CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa – It was one-third of an inning – one batter, actually – that permanently altered the career path of Ballwin, Mo., left-hander Jacob Brentz.
Brentz, a 2013 primary outfielder who at the time had made a commitment to Jefferson College (a junior college in Hillsboro, Mo.), was playing for the Mets Scout Team/St. Louis Pirates at October’s 2012 PG WWBA World Championship in Jupiter, Fla., when he was called in to save what would become a 3-1 Pirates victory.
Brentz struck out the only San Gabriel Valley Arsenal batter he faced that night, and needed only five pitches to do it. The life-changing element of that relief appearance came when one of those pitches reached 94 mph. At the time, Perfect Game All-American Robert Kaminsky was the only other left-hander that had reached 94 mph at a 2012 PG tournament or showcase.
“I was just all juiced up because of all the radar guns and I came out and threw as hard as I could, and I just let it go,” Brentz said after that outing in Jupiter. “Tonight I was just juiced up, but I knew I could throw that (velocity) because my arm strength is good.”
About 3½ months have passed since Brentz set the scouting community on its ear with that one fastball, and a lot has changed. He walked into Perfect Game’s headquarters here for this weekend’s 13th annual PG Pitcher/Catcher Indoor Showcase as the country’s No. 52-ranked prospect and has signed with the University of Missouri from the powerful Southeastern Conference.
Brentz rolled with the flow during his pitching and hitting workouts at the PG P/C Indoor. His fastball sat tight in the 91-93 mph range and touched 94 three times; his changeup registered 83 and his curveball 71. A PG scout noted that he “showed good extension with good balance (and an) aggressive fluid stroke” during his hitting session.
A large gathering of scouts watched Brentz’s every move during both of his workouts.
“We wanted to come to the Perfect Game showcase because we heard it was the biggest in the area,” Steve Brentz, Jacob’s father, said. “It was suggested by a lot of the scouts to come up and showcase him at this event because it is so well-represented with the players and the scouts. It’s very important, not only for Jacob but for all the kids, to really get this kind of exposure with the major league scouts.”
Steve Brentz added that he expected his son to do well during the workouts.
“You come in knowing what’s inside your son from a parent’s perspective, knowing what he can do, and you kind of hold him to those expectations,” he said. “He holds himself to that, too, and I think all the players do. And by the same token, you tell them, ‘Let’s just go have fun’ but you also expect them to excel in this environment, and he always has.”
Jacob Brentz, who wears a solid 190 pounds on a 6-foot, 2-inch frame, has made the decision to play in the 2013 Perfect Game Iowa Spring Wood Bat League, which will provide him with even more exposure to MLB scouts. He cited his involvement in the Spring League as another reason why he wanted to be here this weekend.
“I just want to get some work in and get ready for the season,” he said. “(The Spring League) is just going to be a better situation for me, and I’m really excited for it. I just want to go out there and throw strikes and just get ready for the season; that’s really what it’s all about and I can’t wait. I’ve been looking forward to it all winter.”
Brentz’s life certainly has changed since that outing in Jupiter. He was in no one’s rankings or on anyone’s draft board until after that magical one-third of an inning in relief, and now PG recognizes him as the No. 141 overall prospect in June’s MLB First-Year Player Draft – projectable to the fourth-round.
“It’s been kind of whirl-wind, both for Jake and for (the family), to kind of get a perspective of what this is all about and what it takes to really get on the radar of the major league teams,” Steve Brentz said.
“It’s been interesting and it’s been a lot of fun,” Jacob Brentz said of the attention. “It’s a long way until the draft and I just need to go out there and have a good spring and still have fun.”
Missouri signed Brentz as a two-way player, although he still has only pitched 14 innings in competitive game situations. He ended up pitching 1 1/3 innings at the PG WWBA World, and didn’t allow a hit or a run while striking out four and walking one. Brentz also played with the St. Louis Pirates Scout Team at the 2012 PG WWBA Kernels Foundation Championship in Cedar Rapids in September, but didn’t pitch.
He said he was thrilled when Missouri finally came through with a scholarship offer.
“I always wanted to play in the SEC and I’ve always been a Missouri fan, so it’s a great situation and a good fit,” Brentz said.
A great fit, that is, if he ever makes it to Mizzou’s Columbia campus.
“It’s always been his goal to play college ball, but depending on what happens in the June draft, he’ll make a decision from there,” Steve Brentz said. “It’s exciting because we’re kind of a sports family – our daughter (Ashley) plays softball at Missouri State – so it’s a fun environment. College is fun, but obviously, so is professional baseball.”