Traveling to Jupiter, Florida didn’t require a spacesuit or freeze-dried ice cream, but what I saw over the weekend of March 7-11 was somewhat interplanetary. A massive travel baseball tournament field featuring MLB’s next class of draft-eligible stars using wood bats where it was my job to film as much of the exciting action as I could fit on my rotation of camera batteries.
Talking and living baseball every day of my life, I was open to this type of atmosphere but what I found was more baseball knowledge than I ever could have expected. Golf carts parked hundreds deep with radar guns pointed towards the hurling high teens was an environment more enjoyable than an amusement park. And the stories that these pro ball lifers had to tell about guys I’d heard of and looked up to, it was what academics think college is supposed to be. I was in heaven, and that was before Mark McGwire (yes, THAT one)brushed my arm aside trying to film his son Carson from behind the backstop.
A friend of a friend turned me on to the opportunity to be a baseball lifer and a Florida resident. I contacted the owner of a scouting service, answered a few questions, and prepared for seeing a part of the sport I’d never encountered but always been curious of. Are these 17/18-year-old stars really great at the game and do they distinctly separate themselves from peers?
There was so much action on such a large campus that 2 cameras wouldn’t be enough, I had to try and find help before even arriving. I hooked up with a baseball friend on that side of the state and our small but damn good team was assembled.
Getting to the venue and seeing the scene was intimidating. Lots of scouts, MLB front office execs, and agents trying to see the best players and start relationships were surrounding us but we had to get to work and start recording the action. Quickly we divided up the days and set out to fill the cameras with windups and base hits so the info we provided would be first-hand.
It was awesome! So many talented baseball players on every field. Some teams are officially sponsored by major league clubs (don’t ask me to go into the definition of sponsored)so they wear the same hats and uniforms as the big leaguers. I saw Dodgers Blue, Brewers Yellow but the Padres Brown was the smoothest fit out there. The top of the 2022 draft class was represented too.
Andruw Jones’ son Druw is looking like a match for the top overall pick and his 1st game was pushed back by rain. Watching him pre-game and seeing his size and movement ability before even holding a bat you can sense he’s an elite baseball performer. Once he gets moving he’s a force full of focus and charisma. He’s a star. But Terrmarr Johnson over on another field is lacing game-winning hits through tight infield holes and showing a hit tool that is through the roof…..Maybe he’s the top selection?
From the jump my head was spinning. Shaking hands, finding people who know me from social media, and meeting parents proud to boast on their kids’ college choices were some of my favorite activities over there but talking baseball with pros was a true privilege. My co-worker and I carried it over when we left, stopping to eat and review past drafts to test our recall. It was all we could do to keep the baseball vibes going.
A team that stood out featured former big-league Matt Holliday’s son Jackson at SS. Jackson is about 5-11 and he was in the lineup in between two hitters about 6-4. Jalen Hylton and Grayson Smith are multi-position players who can execute like grown men. Their baseball movements and timing are otherworldly. These kids are about to get drafted and paid. I couldn’t believe that this is how this process actually happens.
I posted a video of some action and in minutes agents and reps from pro teams were messaging me, asking for a film of this recruit or telling me who’s scheduled to pitch on which field. Finally, I was the eyes of people who were far away but wanted to see what I was being paid to film. I was happy to adjust if I could but had a schedule and a list of daily priorities.
This was the most fun thing I’ve ever done and called it ‘work’ so far in my life. After one day, my positioning and focus improved immensely so it was easy to get into a pattern knowing what my boss was looking for and how he was planning on utilizing it.
The tournament continued and on the final day, we filmed and left. It was an exhausting few days with not much time to sleep or regroup but I was on a baseball cloud 9 the entire time. Not really able to care about the gas I used or the hotel being loud and dirty, all I can think about is how lucky I was to see some of these players. Now I don’t have to rely on secondhand scouting or videos to make my guesses on these guys as they mature and grow in the game. I can’t wait until the next showcase and will be looking back through my 2021 program often. Looking back it was an outstanding and educational opportunity, I’m glad o could share it with you. Also, it’s open to the public so I’ll see you there next year.