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Showcase | Story | 6/15/2015

Surroundings suit Brooklyn righty

Jeff Dahn        
Photo: Perfect Game

FORT MYERS, Fla. – The high heat and humidity that greeted the first wave of participants at the Perfect Game Junior National Showcase Sunday morning did nothing to stifle the enthusiasm of one of the top prospects from the great Northeast.

Nicholas Storz, a solidly built 6-foot-6, 245-pound primary right-handed pitcher out of the borough of Brooklyn in New York City, couldn’t have been any happier to be at JetBlue Park on the steamy late-spring morning in Southwest Florida. He was here with more than 180 of his baseball brothers, eager to compete in one of the country’s premier underclass showcase events.

“The weather is really (a factor) during the winter and you’re limited to what you can do,” Storz said of the conditions back home in Brooklyn. “The kids down south, they basically have all year to get better so to get down here and see where you stand with the rest of the kids in the country is important; it’s a great opportunity to be here.

“It’s a great atmosphere and it really pushes you to get better,” he continued. “Everybody has the same mindset to eventually make it to the pros or play good D-I ball; this is just a real fun opportunity.”

The 9th annual PG Jr. National got its three-day run started on Sunday with workouts, batting practice and four games, and continues Monday and Tuesday with more workouts and games. Storz got most of his work done Sunday but planned to stick around at least one more day just to get an up-close look at some his equally determined peers.

He is one of five 2017 right-handers ranked in the top-28 nationally that are scheduled to pitch over the next three days; three of the other four are from Florida and the fourth is from Tennessee.

“It’s just the strength of the competition that comes to this and it’s really good to see where you stand in the country,” Storz said of the event’s appeal. “It’s good to see what players are out there and how they compete. It’s really great to come out here and try to get better, and this showcase can really help you do that.”

Storz is an incoming junior at prestigious Poly Prep Country Day High School in Brooklyn and is here with his Poly Prep classmate and baseball teammate Pat DeMarco from Staten Island. Storz – who possesses a low-90s mph fastball – is ranked No. 17 nationally in the high school class of 2017 while DeMarco comes in at No. 93.

Poly Prep boasts one of the strongest baseball programs in the PG High School Northeast Region and is coming off a spring in which it finished 18-4 and won its eighth-straight Ivy Prep League championship. Storz and DeMarco have had the privilege of playing under highly successful Poly Prep head coach Matt Roventini the first two years of their high school careers and can look forward to two more years in the winning program.

“We’ve had some great kids come through here in my 11 years, and not just from the baseball aspect but as people and students,” Roventini told PG during a telephone interview in February. “The type of kid that we get here, or we try to get here, is top caliber and not just as a baseball player but academically and socially. I’ve never in my 11 years run into a disciplinary issue where somebody had to sit because of behavior or grades or anything along those lines. The quality of the kids that we deal with here is exceptional.

“… We (also) have kids who are ‘baseball players’ and that’s how they identify themselves,” he continued. “They’re proud to be really good at it … and they buy into the whole idea that it’s OK to be really, really good at baseball and to identify yourself as that.”

It’s also OK to be really, really good at other things, too, and there was a time – only a few months ago, in fact – that Storz was also really, really good at football. A tight end and defensive end, he told PG on Sunday that had received football offers from Miami (Fla.), Alabama and Michigan. He played football this past fall as a sophomore but won’t pursue it in the future.

“It was kind of a hard thing to leave behind but I knew if I wanted to reach my goals in baseball it was something that I needed to do,” he said.

Storz credits the entire Poly Prep coaching staff for building a program that makes it easy for the players to develop the type of work ethic that is necessary for each and every one of them to improve their games and ultimately win championships. And that, at the end of the day, is what makes baseball so appealing to all-around athletes like Storz.

“It’s just real fun; I love it,” he said as a smile widened across his face. “It helps that I’m pretty decent at it, but I just love the game. My dad (Richard Storz) introduced me to it when I was younger and it just kept growing on me.”

After playing in three PG WWBA and PG BCS tournaments with the East Cobb Expos in 2013 – the summer before his freshman year at Poly Prep – Storz joined the Winder, Ga.-based Team Elite organization. He played in six PG tournaments with Team Elite Prime last summer, and was named to the all-tournament team at the 15u PG WWBA National Championship and the 15u PG BCS Finals.

He was with Team Elite Prime 16u at the recently completed 16u Perfect Game-East Cobb Invitational in Emerson, Ga., and was again named all-tournament for a team that finished 3-1 after a loss in the first-round of the playoffs. He is already signed up to play for the same group at the 16u PG BCS Finals June 25-July 1, back here in Fort Myers.

“Every single coach in that organization knows what they’re talking about,” Storz said of Team Elite. “They really want you to get better – they always have your best interest in mind – and I just love it.”

While Storz has had extensive tournament experience with Perfect Game, this is his first go-around at a showcase. He didn’t come in with any particular expectations of the event and will try to maintain the same mindset he has when he plays in tournaments.

“You always want to go out there and play to the best of your ability and who what you’ve got,” he said. “It’s different from a (tournament) game where you can go out and (throw) five innings and here you’ve got two innings and you’ve got to show what you’ve got. You’ve really only got one chance to impress (the college coaches and scouts).”

Storz has not committed to a college yet and with two full years of high school still in front of him, there is certainly no need rush into it. He doesn’t list any favorites on his PG Player Profile page but he said on Sunday that he does have a list in his head and he plans on taking visits to every one of them. “It has to be like the perfect choice; you’ve got to fit in perfectly and you’ve got to love everything,” he said.

As is typically the case in Southwest Florida in mid-June, the heat and humidity that engulfed JetBlue Park during the morning and early afternoon eventually surrendered a mid-afternoon thunderstorm replete with heavy rain and plenty of lightning. The stadium was cleared of players and spectators and the tarp was pulled over the infield, in this case just before Storz was scheduled to head to the mound for his two innings of work.

When play resumed, the decision was made to hold back Storz so he could get his work in first thing Monday morning. When he finally got out there he was impressive, firing a fastball that sat 87-90 mph and topped out at 91 while also showing a mid-70's slider.

Afternoon weather delays are part of the deal in Fort Myers but there have been no delays in the progression of Nick Storz’s baseball career. The combination of playing for an elite high school program at Poly Prep Country Day and an elite travel ball program with the Team Elite organization will only continue to make him better and cement his spot in the top-20 of PG’s national prospect rankings.

“I would say I’m pretty pleased with the way I’ve grown as a player,” Storz said. “I work pretty hard in the offseason to get better and to get to where I am today. And I can always hope to get better in the future.”

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