FORT MYERS, Fla. – Still a little more than two months away from celebrating his 14th birthday in late August 2019, the kid from Detroit walked wide-eyed out onto the playing field at L. Dale Mitchell Baseball Park on the University of Oklahoma campus in Norman and tried to soak everything in.
By that point in a Perfect Game career that was really just getting started, Jarren Purify could be excused for feeling a bit overwhelmed. Thirteen years old and long way from home, Purify had accepted an invitation to the inaugural PG 13u Select Baseball Festival where he and about three dozen other age-eligible 13u players were about to compete in an event the nation would be able to bring into its homes via live streaming.
The invitations to the PG 13u Select Festival in 2019 and the 14u Select Fest in 2020 are perhaps the most noteworthy feathers in Purify’s cap to date, at least from a PG perspective. That 13u event really rocked his world, as might be expected when a young teenager steps out on a stage as brightly lit as that one. Lights, camera, action …
“Back then when I was 13 I was really shy,” Purify told PG Tuesday morning. “I didn’t know what it takes, I didn’t know what to do; I kind of just went and had fun. But then it made me who I am today, honestly. Now I have more confidence just playing with everybody. I made friendships there and I’m still friends with everybody.
“With the 14u, it was same thing. Right now I’m just looking at year 3 and working for the PG All-American (Classic). That’s been in my mind since the 14u, honestly.”
Purify was speaking from just outside one of the back practice fields at the jetBlue Park Player Development Complex where he is taking part in the 72-team, 600-plus player PG National Underclass Showcase-Main Event for the second time in three years.
Now a 5-foot-11, 160-pound primary shortstop (he was listed at 5-8, 140 at the ’19 13u Fest) ranked No. 95 overall nationally in the class of 2023, he is working steadily toward a Classic invite, although that won’t be determined until after the PG National Showcase is completed this summer.
A Michigan commit, Purify is here in Southwest Florida with his mom, Betty Moore, and being from the frozen north, where else would you want to be as New Year’s Day comes into clear focus.
“I just want to get exposure and also meet new people,” Purify said when asked his reasons for returning to the National Underclass-Main Event after skipping it in 2020. “I’ve met a lot of people – coaches, players – and I have a lot of strong friendships with most of the people I’ve met here. I’m really just here to have fun and just perform. …
“And it’s a little bit of a vacation,” he added with a smile. “Back home it’s snowing, it’s 20 degrees and I have a big coat at home. But right now it’s kind of warm (75 degrees), I’m kind of loose and I like that.”
His Mom shared the excitement: “We love it; we always love the weather here,” Moore said. “The snow is so cruel, we just love being in Florida, we just do; we like it a lot.”
To be sure, Purify did enjoy a strong workout session and made an impression in one of the first games of the day. He threw 89 mph across the infield (tied for 6th best effort at the event) and ran a 6.75-second 60 (t-8th). During game play, a PG scout noted the right-handed hitter “smashed one of the hardest hit balls of the day on a single that got through the left side.”
“Jarren wanted to be here and improve his numbers,” Moore said. “He felt that Perfect Game was the right fit for him to be able to express his baseball skills and abilities. That’s why he stressed, ‘Mom, we’ve got get down there this year. We didn’t come last year because we went to another event with another organization and it didn’t compare to this. So he said, Mom, let’s return back to Perfect Game because it’s quality development and exposure.”
The National Underclass-Main Event Showcase is the 21st PG event at which Purify has been rostered, a number that includes his 13u and 14u Select Baseball Festival appearances in 2019 and 2020.
He’s played most of his travel ball with the Detroit-based Little Caesars Baseball Club, an outfit with whom he earned six all-tournament citations in 2019-20. In the summer of 2022, Purify plans to play with Team Indiana alongside Maxwell Clark (No. 1-ranked ’23, Vanderbilt commit), Andrew Wiggins (No. 80, Indiana) and quite a few other top guys. He’s found his travel ball experiences to very beneficial.
