CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa – The core group of six catchers who were on hand at Monday’s Perfect Game National Pre-Draft Showcase represented many of the best in the high school class of 2011.
Five of the catchers who gathered at Perfect Game Field-Veterans Memorial Stadium were ranked in PG’s top 45 by position. Those five prospects ranged from No. 4-ranked Eric Haase from Westland, Mich., to No. 45 JC Coban from Boca Raton, Fla.
All of them enjoyed a standout showcase, yet there was one young prospect from Sand Springs, Okla., and a recent graduate of Oklahoma baseball powerhouse Owasso High School, who kind of stood out.
That might have had to do with the white-blond hair and short Mohawk hairstyle Drew Stiner wore under his catching and batting helmets. But more likely it was due more to an impressive performance at the National Pre-Draft, which included a showcase-best pop time of 1.79 seconds.
Stiner (6-foot-1, 210-pounds) is ranked the country’s No. 15 high school catching prospect by PG, and has signed to play college baseball next season at Oklahoma State.
His pop time was best among a field that included NCAA Division I signees Haase (Ohio State), Vincent Tranchina from Manasquan, N.J. (St. John’s), Alex DeBellis from Kinnelon, N.J. (UConn) and Coban (Penn State).
In addition, Zebulon, Ga., prospect Christopher Long has signed with D-II nationally ranked Columbus State, and was also at Perfect Game Field Monday.
Stiner drove up from Sand Springs with his father, Mike Stiner, and was glad he made the trip. It afforded him one more opportunity to perform in front of scouts before next month’s MLB First-Year Player Draft.
“You just get looked at and the exposure, that’s the biggest thing,” the affable Stiner said while flashing his ever-ready smile. “It’s great, too, because you get to meet new guys, and I just love that.”
Mike Stiner, who has ferried his son to destinations as far away as Puerto Rico just to play baseball, appreciated that Drew was extended an invitation to the National Pre-Draft.
“We’re trying to get ready to go into the draft and see where everything falls and let everybody have a last look at Drew and see where he’s at,” he said. “We want to give everybody an opportunity to look and see what kind of player he is.
“We’ve been fortunate enough to be invited up here, and we just thank Perfect Game for giving Drew the opportunity to showcase his skills and show everybody what he’s all about.”
While the National Pre-Draft was in progress, a PG blogger took notice of Stiner.
“Stiner has really stood out with his catch-and-throw skills today,” the blogger wrote. “He is one of the better defensive catchers in the country …”
Perfect Game director of national scouting David Rawnsley named Stiner as the No. 6 top prospect at the showcase.
“(Stiner) has legitimate prospect tools both offensively and defensively,” Rawnsley noted.
Stiner always wanted to be catcher, according to his father. One proposed position change that was attempted when he was a grade-schooler didn’t go over well at all.
“When he was 7, we put him on the mound to pitch and he started crying,” Mike recalled with a chuckle. “He said, ‘If I had my leg guards on I could throw harder than anybody out here.’ So we thought we just needed to keep him behind the dish.”
Stiner has had the opportunity to be seen by a lot of scouts this spring while playing at Owasso. One of his teammates was Dylan Bundy, a right-hander with a 96 mph fastball who is the No. 2-ranked national prospect and considered a sure-fire first round pick in the draft.
Stiner loved doing the catching for the fire-balling Bundy, who has signed with the University of Texas.
“It’s been great,” Stiner said. “He never misses and he’s just so in control of the game. I just try to stay on the same page with him and he’s a straight-up person to be around. He’s very humble.”
Owasso was Perfect Game High School’s No. 1-ranked national team heading into Oklahoma high school postseason play but was beaten by No. 7 Broken Arrow and hard-throwing Archie Bradley in the OSSAA Class 6A state championship game last Saturday.
Bradley is PG’s No. 5 national prospect.
“It was a great season. Everyday everybody just went out there and just did their thing,” Stiner said of his Owasso team which finished 36-2. “That last game we just couldn’t get it done. There were a few errors that cost us some runs and Archie (Bradley) was lights-out that day. You just have to give it up to him; he deserved it.”
The National Pre-Draft was the ninth Perfect Game event Stiner and his father attended. The PG WWBA World Championship in 2009 and ’10 in Jupiter, Fla. – playing with Midland Redskins scout teams – and the ’10 PG National Showcase in St. Petersburg, Fla., are among the events he attended.
“We’ve had a lot of fun doing this,” Mike Stiner said. “Drew has played the most competitive ball since he was 7 years old and we’ve always tried to put him into a place where he could succeed. Dylan Bundy and Drew have played together since they were seven; Archie and Drew have played together since they were about eight.”
Mike Stiner coached that talented trio when they were in elementary and middle school and even took them on a baseball trip to Puerto Rico when they were 12 years old.
“When they were little, that was really a good experience for those guys,” Mike said. “We’ve had a good time playing baseball.”
Now that his high school career is behind him, Stiner will continue to play baseball at an even higher level, either collegiately or professionally. He is excited about his commitment to Oklahoma State in Stillwater, where he would join the Cowboys and head coach Frank Anderson.
“Me and my parents discussed it and we thought it was our best decision. It’s close – it’s about 45 minutes from the house – so it’s not too far from Mommy and Daddy,” Stiner said, laughing all the way.
As for the draft, Stiner was much less expressive.
“It’s a possibility, I guess,” he said. “I hope so.”
Mike Stiner was a lot more eager to talk about the draft than his son.
“If that’s the way it goes, that’s the way it goes,” he said. “(Drew’s) first preference is – and he’s always told me this – he wants to be a pro baseball player. If he has the opportunity to go high enough in the draft and everything looks right, then we’ll go from there. And if not, we’ll go to Oklahoma State and play for three years and then see where we can go from there.
“He’s worked hard at it, as you can tell, and he’s ready to move on to the next level.”
A level at which he will yet again be playing with and against the best.