Well-done DP family, together we are leaving our stamp on the futures of young men and a great sport!
DP Fist Bump: A special thanks is in order to Blowfish owner Bill Shanahan andLexington Recreation's Tommy Frazier & staff, two men that have been extremely supportive of DP over the past few months. They welcomed us in November for our Fall Showcase and opened their gates to us again this weekend. Every request of ours and more was met by these men and the Blowfish organization, they even left us the keys to their doors for our DP staff on Sunday morning as we rounded out our player/team rankings. In a year where it's been difficult to find quality venues to play baseball, we are eternally grateful for the opportunity to head down Ball Park Road!