FORT MYERS, Fla. –It wouldn’t be difficult for a soft but well-spoken young man like Lilburn, Ga., outfielder Josh Hart to get lost in the shuffle among the elite talent that comes out of the East Cobb Baseball operation every year.
But Hart refuses to get lost in that shuffle. And he’s remained in the front of the minds of college coaches and professional scouts by getting involved with everything East Cobb and Perfect Game has to offer in terms of exposure and opportunities to perform.
Hart, a 6-foot-2, 175-pound junior at Parkview High School in Lilburn with a smooth left-handed swing, was at the Boston Red Sox Player Development 5-Plex Wednesday morning to participate in the 2011 Perfect Game National Underclass Showcase-Main Event. It marked the 17th Perfect Game event Hart has participated in since he first played for the East Cobb Astros 14u squad at the 2009 WWBA 2013 Grads or 14u National Championship.
Hart, who turned 17 in October and has verbally committed to continue his baseball career at Georgia Tech, is definitely a PG veteran. With 17 events under his belt and counting, he sees no reason to slow down now.
“I think there’s more room to improve, physically and mentally,” Hart said Wednesday before his PG 2-Texas Orange team played its first game at the National Underclass-Main event. “I’m working on both of those things, staying focused and keeping my mental thoughts in the game. Right now, I think it’s working pretty good … and if you can pick up some of the little things, those can help you even more than the big things.”
This marks the second straight year Hart has attended this event. His total PG event tally includes 10 PG WWBA tournaments and two PG BCS Finals with various East Cobb Teams, including the 2011 WWBA World Championship with the East Cobb Astros and the 2011 PG WWBA Underclass World Championship with the East Cobb Braves.
“We attend a lot of them,” Hart said with a laugh. “Since it’s East Cobb, you’ve got to perform because everybody’s done it before you. And from my perspective, as an individual, I’m more of a team captain and I have to show up (ready to lead) basically every game, and I think it’s working pretty good.”
Hart’s individual PG showcase events include the 2010 PG National Underclass Showcase-Main Event and the 2011 PG National Games-Class of 2013 held this August in San Diego. He likes doing both the showcases and the tournaments.
“I don’t see any difference,” Hart said. “You’re working on your (skills) and where you stand right now – we do infield, outfield, BP. But after that it’s back for the team and the games.”
After attending the PG National Games-Class of 2013, a PG scout offered the following assessment:
“Slender live-bodied build, lots of room to get stronger. Polished leadoff-type hitter, very patient and will work walks. … Very good outfield range, playable arm strength, very accurate throws.”
The report also mentions that he is a “good student” as his high school GPA of 3.2 attests. His interest in schoolwork proved beneficial to Georgia Tech’s efforts to land him in Atlanta.
“That whole environment and they have a great baseball program,” Hart said. “Plus, I just love the whole site – the coaching staff they’re like family. And outside of baseball, I kind of want to get into business and marketing, and I’m pretty good at physics too, so I’m looking into that.”
Playing within the East Cobb Baseball organization, Hart is constantly surrounded by top-notch talent, including showcase events where East Cobb often sends entire team units. The PG 2-Texas Orange that Hart is playing with this week complements the PG 7-Texas Orange that features so many other East Cobb top prospects.
Third baseman Travis Demeritte, the nation’s No. 8-ranked prospect in the 2013 class, isn’t here this week but played with Hart on the top-ranked East Cobb Braves at this year’s PG WWBA Underclass World Championship.
Another guy who gets a lot of notice is first baseman Jacob Heyward, the younger brother of big-leaguer Jason Heyward of the Atlanta Braves and the nation’s No. 68-ranked prospect. Jacob Heyward is on the PG 7-Texas Orange squad along with 2014 stud OF/1B Kel Johnson – ranked 41st nationally in his class – and 2015 Dazmon Cameron, an outfielder who is the son of big-leaguer Mike Cameron.
Hart, the nation’s No. 31-ranked prospect in the 2013 class, is joined on the PG 2-Texas Orange roster by top 2013 right-hander Hunter Anglin, 2014 righty Blake Hamilton and 2014 left-hander Andrew Maxwell. All of these guys played on one of the two teams East Cobb sent to the PG WWBA World Championship in Jupiter, Fla., in October.
“Being surrounded by these other great players brings out the best in me, too,” Hart said. “They’re superior, they’re high caliber – I learn from them and they learn from me and it works like that and I think it’s working out pretty good so far. This summer me and Travis were on the East Cobb Braves and we had a talk – ‘Give me some advice and I’ll help you out with adjustments before the game.’”
Hart plans on continuing to play for East Cobb Baseball in Perfect Game events throughout 2012 and the first few months of 2013. It’s quite possible his two-year total of 17 PG events could double by the time he graduates from high school in May of 2013. He will always remain grateful that he was invited to become a part of the East Cobb family.
“It’s an opportunity and a privilege, and if you have that talent, they’ll find you,” he said. “It will give you a lot of exposure – there are a lot of scouts coming thought and we go to a lot of big (Perfect Game) tournaments, such as this one, you know? It’s a good feeling being on the team.”
And as a “seasoned” 17-year-old veteran, Hart will continue to see incomparable value at events like this week’s PG National Underclass-Main Event.
“I’m trying to see where my abilities are right now,” Hart said. “You see a lot of high caliber pitching (here) and you’ve got to get ready for high school-ball pitching. Plus, just getting together – it’s the last time seeing your friends until summer – and get better and progress on the way.”
And never get lost in the shuffle.