FORT MYERS, Fla. – Top prospects Ronnie Healy and Justin Williams walked into this week’s Perfect Game Junior National Showcase through decidedly different doors.
Healy, a 16-year old junior-to-be at Jupiter High School in Jupiter, Fla., has been playing baseball since he was old enough to hold a bat. Williams, a 15-year-old incoming junior at Terrebonne High School in Houma, La., is playing the game for only his second summer.
Yet here they are, together at City of Palms Park with about 100 other top prospects who are going to be either juniors or sophomores in high school in the fall.
Healy, a catcher, is ranked No. 9 nationally and No. 2 in the state of Florida in Perfect Game’s class of 2013 top prospect rankings, while Williams, a shortstop, is No. 30 nationally and No. 2 in Louisiana despite his limited experience.
As the two completed their morning workout sessions Tuesday, there was a decided difference in their demeanor. Perhaps because he expects so much of himself, Healy was very disappointed in his workout, which took place in front of several dozen scouts and college coaches.
“It went terribly bad,” he said as walked off the playing field. “I’m going to have to show it out on the field during the games now. I got frustrated with my throws, then I went out for BP and I got frustrated with that.
“I was at a showcase a couple of days ago and I did really good there,” he added. “I hit a couple of home runs during BP and I had a good Pop-time, but here I just fell apart.”
Healy recorded an 85 mph throw from home to second and a 1.85 Pop-time, both respectable showings but conceivably disappointing for the nation’s No. 9-ranked prospect.
Williams recorded a solid infield throw velocity of 86 mph, and seemed upbeat after his session.
“I just came in trying to stay focused and just work hard, because even if I don’t do good, if I hustle people are still going to recognize me out there hustling,” Williams said. Then he quickly added: “I’ve never seen this many scouts in my life.”
Considering their backgrounds, it is interesting that these two prospects would meet up here.
Healy has been playing baseball seemingly his entire life, but his participation really picked up when his family moved to Jupiter when he was nine years old.
“That’s when travel (ball) was getting real big and that’s when I noticed I had a pretty good arm, so I just kept playing and playing,” Healy said. He has played some outfield but has mostly been a catcher, and he has always batted from the left side (he throws right-handed).
Healy will play this summer for Tennessee-based Dulin Dodgers Baseball, with whom he will have the opportunity to play in several Perfect Game tournaments.
“I’m just looking to get more exposure, get better and play (against) better players,” he said.
Healy has played in five PG WWBA tournaments since 2009, but this is his first showcase event. He hasn’t made a college commitment but has been talking with Florida and Ole Miss.
Williams was playing football and basketball in middle school but didn’t start playing baseball until he was 14 years old freshman in high school. It’s been a meteoric rise to the top.
“I was watching my brother play, then (last year) my dad (Michael) took me to the baseball field and told me to swing the bat. After that, I started playing (regularly),” Williams said. “It’s not hard (for me). You field, and you hit and you run the bases. That’s pretty much it.
He may have been stating the obvious, but the game just isn’t that easy for most mere mortals.
“I fell in love with baseball right after I started playing it,” he added. “It’s easier on your body than football or basketball.”
For obvious reasons, Williams is just getting started on the Perfect Game circuit. He played for Marucci Elite at last weekend’s Perfect Game-East Cobb Invitational in Marietta, Ga., which provided his first exposure to PG competition. He will continue to play for Marucci Elite throughout the summer.
Williams has started to look at some colleges and being from Louisiana he said he would love to go LSU.