All American Game | Story | 8/5/2020

Painter rolls into Classic as No. 1 '21

Jeff Dahn        
Photo: Andrew Painter (Perfect Game)

Back in 2016 when Andrew Painter was a newly minted teenager who stood 5-foot-9, weighed-in at 160 pounds and was whipping off a nasty 72 mph fastball, he was starting to get a pretty good feel for the game of baseball. But he couldn’t begin to envision just how far the game would have taken him just four years hence.

“When I was 13 I was good but I wasn’t at the top of the pack,” Painter told Perfect Game during a recent telephone conversation. “If someone would have come from the future and told me about all this stuff, I would have been like, ‘No, stop messing with me.’ But really my progression jumped late in my freshman year and it’s just sky-rocketed since then.”

Sky-rockets and then some. In the years since Painter made his PG debut at the 2016 PG Super25 13U Florida State Regional in Fort Myers with the Elite Squad 13U Prime, the now 6-foot-7, 230-pound powerful righthander has reached the very top of top prospect status by holding down the No. 1 spot in PG’s national class of 2021 prospect rankings.

A resident of Pompano Beach, Fla., who is set to start his senior year at Calvary Christian Academy in Fort Lauderdale on Aug. 19, Painter was ranked No. 201 in the national class of 2021 as recently as November 2018; now he sits at the very top.

The rise wasn’t accidental, either. A lot of the progression can certainly be credited to his growth physically, but Painter has also worked very hard at his craft. He’s a Florida commit and the son of a chiropractor (dad Pete) and pharmaceutical sales manager (mom Leslie) who carries a 3.6 GPA and whose name is trending toward the top of 2021 MLB draft boards.

“I know what I can do on the mound and I don’t want to get too caught up in it,” Painter said when asked his thoughts on the lofty PG prospect ranking. “I want to keep on working and it is kind of motivation to keep on working harder because there’s more kids out there that are chasing that spot. But it is just good to see what other people think about me; what other people see in me.”

Painter was speaking to PG from Hoover, Ala., where he was attending this year’s East Coast Pro Showcase at the Hoover Met Complex. The East Coast Pro represents Painter’s last stop before he’ll travel to Oklahoma City to take part
in a couple of days of activities before playing in the 18th annual PG All-American Classic on Sept. 4 at Chickasaw Bricktown Ballpark.

Once again, his invitation to the Classic wasn’t something he really saw coming not all that long ago, not that it hadn’t crossed his mind at all.

“It was very exciting for me especially because I’ve grown up watching the game every year on TV,” Painter told PG. “When I was an 11 or 12 year old, I didn’t see myself playing in this game; I kind of looked up to all those kids. Now I’m going to be one of the kids playing in the game and I’ll have (younger) kids looking up to me.”

It’s not as if Painter hasn’t performed on some pretty big stages before. He was at the PG Junior National Showcase in both 2018 and 2019 and at the 2020 PG National Showcase in Hoover, Ala., in late June this year. He was also an All-World Team selection while playing for the USA Baseball 15U National Team in 2018 and was part of the 17U National Team Development Program in 2019.

Painter spent the first three years of his high school athletic career also playing basketball but won’t join the CCA hoops team this winter. That will enable him to put all his focus on his senior baseball season in the spring, when he can continue to go out and impress the scores of scouts who are certain to be on hand.

By his own recollection – and probably with an assist from his parents and some old video – Painter has been tossing around a baseball from the time he learned to walk and throw.

“I’d go grab a glove and I’d always want to throw in the backyard with my dad,” Painter said. “So just from a young age, whether it was organized or not I just love the game and I was always wanting to do something that had to do with it.”

Painter got involved with Richie Palmer’s Elite Squad organization when he was 13 years old and immediately joined their youth program. He was then pleasantly surprised to find out that Palmer would be coaching the 13U team he was now a part of. That’s when he earned his first PG all-tournament team citation and he would earn eight more with Elite Squad teams through the years.

“Richie has been a big part of every summer with me,” he said. “Just the events (Elite Squad) goes to, they’re always the top events and I’m always throwing to the top hitters.”

