Each time the area’s best players step on the field this summer, they know it could be the day that brings their future clearer into view.
That initially scared Payton Booth. In the past few years, however, Booth, who will be a senior at Heath this fall, has attended several showcases and prospect camps to become accustomed to the idea of his every move on the diamond being watched.
“It definitely has made me more comfortable around those things because I remember the first time I went to a showcase it really did freak me out, seeing all of the guns and everybody paying attention to every little thing you do,” Booth said. “You have to get comfortable with that, especially going to these bigger tournaments and having all eyes on you and not knowing who may be watching.”
Booth, like so many of his classmates in Licking County, is playing on a top team in central Ohio in hopes of gaining notice from college coaches.
Many of Booth’s teammates on the Midwest Marlins, which is an 18U team, are already signed, sealed and delivered to their college programs. While those graduated players are enjoying a summer in the sun, Booth is doing his best to jump onto and stay on the radar as a pitcher or third baseman.
“It seems like everybody on that team is a leader, which is great,” said Booth, whose teammates include Heath’s Zac Morris, Licking Valley’s Drew Morrison, Bloom-Carroll’s Sam Bordner and Bishop Watterson’s Jacob Bolton.
“It is just fantastic. It is indescribable, really. I have been getting looks from schools here and there, but nothing real serious yet, so I am just learning little tips and tricks from them.”
Chad Dennis and Bob Jurden have been coaching their sons’ team in the Licking County Athletics organization since 2011. Dennis had this summer in the back of his mind as his sons Jacob and Cody, Valley seniors who each recently committed to powerhouse Sinclair Community College, now play for the 17U Athletics.
The A’s played in some of the top tournaments in Ohio this summer, competing and holding their own against powerful teams such as the Lake Erie Bulldogs and the East Cobb Braves. Many of the A’s, like Booth, have participated in scouting events such as those run by Prep Baseball Report and Ohio Elite Baseball, and Chad Dennis said it has paid off.
“They try to ignore it, but there’s no doubt that they see some guys in the stands right behind home plate with the guns out,” he said. “That gets their attention, but most of our kids, especially those throwing for us now, have been at PBR events where there is anywhere from 30 scouts to the Top Prospect Games where there are 140 guns pointing at them. They do a pretty good job of blocking that out.”
Utica’s Jimmy Crabtree has been able to relax a bit more than his classmates. Crabtree committed to Kent State a year ago, so his summer has been spent re-establishing himself as a top two-way player in Ohio.
Crabtree is recovered from shoulder tendinitis, which limited him to one pitching appearance during the spring, and he helped the Midwest MOB 17U to tournament titles each of the past two weekends.
Crabtree threw five shutout innings against the Niagara Eagles in the title game of the Pastime 17U national championships, and he threw a no-hitter in this past weekend’s Liberty Cup 17U championships in Lynchburg, Virginia.
“My stuff has been there, and my velocity is getting back to where it was,” said Crabtree, whose teammates include Valley’s Jaqui VanMeter and Granville’s Sam Stewart and Peyton Ley. “I am starting to get batters out a lot easier.”
The Marlins play in the Perfect Game EvoShield Classic in Emerson, Georgia at the end of the month, and who knows? That might be the weekend Booth’s life changes.
He must be ready for anything.
“Somebody asked me, ‘Could you imagine yourself going to the baseball field without your bat?’ ” Booth said. “I didn’t really think about it that hard until that moment. It is not going to be like high school anymore.”
Of course, if it does not happen, he will keep working for his next opportunity. That is the only way to survive.
“I just try to let them know it is really not that big of a deal,” Crabtree said. “If you mess up once, they probably are going to come see you again. Don’t let it get the best of you.”