ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – An updated Scout Blog detailing highlights from the first day of play at this week’s Perfect Game National Showcase provided a short but telling tidbit about one the day’s top performers.
Dominic Hellman is a big, athletic, bright and easy mannered shortstop out of Mill Creek, Wash., who at 6-foot-6, 245 pounds cuts an impressive figure. His actions are loose and easy and his presence can be pronounced as evidenced by the impressive power display he put on during his batting practice session.
Ten pitches. Seven monster blasts to his pull-side for the right-handed hitting Hellman, most of which were estimated to travel more than 400 feet. One even bounced-off the facing in Tropicana Field’s upper-deck down the left field line.
“[Hellman] had one of the loudest batting practices in recent PG National memory,” the Scout Blog read. “It’s a mammoth frame that produces mammoth power.”
It was a sight to behold, one that left even long-time scouts shrugging their shoulders and shaking their heads. Even Hellman himself, while certainly understanding why his performance raised eyebrows, kind of looked at it as another day at the office, although in the world of high school amateur baseball, this was the equivalent of the Oval Office.
“BP is my time to get going and get my swing going before I get into these games,” Hellman told PG post-performance. “I just found out that my power is still there...and my swing path felt great. The BP thrower just put it on a tee for me and I felt great overall out there; it was pretty fun...
“When I get into a zone like that it’s just me and the BP thrower. It’s pretty cool to have everything shutdown and it’s just me and him. I had everything blocked out.”
Although the PG National Showcase is only the 10th PG event at which Dominic Hellman has been rostered since he debuted at the 2018 PG 14u West Showcase, PG’s crackerjack scouting department is intimately familiar with the kid from the Pacific Northwest’s considerable talents.
He arrived at the National as the No. 31-ranked overall prospect in the class of 2022 (No. 7 outfielder), a badge of honor to be worn proudly amongst his peers. And make no mistake, there is nothing he likes better than being a part of an assemblage of such highly-regarded prospects who also happen to share his same grad year.
“I’m here with all my buddies that I’ve played with since I was 14 at these PG showcases,” Hellman said. “It’s just great that I get to see all these guys grow throughout the years and it’s finally our time to shine. The ’21 [MLB] draft just ended and now we’re here and it’s our time. I can’t wait to see everyone and it’s the best of the best here, too. I’m just blessed to be out here.”
The son of BJ and Sophie Hellman from Mill Creek, Dominic was here this week with his mom. Sophie and BJ try to get to as many of their son’s PG events as possible but living in the far northwest corner of the lower 48 offers some challenges.
Traveling is expensive, after all, so they pick and choose their destinations and try to attend the ones where they know their son is going to be challenged by other elite level age-group prospects. Sophie considered the PG National one of those can’t-miss events.
“I always have loved Perfect Game events because they’re really organized and they really showcase the players; he always has really good competition here,” Sophie said. “We don’t see a lot of high-velocity arms in the Northwest as much as we do when we go to showcases, so it’s great for him to get a gauge of where he’s at.”
Dominic Hellman’s love for the game wasn’t something he inherited from his parents. BJ played football, basketball and ran track while Sophie pursued tennis and basketball.
In fact, Sophie said, neither she or her husband gave baseball a second thought until Dominic started throwing a ball around as a toddler and seemed to really love it, so they got him involved with T-ball. A fire was lit and he fed that fire, much to the delight of everyone involved.
“He knows that there’s always somebody better than him, so he works really hard to make sure that he’s always on top of his game because you’re only as good as the competition next to you,” Sophie said. “He works out almost every day, he works out after game days; he’s never comfortable with where he’s at so he always works to get better. And he does all his chores, too, on top of that. He’s just a really amazing kid and we’ve been really blessed to have him.”
Added Dominic: “I have to thank my parents; [they] do everything for me. They sacrifice time, money, they book the flights, the hotels and they give me exposure. My mom and my dad were first ones to give me the exposure I needed at these PG showcases.”
Hellman remains a two-sport athlete as he continues to play basketball at Henry M. Jackson High School; it makes sense considering his basketball-like 6-foot-6, 245-pound athletic frame. He said he really enjoys roundball and he uses it to stay in shape over the winter so that conditioning won’t be an issue when the baseball season rolls around.
There is some MLB history Jackson High, as well, with former big-league outfielders Brent Lillibridge and Travis Snider once walking its halls. Their careers mirrored each other with Snider, a 1st round pick in 2006, playing parts of eight MLB seasons (2008-15) and Lillibridge parts of six (2008-13).
All three played for Jackson head coach Kirk Nicholson, who Hellman said, without hesitation, “knows everything.” He’s a huge believer in arm health and his entire philosophy centers around players taking care of their arms so they’re good to go when the more high-profile summer season rolls around.
Hellman considers himself a primary shortstop and despite his size plans to stay at the demanding position for as long as he can. He told PG that Nicholson once invited a collection of scouts out to a couple of his high school games and they initially questioned that line of thinking, asking what the player’s other position options might be. Nicholson’s response was, “Watch him.”
“Then I go up the middle and I dive for a ball and I get (the baserunner) out in about four steps, and they’re like, ‘Wow, he actually could play short.’ So it’s very interesting and funny to see everyone turning their back and then looking forward about me playing short,” Hellman said.
