AUSTIN, Texas – Just about a half hour into one of the tournament opening pool-play games at the WWBA South Qualifier on Saturday morning, top prospect Courtney Hawkins put in his bid for tournament MVP.
It was just the bottom of the second but Hawkins, a 6-foot-3, 210-pound senior outfielder and right-handed pitcher at Carroll High School in Corpus Christi, Texas, was already batting for the second time in the Houston Banditos Black South Qualifier opener against the Diamond Dawgs.
In his first at-bat, Hawkins, hitting cleanup, walked with the bases loaded to drive in a run and eventually scored by stealing home. When he walked to the plate for his second at-bat the bases were loaded once again.
There would be no walk this time.
Hawkins, a right-handed hitter, took an offering from Diamond Dawgs right-hander Justin Penney and promptly smashed an opposite field grand slam to give the Banditos an 8-0 lead en route to a 13-5 win.
It’s his flashes of power, his patience at the plate, his 6.62-second 60-yard dash speed, his range in the outfield, his 91 mph throw from the outfield and his 91 mph fastball from the pitcher’s mound that have catapulted Hawkins up the Perfect Game national rankings. Coming into the WWBA South Qualifier, he is the No. 15-ranked national prospect – the No. 3-ranked outfielder – and No. 3 in the state of Texas.
And on top of all that, what makes may make Hawkins even more appealing is the pure joy with which he seems to play the game. A smile is never far from his face.
“Courtney is just an outstanding young guy,” Houston Banditos Black owner/head coach Ray DeLeon said at McNeil High School before his team’s game against the Diamond Dawgs. “Sometimes I have to tone him down because he has too much fun. He’s just a happy go-lucky guy and he’s just exactly what big leaguers act like. When it’s time to go, he goes, and he just has a good time doing it.”
Hawkins jumped onto Perfect Game’s radar screen when he first played in the 2009 PG WWBA 2012 Grads or 15u National Championship in Marietta, Ga., with the Houston Banditos Black 15u squad. He went on to play in six more PG WWBA tournaments and two BCS Finals events with the Banditos.
He was invited to participate in the 2010 Perfect Game Junior National Showcase in St. Petersburg, Fla., and earned a “10” rating, PG’s highest. And then things really fell into place this summer.
Hawkins’ first stop in 2011 was at the prestigious Perfect Game National Showcase in Fort Myers, Fla., in mid-June and he then played with the Banditos at the PG WWBA 2012 Grads or 17u National Championship back in Marietta. After that it was the 2011 Area Code Games in Long Beach, Calif., in early August which in turn led into the biggest prize of all.
Hawkins had been invited to play in the nationally televised Perfect Game All-American Classic in San Diego on Aug. 14.
“My summer went great,” Hawkins said Saturday morning. “Most of the stuff I’ve always wanted to do I got done during the summer. My dreams came true, I produced a little a bit, and I was happy with how it went.
“It was a busy summer. I don’t think I was home for more than a week the whole summer.”
When asked to be a little more specific about his summer travels, Hawkins opened up a bit.
“National went good. It started out a little rough but then it ended real good. That’s where I got my invite (to the PG All-American Classic),” he said. “From there, I went to the Area Codes and finished up good and I had a good tournament, and I followed that up with the All-American game. My first at-bat I got a double, so I was pretty happy.”
His experience at the Perfect Game All-American Classic will be a life-long memory.
“It was amazing,” Hawkins said. “A lot of the stuff that we did you wouldn’t think you would be able to do all that around just a baseball (event). The stuff they had for us and all the gear we got, the whole thing overall was legit.”
By spending the summer playing with and against the country’s best high school players, Hawkins said he feels like he’s shown some improvement but added a caveat. “I definitely found out some things I need to fix this upcoming year,” he said.
Hawkins’ 2011 fall season won’t end when the WWBA South Qualifier concludes on Monday. The Perfect Game WWBA World Championship in Jupiter, Fla., is just three weeks away (Oct. 20-24) and Hawkins will be making his second straight trip to that prestigious tournament along with most of his Houston Banditos Black teammates. That event will give the hundreds of pro scouts in attendance another opportunity to check out Hawkins’ talents.
Hawkins has verbally committed to play college baseball for coach Sunny Golloway at the University of Oklahoma. The decision to become a Sooner was somewhat unexpected, even in Hawkins’ own way of thinking.
“It kind of came out of nowhere,” he said. “I was leaning towards ‘Bama, LSU and a couple of other schools and OU came out of nowhere. I liked the way they approached me, the coaches were cool and just overall it felt good, so that’s where I had to go.
“I’m definitely looking forward to being a Sooner.”
Hawkins said he will continue to both play outfield and pitch during his final season of high school ball and hopes to continue to do both in college, if that’s where he winds up. There is a real possibility Hawkins could be selected in an early round of the 2012 MLB First-Year Player Draft.
“Of course it’s always in the back part of my mind as sort of a dream, but college has always been a big thing for me,” Hawkins said of the draft. “Whatever happens (with the draft) happens, but I’m excited for college.”
All those decisions will be made in due time. In the meantime, Hawkins will go about his business, more than likely smiling all the way.
“I’ve never seen Courtney get down ever,” DeLeon said. “He’s always up and he’s always been the type of kid that handles failure well. And that’s the key for any professional baseball player or high school or college player – if you handle your failure well you’ve got a chance to make it in this game, and he handles it better than anyone I know.”