GLENDALE, Ariz. – As an Arizona kid from Peoria in Phoenix’s west suburbs, Rudy Karre Jr. usually knows what to expect weather-wise when he gets ready to take the field just about anywhere in the Valley of the Sun.
So, it likely goes without saying that Saturday morning’s 32-degree temperature and frost-laden fields at the Camelback Ranch Complex caught the 17-year-old Karre Jr. a little bit off guard.
“When my feet are freezing, yeah it bothers me,” Karre Jr. said shortly after the sun came up Saturday morning, “but the cold itself really doesn’t bother me.” And then, he was quick to add: “Baseball, I love it, and just being out here and meeting new people is fun to do. I just love baseball so it doesn’t hurt at all to come out here.”
Karre Jr., a junior at Liberty High School in Peoria, was at Camelback on Saturday taking part in the Perfect Game National Underclass Showcase-Session 1, along with a little more than 110 other prospects from the high school classes of 2015, 2016 and 2017 that arrived from 14 states and Canada. The smaller PG West Uncommitted Showcase is also taking place at Camelback this weekend.
While growing up in the Phoenix area, Karre Jr. has been exposed to some very high levels of baseball, with 15 major league teams using state of the art Cactus League complexes – like the Chicago White Sox and Los Angeles Dodgers use Camelback – during spring training in March, and with multi-time NCAA national champion Arizona State University residing in nearby Tempe.
Yet, until recently, the level of high school talent in Arizona has either flown under the radar or at the very least been under-appreciated. That may be starting to change, and a top prospect like Karre Jr. is a perfect example of that change.
Karre Jr., a primary middle-infielder, came into the PG National Under-Session 1 ranked 186th nationally in the class of 2015 and the as the country’s No. 2-ranked middle-infielder. He is the No. 7-ranked overall prospect in the state of Arizona.
“Since Perfect Game came into Arizona a couple of years ago, I think it’s been the greatest thing for the kids,” Karre Jr.’s father, Rudy Karre Sr., told PG Saturday morning. “From Arizona’s standpoint, I think it has a lot of talent that goes unrecognized with California always being so dominating. A couple of years ago it was just local teams playing local teams and no one was getting that exposure.”
During Saturday morning’s workout session, Karre Jr. threw a career-best 87 mph across the infield (third best at the event) and a career-best 88 mph from the outfield (tied for first at the event) while running a respectable 6.91-second 60-yard dash.
“This is all about having some fun and just doing what I do normally,” he said. “Just going out and playing the game the way I know how to play it.”
This is the 10th Perfect Game event Karre Jr. has attended since 2011, with eight of those being tournaments played with the AZ Prowlers, the team Karre Sr. founded about five years ago when the players that are his son’s age were about 11 years old. The core group has stuck together through the years and became competitive at a very high level.
They won the 2012 PG WWBA 16u West Memorial Day Classic and have been frequent challengers at the Perfect Game MLK Championship in recent years. Karre Sr. plans on taking the team to the PG WWBA National Championship in Georgia in July.
“We have great kids on our team,” Karre Jr. said. “All of them work hard and we take it serious, and every game we just go hard and we show it. Perfect Game always has good teams and you’re always playing against the best.”
Karre Jr. also attended the Perfect Game Junior National Showcase in Minneapolis in mid-June, an experience he found both eye-opening and rewarding.
“It was great, seeing how much talent was really out there,” he said. “Seeing kids I don’t see on a regular basis, it was just good to see all of that because that just makes me want to work harder – I know there are kids out there that are working hard, too.”
He earned a 9.5 PG grade at the event (10.0 is the highest) and his scouting report noted:
“(Karre is a) versatile defensive player, very good instincts at shortstop, moves the ball well … has bounce in his actions quick exchange and release, good footwork, solid arm strength (with) more to come. … Has present tools, athleticism and projects to keep improving.”
Karre Jr. has been a primary middle-infielder to this point in his career but would like to one day make the move to center field. He acknowledges he still has a lot of work to do, especially at the plate. He is also a switch-hitter – well, sort of.
“I’ve always done it, but I’m picky when I want to do it,” he said, noting that he hits right-handed most of the time. “I want to get my hitting more consistent; if I can get that more consistent I think I should be okay.”
As for staying a middle-infielder, that too might change despite his high national ranking at the position. Karre Sr. said the PG experience has opened his son’s eyes to other possibilities.
“I think this has opened him up from what he thinks he’s limited to as far as a middle-infielder,” Karre Sr. said. “He is seeing what is out there nationally coming into an event like this and that he has to open up his horizons as far as being a utility player and outfielder, and talking to some schools that’s what they like about him – he’s able to open up instead of being stuck in one position.
“Seeing his realization of what’s out there instead of just what’s here in Arizona helps him push himself when he’s working out and will help him get to the next level,” he continued. “Watching him go out and do it and not so much me telling him to do it … has been a great thing.”
Added Karre Jr.: “Off and on I’ve been able to progress but every day I want to work harder and get better. I know I can (continue to improve) and it’s just about working hard and getting to the next level. … I’ve always just wanted to make my dreams come true.”
As for the national rankings, the 6-foot-2, 180-pound Karre Jr. said: “I don’t pay attention to that. Every day I just go home and work on my hitting and go lift (weights) – I don’t pay attention to that.”
Karre Jr. has not yet committed to a college and lists Oregon and Arizona State as “colleges interest in” on his Perfect Game Player Profile. “I want to take my time and hopefully I make the right decision. I want to talk to colleges and see what happens,” he said of his plans.
Karre Sr. has enjoyed watching his son begin the process while also enjoying watching his son’s AZ Prowlers teammates go through the same thing. Steady progression leading to a final grand prize can truly be a wonderful thing.
“You can almost compare it to little league,” he said. “You start the season and this is what you have, and then you see them progress throughout the year. I’ve got to see (the Prowlers) do it over the last five years and it’s pretty touching seeing kids talk to schools, make a decision on a school and knowing that a lot of them are finally getting what they’ve been working hard to get.”