Hellman has had a long association with the Washington Rush, a local program with which he does a lot of his training work. He played with the Rush at the 2021 WBBA 18u West Memorial Day Classic in the Phoenix area in late May and was named the event’s MV Player after the Rush finished as runner-up at the event.
He has also played recently with the GBG NW Swoosh National and was with the Canes 17u Prospects National at last year’s PG WWBA World Championship (Jupiter) in Fort Myers, Fla. Hellman has been especially good in PG showcase environments, turning in Top Prospect List performances at the 2018 PG 14u National, the 2018 PG 14u West and at the 2020 PG Underclass All-American Games
Just two months shy of his 18th birthday, Dom Hellman is already fairly physically mature and he’s been pleased with the way he’s progressed to this stage in his development. That said, he also knows there’s always room for improvement and he continues his almost daily visits to the gym, trying to add pounds of “good” weight to his frame.
As a firm believer in the concept of you are what you eat, he makes sure he’s putting the “right food” in his body, as well, and when he decided to get most of his energy and protein from plant-based sources he said, “My game flipped tremendously and improved a lot.”
The fact remains that almost all of the 320 young prospects in attendance here will be high school seniors in the fall (there is a small number of 2023s who will be incoming juniors).
While most have already made their college commitments and can be tempted to look at what lies ahead, it often becomes necessary for their parents or guardians to remind them to not only live in the moment but, hey, don’t be afraid to just be a kid from time-to-time.
“We talk about that all the time,” Sophie Hellman said. “He doesn’t get to hang out with his friends often. He doesn’t get to go to birthday parties and he really didn’t have a birthday party himself, but he knows that any chance he gets he can go hang out with his friends; sometimes they go to the gym together.
“But at the end of the day he knows that baseball is not going to be his whole life forever so eventually he’ll have to give back to the world and he’ll probably give it back in a way where baseball has backed him for so many years.”
Even now, Hellman loves coaching kids and umpiring games at the youth level, so he already understands what’s important. His mom has no doubts that one day, as an adult, he’ll be a tremendous role model for young kids. He shows that every time he’s on the field simply by being a terrific presence in the dugout.
“I love watching him interact with this teammates,” Sophie said. “He loves hyping up his teammates; it makes the game fun. Baseball is supposed to be fun; that’s how you get better. You feel the cheers of your teammates coming on you so you’re like, yeah, I’m going to get an RBI or get that extra-base hit.
“Sometimes you’ll know when a game is not going well because it’s really silent, and he’ll always try to hype it up. At the end of the day, a game can turn around in just one inning just from the excitement of your teammates.”
Hellman was a member of the PG Green Team here at the National Showcase, a squad rich with West Coast talent. The roster featured several other top-50 prospects including California right-handers Nick Dugan (No. 14, Stanford commit), Kassius Thomas (No. 42, Duke) and David Horn (No. 47, uncommitted); Washington right-hander Jackson Cox (No. 40, Oregon); and California shortstop Mikey Romero (No. 46, LSU).
There’s so much to like being in an environment like this, Hellman told PG. He just really enjoys standing shoulder-to-shoulder or sharing a playing field with these guys, and he’s confident these friendships will last. In fact, he said, the coaches at these showcases are quick to tell all these guys that the peers they meet at these events will someday invite you to their weddings, and vice versa.
“I’m a huge believer that playing with the best brings out the best in everyone and makes everyone better,” Hellman said. “Everyone’s picking up each other [and] no one has egos at this stage...It’s just amazing to see the positivity throughout this group, the whole class; there’s no negativity.”
Hellman was first approached by members of the Oregon coaching staff as an eighth-grader and he committed during the summer of his sophomore year. He was sold on the program when they told him upfront that they were first and foremost trying to win a D-I College World Series but they were also committed to helping develop him into a long-time MLB player.
College (and the 2022 MLB Amateur Draft) is a long way off for now. Hellman still has a lot to do the rest of this summer with stops planned at the MLB PDP event in North Carolina before heading back west to perform at the Area Code Games in San Diego.
Once in that beautiful city on the Southern California Pacific Coast he hopes to be able to stick around an extra week to be a part of the PG All-American Classic, which will be played in at the Padres’ Petco Park on Aug. 22.
“The road here, it wasn’t easy; it’s never easy,” Hellman said. “Those countless days where I’m waking up in the morning and running my parachutes and going into the cage at night with my dad at 10 o’clock after he closes his dealership. It’s a rough road but I know that in the future it will be worth it – hard work does truly pay off. I have a dream envisioned and I do it for me and my family and the people I love.”
Hellman was pretty darn good during the rest of his workout session, as well, running a 6.69-second 60 and throwing 88 mph across the infield; his exit velo of 105 mph was the best effort from a player on one of the first four teams that reported.
And as for that BP session that basically turned into a home run derby of sorts for Dominic Hellman? Well, his mom kind of missed it. Sort of, anyway.
“I actually watch a lot of his at-bats through the lens of my camera because I’m always video-taping for my family at home,” Sophie said. “So when I sent the video over they were all hyped and I didn’t [realize] it until I was watching it later. And I was like, oh my god, that’s amazing.”