“That’s how I committed to Michigan; a lot of schools came to watch us play and that’s just where it’s at, honestly,” Purify said. “When you go to these (PG) WWBAs you get to play against everybody. You get to know your opponents and you create friendships; it’s just fun.”
The showcase environment is certainly distinct from a tournament environment but Purify has thrived in those settings as well, earning Top Prospect List recognition at the 2018 National 14u Showcase-Main Event and Top Prospect Team honors at the 2019 PG National Underclass Showcase-Main Event.
Yes, there can be a lot of downtime at a showcase between the workouts and games but Purify has been able to find positives in that, as well.
“That’s where the friendships and the camaraderie comes in,” he said. “You meet new teammates you’d never played with before and you see previous teammates from previous years that you get to see again, so it’s like one big reunion. Whenever you come to these, you’re just here to have fun, play for yourself, play for your parents; just play, honestly.”
Purify, who turned 16 in November, doesn’t remember the specific details but said when he was around 3 years old his mom bought him a baseball hitting T as a Christmas gift.
From that point on, his parents began working steadily with their son and he eventually developed into one of the star players – both with the bat and out on the field – for the Grosse Pointe Woods Little League team that advanced to the 2018 Little League World Series in South Williamsport, Pa.
“We had a really good coach (Kurt Barr) and really good kids and I’m still friends with a lot of those guys today,” Purify said, adding that many of them are his teammates on the Grosse Pointe Woods University Liggett High School team. “I just fell in love (with baseball) and it’s been my game ever since.
“I do play basketball but I don’t like it as much. Baseball is just like ‘the game’ and I want to play it forever.”
And speaking of the Grosse Pointe Woods Liggett High School team – Purify is a junior at the school – the Knights are fresh off a Michigan High School Athletic Association Division 3 state championship after a 31-5 season and return most of their key players for 2022.
Jarren Purity has been receiving accolades for his play ever since that 2018 Little League World Series appearance. During one game that year, Purify made a sensational defensive play that ended up at No. 2 in the ESPN “SportsCenter” top-10 plays of the day.
“He’s special. He’s got speed. He’s a smart player – a high baseball IQ,” his coach Kurt Barr told the Detroit Free Press that day. “He will have value and find a way to help his team on any given night.”
While already basking in the glow of strong reviews as a 12 and 13-year-old, Purify has been pleased with the way his game keeps developing, keeps improving. Upon turning 16 in November he admitted to seeing a lot of changes in his approach.
He feels like he’s become more patient along with becoming stronger and faster. He’s being more selective at the plate, and he’s learned to embrace the game for what it is and not be so angry with himself when he fails to get the job done because it is, after all, a game of failure.
“Perfect Game has taught me that it’s not always going to be easy for you. You’ve just got adhere to the changes and be able to adapt,” he said.
“I’m proud of Jarren; he’s a hard worker,” his mom said. “One thing about him, when you tell him he can’t (do something) he internalizes it and goes out and tries to do it. He’s such a good kid. I’ve never had any issues with him as a son. He’s a very good listener to me; he’s just a good kid.”
Those selections to the 13u and 14u PG Select Festivals didn’t really get the ball rolling – that probably started with his Little League experience as 12u player. But his mom certainly believes that those appearances had everything to do with Jarren gaining confidence and nothing can be more valuable in the game of baseball than believing in one’s own abilities.
“That was a blessing,” Moore said. “We had no idea he had enough of a skillset to get him to that level. When they (announced) that he was selected to participate we were just overwhelmed. It was shocking because we didn’t think we were good enough to make it there but someone else saw that we were, and we’re very grateful.”
Oh yeah, Jarren Purify was good enough all right. And he’s still doing everything he can to get better and prepare for a future that could include a collegiate career at Michigan or maybe, just maybe a shot at professional ball.
“This is going to be my last Main Event and it’s obviously been so good to me over the years,” Purify said. “I’ve seen my progression videos, my metrics, my stats and you just see how much I’ve become a better player and I’m really happy to say that.”