FORT MYERS, Fla. – Shane Stout could be easily spotted at the Boston Red Sox Player Development 5-Plex during the three-days the Perfect Game National Underclass Showcase-Main Event ran in late December.
Stout’s a stocky, kind of nondescript sort of fellow, but was easily recognizable by the IP cap he never took off and the shoulder bag with the Indiana Prospects name embroidered on the flap that he seemingly never put down.
There was something else that was ever-present on Stout’s person: A big, bold national championship ring he earned while coaching the Indiana Prospects 15u squad to the 2010 PG 15u BCS Finals title. The Prospects 15u became the first team from a northern state to win the 15u BCS Finals championship and also the first team from Indiana to win any Perfect Game national championship.
“We had done other events in the past and that was our first experience with Perfect Game,” Stout said before last summer’s 15u BCS Finals, or about a year after the championship was won. “I'd always heard the stories about the competition and that's where you need to (go) to get your kids in front of some of these college coaches.”
Since that championship season in 2010, Stout – the Prospects’ director of operations – and the Indiana Prospects have become regulars at Perfect Game WWBA National Championships and BCS Finals. Stout was on a scouting mission in southwest Florida Dec. 28-30, looking for prospects to bolster what should be one of the nation’s top 17u rosters in 2012.
As Stout stood under the bright Florida sunshine on a chilly late December morning, he spoke with Perfect Game about finding kids who will be the right fit for the organization in 2012 and beyond.
“I’ll look at the kids and I’ll talk to the parents because we don’t have a lot of egos on our team – the kids get along and the parents get along,” Stout said. “The whole package has to be right for the Indiana Prospects. Mark Peters, who actually founded the organization, set the precedent that we shake the umpires’ hands whether we win or lose. We don’t go around with our hats on backwards, and we just try to teach our kids to do the right things.
“We’re keeping our foot down. We’re hoping that we’ve got kids that are going to be drafted.”
The Indiana Prospects organization has entered its ninth year of operation in 2012 and its goals and aspirations continue to increase with each passing year.
“It started out trying to compete on a national level, but doing it with Indiana kids,” Stout said. “It’s tough to compete just based in that area so we’ve kind of broadened things out.
“We got to the point where we saw some of the best players were going to the best teams to play, and we had to make a decision on going to the biggest tournaments, the best tournaments and that’s when we made the jump to going to Perfect Game (events),” he continued. “By winning the national championship, that just helps with your recruiting.”
All but one of the players on the Prospects’ 15u roster that won the 2010 BCS Finals championship returned to the organization this past summer and 13 of them were on both the Indiana Prospects 16u rosters at the 2011 PG 16u BCS Finals and the 2011 PG WWBA 2013 Grads or 16u National Championship. All will be on this year’s Prospects’ 17u roster.
They included right-hander Brennan Milby (2013, Greensburg, Ky.), who won the 2010 15u BCS Finals Most Valuable Pitcher award, and first baseman Joe Dudek (2013, Wall Township, N.J.), the tournament’s Most Valuable Player. Dudek, who has signed with North Carolina, was 14-for-25 (.560) with six doubles, 11 RBI and 11 runs scored during that terrific six-day run in early July, 2010.
Other top prospects on that 2010 15u team that returned to play on the Prospects’ 16u team this summer included right-hander/infielder Josh Bartley (2012, Bowling Green, Ky.), middle-infielders Nolan Rogers (2013, Bloomington, Ind.) and Ryan Spaulding (2012, Converse, Ind.).
Bartley has signed with Western Kentucky, Rogers with Duke and Spaulding with Ball State.
Stout further beefed up the Prospects’ 2011 16u roster with the additions of left-handers Trey Ball (2013, New Castle, Ind.) and Ryan O’Shea (South Easton, Mass.), and right-hander Kasey Ralston (2012, Chaska, Minn.).
Ball is a sparkling gem whose fastball has reached the low 90s. Ranked 16th nationally overall and No. 3 among left-handers in the class of 2013, he has committed to Big 12 and national power Texas. O’Shea has signed with Central Michigan and Ralston with Indiana.
The 16u team did well in its two PG national tournaments last summer, but couldn’t find the magic to repeat as national champions. The Prospects finished 4-2 at the WWBA 16u National Championship and 4-2-1 in the 16u BCS Finals after first round playoff losses in both tournaments.
The Indiana Prospects organization also entered teams in the PG WWBA 2012 Grads or 17u National Championship, the 15u BCS Finals and the 14u BCS Finals, with so-so success. Indiana Prospects Blue finished 3-3 at the WWBA 17u National, and the Indiana Prospects went 2-3 at the 15u BCS Finals and 2-2 at the 14u BCS Finals.
The Prospects Blue – all Indiana kids – featured six D-I recruits: third baseman Jacob Armstrong (2012, Sellersburg, Ind.), outfielder Karson Bender (2012, Delphi, Ind.), right-hander Mitch Patishall (2012, Pendleton, Ind.), left-hander Josh Rogers (2013, New Albany, Ind.), right-hander Luke Stephenson (2012, Fairland, Ind.) and shortstop/right-hander Jordan Striegel (2012, Sellersburg, Ind.).
Armstrong is headed for Alabama-Birmingham, Bender to Purdue, Patishall to Cincinnati, Rogers and Striegel to Louisville, and Stephenson to Vanderbilt.
Stout said the organization’s main mission is “total player development” with an emphasis on making sure his players secure some college scholarship money by playing baseball.
“My Perfect Game national championship ring, I love it to death and I’d love to win another one,” he said. “But getting kids committed to Texas and North Carolina and Vanderbilt and Louisville and places like that is paramount for me.”
The Prospects’ reach has definitely extended beyond Indiana. The roster Stout submitted for last year’s 16u BCS Finals included prospects from Kentucky, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Minnesota, Massachusetts, Michigan and Florida.
“Who cares where the kid comes from; I’m in it for the kid. I don’t care if I help a kid from South Carolina or where ever he’s at,” Stout said. “If you look at it, it’s all kind of silly to sit there and say, ‘Back when you and me played, you didn’t leave your hometown very often. Then somebody had the bright idea that they were going to have an all-star team. Then they put together a statewide team, and it’s evolved into that now you have these powerhouse teams that (the kids) are from everywhere.
“We see it as a win-win by doing it the way we do it,” he continued. “A 17-year-old kid to me is a 17-year-old kid; I don’t care if he’s from Indiana or Texas. The thing that we like about it is these kids play together every week. Every kid plays every week with us.”
As the Indiana Prospects continue to grow as an organization, Stout sees only bigger and better things for the organization in the future. He hopes to get a team invited to the PG WWBA World Championship in Jupiter, Fla., this year and attend other PG events as well.
“You just can’t thank Perfect Game enough just because of the fact that without it, I don’t know if it would be possible to get a North Carolina (player), a Florida, a Texas unless you show up where they’re at. Otherwise, they’re never going to know you. That’s why I’m down here right now: looking at players and whatnot,” Stout said.
“When we were in Marietta (Ga.) this year, I think we had 20, 22, 23 (college) coaches right beside our dugout. As a parent, you want your kid in that environment,” he continued. “Maybe they’re looking at the kid who throws 94 and they see the kid that throws 90, and they get him. Without Perfect Game, I’m not sure that we – me and the organization – are at where we’re at right now.”