FORT MYERS, Fla. – By the time the 14th annual Perfect Game National Showcase reaches its conclusion at some point on Monday, hundreds of scouts and college recruiters will have had the opportunity to scrutinize and evaluate the abilities of more than 325 top prospects from the high school class of 2015.
The incoming seniors who attended came in all shapes and sizes, from states all across the country – as well as Canada and Puerto Rico – and shared a love of all things baseball.
Because they are all exceptional athletes, most were pursuing other sports when they entered their high school years – some continue to do so – only to focus on baseball when they realized it was the one at which they excelled and the one that would present the most opportunities.
One of the top prospects in the entire country is also one of those guys who had always been a multi-sport athlete until just recently. Kyle Dean, a 6-foot-2, 205-pound elite outfielder who calls San Diego home and just completed his junior year at Poway (Calif.) High School, was at the PG National Showcase Sunday and Monday, eager to show people he made the right decision when as a freshman he decided to concentrate the majority of his efforts on baseball.
“It’s always good to kind of rank yourself (against others),” Dean said after playing in first showcase game Sunday morning at JetBlue Park. “In your own personal rankings you might think that guy is a great pitcher and you try to get to know the talent that is outside of your own high or your own league. It’s great to get out and see everybody in the nation, and internationally, also.
“You meet all these people that have the same dream as you to play professional baseball or play D-I – obviously, everyone wants to play professionally – it’s great to just know that everybody’s working hard and that there are people out there that dedicated just like you are,” he said.
Every prospect has his own reasons for accepting the exclusive invitation to the PG National Showcase. Most cite the need to seek out the best competition in the country, renew friendships and show the scouting community how much their games have improved since the last time they were seen. And there is also the possibility of being selected to participate in this year’s PG All-American Classic in San Diego the second week of August.
“I know he wants the opportunity to play at Petco Park in his hometown of San Diego and represent San Diego County,” Kyle’s father, Alan Dean, said Sunday morning. “This is an event that we’ve had marked on our calendars for years.”
The rosters for this year’s Classic won’t be officially announced until July 20. It’s also worth noting that Dean is a University of San Diego commit.
“You know (the PG National) is going to be huge; it’s always going to be a top-notch showcase,” Kyle Dean said. “You know the people you are playing against or with are the best of the best in the nation, so you have to come out here and prove to yourself that where ever you’re from, you’re the best. Obviously, everybody wants to play in that All-American game and that’s the ultimate goal.”
Playing in the California Interscholastic Federation (CIF) San Diego Section has prepared Dean well for facing competition from the rest of the country. It is the same CIF Section that produced Brady Aiken and Alex Jackson, the Nos. 1 and 6 overall picks in the first round of this year’s MLB June Amateur Draft.
Dean – ranked the No. 19 overall national prospect and No.5 outfielder in his class – is coming off a stellar junior season at Poway HS when he hit .355 (39-for-110) with eight doubles, a triple and five home runs; he drove in 25 runs, scored 26 and posted a 1.023 OPS.
In his first three years on the Poway varsity, Dean hit a combined .317 with 17 doubles, 10 triples, seven home runs, 61 RBI and 61 runs. Every spring, for three straight springs, Dean’s numbers have improved.
“Every year you should be getting better; if you’re not getting better you’re getting worse,” he said. “Every year you always learn something – last year I didn’t do this or I didn’t do that and then you work on it during the offseason. The numbers have improved but I’m not in the pros yet so there is obviously a lot of stuff that I need to be working on.”
This is Dean’s seventh PG event since he debuted at the 2013 16u Perfect Game MLK Championship in Glendale, Ariz., playing for Garciaparra Baseball Group and was named the tournament’s Most Valuable Player. He was later named to the all-tournament team at the 2013 Perfect Game/EvoShield National Championship (Underclass) in Goodyear, Ariz., playing with the SACSN National Team.
Dean had three hits in the championship game at the 2013 16u PG MLK Championship – a 6-1 victory over the AZ Prowlers – and finished the tournament 7-for-13 (.538) with a triple, four RBI, five runs scored, a .667 on-base percentage and a 1.350 OPS; he also stole three bases.
“There are so many events with Perfect Game that if you haven’t been seen (by scouts or college recruiters) it’s kind of your own fault,” Dean said. “It was really good to start off strong and get my name out there. Martin Luther King is a great tournament by itself and it just so happened that I had a great tournament.”
The 17-year-old Dean was a four-sport athlete until just recently, actively pursuing baseball, basketball, soccer and track. He didn’t narrow it down to baseball until he was 15-years-old and was named to the USA Baseball 15u National Team. In that respect, he feels a little behind his peers that are here this weekend.
“I’m still learning more than anybody out here,” he said. “This is my first PG showcase, so I still have a lot to prove.”
Dean continues to run track, and while he acknowledges missing both soccer and basketball, he’s confident he made the right choice in terms of what’s best for his future. He still believes his participation in those other sports was beneficial in the long run.
“I wanted to become an (overall) athlete and my dad wanted to make sure I was an athlete before I chose baseball,” Dean said. “In soccer you have to run, track you’re always running and basketball you need agility – all the sports correlate to baseball with the (fundamental) things. Obviously, there is the competiveness – winning in every sport is always the goal – you’re not going to go into a tournament and try to get second; you’re always going to try to win.
“(Playing four sports) really helped me a lot but I’m really thankful that I chose baseball because I guess I can play a little bit.” It’s worth noting that his voice softened considerably when he uttered those last seven words, his humility definitely showing through.
“It was really important for me for him to play all sports as a kid,” his father, Alan, said. “A lot of coaches did not like me because they wanted him to be a one-sport athlete and my opinion was I wanted him to be in multiple sports; at some point in time you could pick and choose a sport. I’m glad I did what I did because I think without it he wouldn’t be where he is at today.”
And then there is the whole San Diego stereotype, which in Dean’s case applies perfectly. On the rare occasions that he is home during the summer he is either working out or he’s at the beach, and sometimes he even works out at the beach. And what about surfing?
“I do it a little bit,” he said with laugh, “but I’m not home enough to get good at it. So whenever I go out I’m really bad at it so I never had time to get good at it in the first place. But that’s OK.”
After experiencing the PG National’s workout session and playing in the first of his three games Sunday morning (a second game scheduled for Sunday afternoon was pushed back well into the evening after a lengthy afternoon rain/lightning delay), Dean was already talking about all the new people he had met. He called it “cool” to meet other ballplayers from all across the country and hear their stories.
He ran a 6.88-second 60-yard dash and threw 90 miles-per-hour from the outfield during the workouts and smoked a double that one-hopped to the Green Monster in left-center during the game.
“This is the first showcase he’s been to,” Alan said. “I could see he was nervous out there. I think he was a little disappointed with his 60 (yard dash) time and during BP he was a little nervous, I could tell. After his first at-bat (in a game) I think he settled in and I think he’s going to be fine. I think this will help him with other events in the future.
“It’s been an enjoyable time and who knows how this story is going to end but I’m just going to keep watching it and hopefully everything turns out well.”