Merritt Island baseball coach Greg Plecki has driven by the school’s batting cage more than one late night and seen shortstop Brady McConnell, working in the batting cage, his dad there to help.
While any extra work can help to improve an athlete’s game, it’s the reason he takes the time that sets his senior apart, in Plecki’s mind.
“He’s a talented kid to begin with, but he’s so competitive. That’s something that gets lost a bit in sports right now. The actual development of kids has taken a back seat to the goal of getting a scholarship.”
In McConnell’s case, and in the case of junior teammate Mason Denaburg, the personal development has assured a scholarship won’t be a problem. In fact, the Major League Baseball draft may be the only thing between the two Mustangs and playing for the Florida Gators. McConnell, a senior, has already signed, and Denaburg has committed to join him a year later.
Denaburg was hitting .393 with six doubles through eight games. He’s played most positions on the field but was seen mostly as a catcher until he began to find a rhythm on the mound.
McConnell, a shortstop with a .323 average, four doubles and six RBIs, was described by Plecki as “one of the most skilled defensive shortstops I’ve seen in my eight or nine years of coaching.”
He was named to the 20-member All-USA baseball team announced in USA Today last month, and McConnell was No. 19 on the Baseball America preseason list of the top 100 draft prospects. Viera’s Christian Robinson, at No. 48, gave Brevard two in the top 50.
Though he could be a high draft pick in June, but McConnell said he doesn’t pay much attention to talk of draft position.
“Growing up, Florida’s always been my favorite school. I’ve been around the program, going to camps since I was 8 years old, and I love (coach Kevin O’Sullivan).”
In reference to baseball tools, Plecki said McConnell has “got all of them. There’s not a whole lot Brady can’t do on the field.”
McConnell listed his range and his footwork as talents that suit him to shortstop. Through preseason training, he focused on gaining strength. He’s gained 15 pounds since the summer, and it has made a difference.
“I’ve noticed a big change in how the ball’s coming off the bat,” McConnell said. “Throwing in the hole has been easier.”
Like his older teammate, Denaburg has a range of talents. He’s been interested in Florida athletics since the age of 6 or 7, and he’s been a top athlete just about that long. Whether baseball, football or soccer, Denaburg can play it.
“Ever since I was old enough to play sports, my dad wanted me to try different things,” he said. “The only thing was he wanted me to finish what I started.”
For the Mustangs football team, he’s been a kicker, punter, quarterback and receiver, and he’s been one of Brevard’s most reliable weapons in the kicking game for years.
On the diamond, he’s played all over. Though he said catching is still his preferred pursuit for now, his affection for pitching has increased as his grasp of it has improved.
“Two years ago, you would have said he’s a definite catcher, but now I’ve learned how to throw strikes,” he said. “I started to like pitching more this summer.”
Already a phenom, Denaburg has been affected by what he’s seen of his older teammate.
“He’s one of the most hard-working kids I’ve ever seen. It’s cool to watch him do the things he can do.”
Contact McCallum at 321-242-3698 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow facebook.com/FLtoday.brianmccallum and @Brian_McCallum on Twitter.