After performing at the PG Junior National Showcase in June 2019 Painter took the summer off of tournament play with the Elite Squad. He instead spent several weeks training at the Florida Baseball Ranch in Lakeland.

Once his 2020 high school season at Calvary Christian Academy was shut down the coronavirus pandemic in mid-March, Painter spent a restless spring just hoping to get back out on the field as soon as possible.

He played in the PGBA 18U Tucci Lumber Wood Bat tournament in Auburndale, Fla., with the Elite Squad 2021’s and earned his first all-tournament team certificate of the summer; there would be more to come.

But Painter’s next stop was on a much bigger stage, the one provided at the PG National Showcase, held in late June at the Hoover Met Complex. Having been at the Jr. National the last two years, Painter knew it was going to be a lot of fun getting together once again with all of the talented class of 2021 peers while also respecting the fierce level of competition.

Things went very well for him, and that assessment isn’t based only on his performance. He was also able to answer a series of “what if” questions that had been floating around in his mind.

“I hadn’t see (live) hitters in however long, so it was kind of like, ‘What’s my stuff going to look like? Are these hitters going to hit it? Has anything changed?’,” he said. “So there was kind of a big question mark but once (I got comfortable) it kind of set up the rest of the summer.”

He was impressive during his outing, showing a fastball that sat in the 93-96 mph range with a 77 mph curveball, an 82 mph slider and an 86 mph changeup. His PG scouting report from the National read in part:

“(Painter has an) outstanding pitcher’s build with ideal size and impressive present coordination (with) plenty of room to get even stronger. … Can vary his tempo to give hitters different looks without loss of command or stuff; very comfortable and confident in all his actions on the mound.”

“I just wanted to show what I got; it’s just me and the catcher,” Painter said of his mindset going into the National. “Obviously, it’s a two inning outing so it’s not like a five inning, six inning full start where you’re trying to get outs, specifically. Sure, I could have probably gone out and thrown a breaking ball and a fastball and got outs but that’s not really what people are looking for. It was more go out there and show everything I have and then just see what people think.”

With the PG National experience now on his resume, Painter returned to Hoover to pitch for the Team Elite 17U Scout Team at the Ultimate Baseball Championship powered by Baseball America & Perfect Game; again, he was named to the all-tournament team.

He rejoined the Elite Squad 17U just a few days later to take part in the PG WWBA 17U National Championship in Marietta, Ga., where he earned all-tournament recognition while helping the Squad 17U to a 4-2-0 record and a spot in the playoffs.

Painter doesn’t work with a personal pitching coach per se, but he does work out frequently at Cressey Sports Performance, a training facility in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla. He throws bullpen sessions there and often works with Cressey SP Pitching Coordinator Brian Kaplan. During his stops at the facility, it wasn’t unusual for the 17-year-old Painter to keep some pretty darn good company.

“Last month I’d walk in at 8:30 a.m. and by 9 o’clock Justin Verlander would walk in,” Painter recounted. “By 9:15 it was Max Scherzer and then about 9:30 or 10, Noah Syndergaard would be in there. It was quite the group.”

Andrew Painter will start his senior year of high school on Aug. 19 but like everything else during this crazy year of 2020, nothing will be the same when compared to past years. There’s going to be a combination of in-person and virtual learning options although Painter isn’t clear on all the details. “It’s a weird little situation,” he said with a hint of resignation in his voice.

So Painter will already have about two weeks of school under his belt before he leaves for Oklahoma City and the PG AA Classic. He is starting his fund-raising efforts that benefit underprivileged youth and pediatric cancer research through the Perfect Game Cares Foundation and its partnership with the Toby Keith Foundation’s OK Kids Korral.

By the time the calendar flips to Sept. 4, however, Painter knows what his mindset will be.

“I’m definitely going to have some fun but I’ll be locked in by game time,” he said. “It’s a big event scout-wise and the last event of the summer so it’s going to be the last time the scouts are going to see me throw until the high school season. It’s obviously going to be a fun experience and fun off the field with all those guys but once I get on the mound for that one inning I’ll just be locked in.”

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