Tournaments | Story | 10/24/2014

A Scorpions' type of player

Jeff Dahn        
Photo: Perfect Game

JUPITER, Fla. – Matt Gerber’s smart phone began ringing right around the time the East Coast Professional Showcase up in Syracuse, N.Y., was reaching its conclusion back on Aug. 2.

Gerber, the owner, operator and head coach of the Altamonte Springs, Fla.-based Orlando Scorpions organization, was unable to attend the East Coast Pro and his buddies in the scouting community were eager to tell him about a class of 2015 outfielder they had watch smoke line drives and home runs all over and out of NBT Bank Stadium the previous three days.

Nick Plummer, the scouts told Gerber, looked like someone he might be interested in.

“They said Nick is our type of player,” Gerber said of the scouts’ phone calls he fielded. “What that means to me is a guy that is hard-nosed and really works hard and really pounds it, obviously.”

Gerber was speaking after his ultra-talented Orlando Scorpions/Mets Scout Team had completed a workout session at the Roger Dean Stadium Complex on the first day of the 16th annual Perfect Game WWBA World Championship.

The Scorpions/Mets Scout Team features three Perfect Game All-Americans on its roster and 10 prospects from the classes of 2015, 2016 and 2017 ranked in the top-71 nationally.

One of those is Plummer, a 5-foot-11, 200-pound outfielder from Lathrup Village, Mich., and a senior at Brother Rice High School in Bloomfield Hills, Mich. He’s also a Kentucky recruit who has shot up the PG national prospect rankings all the way to the No. 22 slot. How meteoric has that climb been? When an updated version of the class of 2015 rankings was released on Sept. 18, 2013, Plummer was lost in the crowd at No. 407.

“We’ve never really gone outside the organization to get players for this event, but the guys that we brought in, I just feel like they’re our type of guys and Nick’s no exception to that,” Gerber said.

Plummer flew into Orlando from his Michigan home on Monday and got to spend a few days working out with the other Scorpions players before venturing down to South Florida. He immediately developed a friendship with PG All-American and 2015 No. 1-ranked prospect Brendan Rodgers – or “B-Rod” as Plummer called him – while the two took batting practice together.

“I’m looking forward to this whole experience, playing with B-Rod and the Scorpions,” Plummer said. “We’ve got a bunch of great guys, and I want to take away from this that I’m an elite-level player and I can look forward to the draft and just seeing what I can do.”

The Scorpions/Mets Scout Team’s roster is brimming with talent, led by three PG All-Americans: the shortstop Rodgers (No. 1-ranked and a Florida State recruit); outfielder Kep Brown (No. 19, Miami) and catcher Nick Fortes (No. 71, Mississippi). At No. 22, Plummer is the third highest-ranked 2015 prospect on the team, behind only Rodgers and Brown.

The Scorpions/Mets Scout Team opened play at the PG WWBA World Championship with a resounding 12-6 win over the Dallas Mustangs, a game played under the lights Friday night. Plummer was hitless in four plate appearances but did walk twice and scored a run.

He didn’t always show such discipline at the plate, and like another top 2015 prospect here this weekend – Canadian Demi Orimoloye with the Toronto Blue Jays Scout Team – really didn’t hit the scouts’ radar until after a couple of standout performances at the East Coast Pro and the Area Code Games, both held in the first 10 days of August.

“I went into East Coast Pro and performed pretty well. I hit the ball really well, squared it up and hit line drives, and I carried that on into the Area Code Games,” Plummer said. “As the (pitcher’s) velos went up I just made sure I stayed more patient; I made sure I got my front foot down earlier, hit my pitch, and if they threw a fast ball I made sure I hit it.

“That was pretty much it; I didn’t change my approach that much. But, yeah, it was just a really good summer.”

That “really good summer” has led to some out-sized expectations in regard to the 2015 MLB June Amateur First-Year Player Draft. A quick search online found three separate published reports that all listed Plummer as being selected with one of the first 22 picks in the first round of the draft.

