On baseball game days at Roncalli, assistant athletic director Jason Sims arrives at LaPinta Field in the early afternoon, several hours ahead of game time to prepare the field.
In normal circumstances, Sims would work alone until the players strolled over after school to take batting practice. Not this season. On a given day, there are usually 10-12 middle-aged men hanging around LaPinta Field.
“Sometimes they want to chat,” Sims said. “I say, ‘Guys, I have to get the field ready.’”
The men milling around the baseball field are big league scouts, killing time before watching Nick Schnell take batting practice. On Tuesday afternoon, prior to Roncalli’s game against Guerin Catholic, there are scouts there from the Seattle Mariners, New York Mets and several other teams there to see the five-tool center fielder.
Schnell doesn’t disappoint. After a few warm-up swings off the batting tee, the smooth left-handed hitter sprays line drives to every part of the field as Florida Georgia Line blares over the loudspeakers. One ball bangs off the fence in left-center field. The next lands in the grass beyond right field. Another laser jumps off his bat down the right-field line.
“The kid is born to play baseball for a career,” Roncalli coach Aaron Kroll said.
Schnell, at 6-2 and 180 pounds, will get the chance to make baseball his career sooner than later. Schnell, who turned 18 on March 27, is expected to go somewhere in the first three rounds of the Major League Baseball draft early next month. In its latest mock draft, Baseball America has Schnell going to the Tampa Bay Rays with the No. 31 overall pick.
MLB.com currently has Schnell projected as the No. 47 overall draft prospect, which would make him an early second-round selection (the first 43 first round and compensatory picks will be broadcast on the MLB Network on June 4). Baseball America ranks him as the second-best high school hitter coming into the draft.
“No. 1, he’s an athlete,” said Nathan Rode, a national supervisor for Prep Baseball Report. “When he walks on the field, you can see how easily he moves and how athletic he is. Baseball is a difficult game, but as he gains experience, his skill and ability will only continue to climb.”