GAINESVILLE, Fla. – The opportunity to perform in front of coaches from the nation’s elite college baseball programs as well as professional scouts is often cited by top high school prospects as their main reason for attending Perfect Game events.
It’s a valid reason, to be sure. But when Florida State junior first baseman Jayce Boyd was asked if his participation in four PG WWBA tournaments in Marietta, Ga., from 2007-09 might have helped him earn a scholarship offer from Coach Mike Martin and the Seminoles, he said it probably did, but that wasn’t his main reason for playing in those tournaments.
“I really wasn’t paying too much attention to trying to get noticed by anybody; I was just going up there to get experience and to see where I stood against the best competition and to know what I could get better at by watching those guys,” Boyd said Tuesday (March 13) before No. 6 Florida State played No. 1 Florida at UF’s McKethan Stadium.
In fact, Boyd puts so much stock in learning from his opponents – and his teammates, for that matter – that he even applied that line of thinking to Tuesday night’s game.
“No matter how much the Seminoles hate the Gators, you can come out here and watch them because they’re pretty dang good,” he said with a smile. “You watch them, and they do what they do in BP and you watch their pitchers and you learn from them, and you get better that way.”
Boyd has absorbed a ton of information all along his path from his time at Tate High School in Cantonment, Fla., and playing in the national PG events, and into his first two-plus years at FSU. He came into college as a third baseman, made the move across the diamond to first base and has thrived.
He’s been the model of consistency at the plate his first two seasons in Tallahassee. In a combined 132 games in 2010 and 2011 – 129 of them starts – Boyd hit .335 (158-for-472) with 32 doubles, 16 home runs, 99 RBI and 93 runs scored. He started all 65 games at first base for Martin last season, and hit .343 (84-for-245) with 17 doubles, eight homers, 60 RBI and 44 runs.
Through 16 games this season – 14 of them Seminole wins – Boyd hit .417 (25-for-60) with a couple of home runs and 22 runs driven in, hitting No. 4 in the order behind PG First Team Preseason All-American center fielder James Ramsey.
“I have a lot of confidence, and the guy hitting in front of me is pretty good, too,” Boyd said with a knowing grin. “I get up there and just try to find good pitches to hit and put good swings on them, and the results usually come.”
The Seminoles were beaten by the Gators Tuesday night to drop their record to 14-2. Speaking before the first pitch, Boyd looked around McKethan Stadium as the first of what would be a record gathering of 6,005 fans began to stream in, and knew this was why he decided to attend college despite being selected by the Texas Rangers in the 19th round of 2009 draft.
“You always look forward to a top-10 matchup no matter who you’re playing, especially since it’s one of our rivals, and we’re coming down here and playing them at their place and knowing the place is going to be sold-out,” Boyd said.
Florida State opened up Atlantic Coast Conference play March 9-11 with a three-game sweep of Duke and hosts Virginia this weekend. Boyd felt like the success the Seminoles enjoyed the first three weeks of the season – they had won 10 straight before the loss to UF – helped out the entire team.
“It’s been a great start for us and a lot of confidence has been instilled in our new guys, especially since we have young pitching,” Boyd said. “Just getting out there and getting some wins under their belt and getting their feet wet, it’s been great for our team so far.”
Boyd learned the value of getting your feet wet during his participation in those four WWBA tournaments in the late 2000s as a member of travel teams from Titus Sports and Baseball Factory. It all goes back to surrounding yourself with the best if you really intend to someday be the best yourself.
“It was just a good time and a good experience to get up there and face competition that you knew was going to be at the next level – you knew it was going to be good college competition and good professional competition, whichever it came down to it,” he said. “To get up there and play in those tournaments and play against the guys I did was great.”
Almost all of Boyd’s FSU teammates are also PG alumni, including Ramsey. Being involved with such high-caliber players at this level of play has been a genuine joy for Boyd.
“I’ve had a lot of fun here and I’ve made a lot of good friends, especially on this (year’s) team,” he said. “Coming in and having to make the transition from third to first was a bit of a challenge, but it’s a lot better than it could have been. I’ve been comfortable over there for a pretty good while now, and more so getting comfortable at the plate is what I was trying to get back to.”
While his time in Tallahassee has certainly been a positive experience, Boyd admits he took a long, hard look at the Rangers’ offer back in 2009. The enticement of getting paid to play baseball can be strong.
“There’s always a decision because your ultimate dream as a little kid is to play professional baseball and play in the Major Leagues, so it’s always hard to turn down that opportunity; you’re just hoping it comes along again down the road,” he said. “I made the decision with a lot of help from God and a lot of help from my family, so it was a pretty easy choice when it came down to it.”
Barring something unforeseen, it’s a certainty Boyd will be selected again in this June’s MLB amateur draft and more than likely in the first five rounds. Perfect Game ranks Boyd the No. 153 overall prospect in the draft.
By the time the 2012 draft commences on June 4, the Seminoles should be playing in the postseason for the 33rd consecutive year with their sights set on getting back to the College World Series in Omaha after a one-year absence. Needless to say, Boyd isn’t thinking about the draft.
“It’s easy to stay focused because we have a good group of guys and we all know what our main goal is, and that’s to get back to Omaha and win it,” he said. “We’ve got to keep that focus and grind it out and get through the season, and whatever happens happens – but that’s our ultimate goal.”