FORT MYERS, Fla. – Orlando Scorpions Baseball, which is actually based in Altamont Springs, Fla., is well represented here this weekend.
The Orlando Scorpions 2014 and Orlando Scorpions Underclass Black are here for the Perfect Game 16U WWBA Memorial Day Classic. Three squads – the Orlando Scorpions Underclass Purple, Orlando Scorpions 17U Black and the elite Orlando Scorpions 17U Purple – are on hand for the PG 18U WWBA Memorial Day Classic.
Scorpions owner/operator/coach Matt Gerber firmly believes in getting the players in his organization as much exposure as possible and there’s no better place to start a season than at the Memorial Day Classics.
It’s an event top prospect Walker Weickel, a 6-6, 205-pound right-hander from Orlando, eagerly anticipates.
“It’s something you look forward to the whole year, being back with all these guys and spending some time with them,” Weickel said Saturday morning before pitching the Scorpions Purple 17U’s tournament-opener against the Pensacola Pirates at beautiful – but steamy – City of Palms Park.
“It’s good to get all these guys in here and you get to see who you’re going to be working with for the summer and really kick things off on a good note,” he continued. “I enjoy going to all these great showcases and being around the best talent in the country.”
The Scorpions lost that tournament opener, 2-1. Weickel , a 17-year-old in the class of 2012 who sports a 4.7 GPA, wasn’t at his sharpest, allowing one hit, two walks and striking out three in three innings of work. Thirty-four of his 58 pitches were thrown for strikes.
The loss for the Scorpions may be an aberration. The Scorpions Purple 17U is loaded – six prospects on the roster have already committed to NCAA Division I colleges and more are likely to follow suit.
“Right now we have six Division commits, but I would say that nearly everyone on this team will probably be a Division I guy when it’s all said and done,” Gerber said. “Obviously, we want to win, but we pride our program on the number of guys we can get committed.
“Last year in the 2011 class we had 42 commitments and 39 of those were Division I commitments, so we pride our program on not only helping the top, top guys but all the way through the program finding good fits for everybody.”
Weickel has committed to the national powerhouse University of Miami. Other D-I recruits on the roster are outfielder/middle-infielder Connor Lein (Central Florida), catcher/first baseman/third baseman Michael McClellan (Georgia Southern), middle-infielder Max Moroff (Central Florida), first baseman/outfielder Jalen Phillips (Duke) and right-hander/third baseman Jonathan Sandfort (Florida).
Weickel has been with the Scorpions organization since he was 14 and is Perfect Game’s No. 10-ranked national prospect in the class of 2012 (No. 3 in Florida). He sounded Saturday like a young man eager for a summer filled with playing baseball in front of scouts and coaches, even if he has already made his college commitment.
“I’m excited. I’m feeling pretty good and all the lights are green and ready to go,” he said. “(The) Miami (commitment) is just an added bonus. I still wake up every morning and come out and live to play for all my teammates and come out and be in front of all the coaches and everything. Just come out and have a good time.”
Gerber appreciates that sort of attitude.
“We’ve had some pretty special arms come through the program in the past, but the one thing that separates Walker is his competitiveness,” he said. “Whether he’s playing stickball in the backyard or in the third game of a (high school) super regional, he wants to win all the time.
“He’s 6-foot-6, he can run (his fastball) up to 94, 95 (mph) and he’s extremely projectable, so obviously we know why the pro guys are starting to take notice.”
While Orlando Scorpions Baseball’s stated goal is to match its high school players with a college where they can excel, the Scorpions also want to win games. And they’ve won a lot of them playing at Perfect Game tournaments over the past decade or so.
“Our goal is to win every tournament we play in, but we want to crescendo and be our best at the end for the WWBA in Atlanta and then the BCS (Finals in Fort Myers). That’s kind of what we target and we’ll work up from there” Gerber said. “The Scorpions have never won the WWBA, but we've won the BCS a couple of times and finished second several times. We want to try to break that trend this year.”
Gerber likes doing both the WWBA and the BCS, the latter of which is a metal bat tournament.
“I feel like the scouts really follow it, too; they come down with us to Fort Myers,” he said. “It’s a quick turnaround but it’s two good solid weeks for our guys just playing straight through. And this year with the BBCOR (bats) it should be interesting.”
For the time being, the Scorpions will need to get down to business. Their three teams in the 18U Classic went 2-2 in their first four games, but the two 16U entries both won their openers. There’s still a lot of baseball to be played this weekend.