Being surrounded by the greatness that permeates every crack and crevice at the Roger Dean Stadium Complex when the PG WWBA World Championship is in town only seems to bring out the best in players of Plummer’s stature, the guys who want to improve that draft standing.

With anywhere from 800 to 1,000 scouts and college recruiters surrounding the playing fields at the spring training home of the St. Louis Cardinals and Miami Marlins while games are being played from 8 a.m. until 10 p.m., the last thing a prospect wants to do is show a lack of effort.

“I always try to play my game at 100 percent wherever I’m playing,” Plummer said. “After East Coast Pro, I talked to my stepdad and he was like, ‘I knew you were going to do good but not this good.’ I guess you could say I stepped up my game up there. I went out there thinking I had something to prove – a kid from Michigan that hadn’t really played that much on the (national) baseball circuit.”

Plummer was largely raised by his mother, Ann Plummer, who was in attendance Friday, watching her son pursue his dreams.

“I just hope he has a good learning experience, good bonding,” she said when asked what she wants her son to take away from the weekend. “This is his kind of atmosphere; he likes being with the baseball guys. I hope he can go out and do whatever he can do, do his best and take something positive away from it.”

“She’s been everything to me,” Plummer said of his mother. “My mom has been there through thick and thin; she went to all the (events) with me this summer and I’m really glad we got to share that experience.”

Plummer also gave a lot of credit to his stepfather, Scott Leonard, who coached Plummer when he was younger. “He’s just a great father-figure that I got at a really good time in my life,” Plummer said. “It helped out, too, that he was my coach – he throws really good BP – and having my mom and Scott has been a huge gift for me.”

Plummer previously played the quarterback position on his school’s freshman and sophomore football teams but decided to go full-time with baseball after his sophomore year. He talks expressively about his love of baseball and about the hard work that is required to excel at the game.

He calls it a grind but quickly adds, “I really love how it’s a grind.” He talks about how it’s been a long process but then explains how much he enjoys being able to look back and measure how far he’s come while also anticipating how much farther he still has to go.

“This is his favorite sport and he’s (stood out) since he was little; he’s very focused,” Ann said. “It’s been fun but it can be stressful at moments because you want (your children) to succeed. I think it will play out the way it’s meant to play out and I’m very excited for him. I think that he’s in a good spot and positive things are ahead.”

Perfect Game website managing editor Patrick Ebert picked the Scorpions/Mets to win their pool championship, no easy task considering that will more than likely require they run the table against the Dallas Mustangs (already accomplished), Nelson Baseball/Team GA, Northeast PG Vegas Gold and the Tidewater Orioles.

Gerber and the Scorpions organization are no strangers to winning PG national championships – several members of this team were on the Orlando Scorpions ’15 Prime squad that won last year’s PG WWBA Underclass World Championship – but they have never won this event. An Orlando Scorpions team finished runner-up to Eric Hosmer and the Braves Scout Team in 2007.

“I think it’s going to come down to the team that doesn’t make the most mistakes because you’re going to face a good arm every single time out; you’ve just got to execute,” Gerber said. “You could go 1-and-3 or you could go 0-and-4 very easily and we understand that.

“We take every opponent very seriously and I’ve told the guys that the team that is going to win this event is the team that is most into the game and is in it from a cerebral standpoint.”

And Gerber plans to accomplish it with prospects that are his “type of players,” the ones that fit the Scorpions mold perfectly, the hard-nosed guys, the kids that love the game – kids like, well, Nick Plummer.

 “When you watch him play, you might think he comes across as – cocky isn’t the right word but really confident – and then you talk to him and he’s just a really down-to-earth, very nice kid,” Gerber said. “He’s had a very good upbringing, he’s humble, and he takes it seriously and works very, very hard. He is definitely our type of kid and I look forward to plugging him in at the top of our lineup.”

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