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Showcase | Story | 6/21/2015

PG National Day 5 Recap

Jeff Dahn         Andrew Krause        
Photo: Perfect Game

Father's Day repeat at National (Nicholas Quintana feature)

Belge looms large among lefties

FORT MYERS, Fla. – The top four left-handed pitchers in the high school graduating class of 2016 took their turns firing missiles from the top of the mound at JetBlue Park the last two days. They marched out and did their respective thing, which in each case meant delivering fastballs that reached home plate traveling anywhere between 92 to 96 mph.

Pitching at the Perfect Game National Showcase, all were impressive and most struck a strikingly similar pose. There was No. 1-ranked Jason Groome from Barnegat, N.J., listed at 6-foot-6, 180-pounds; No.3 Cole Ragans out of Crawfordville, Fla., at 6-4, 190; and No. 4 Braxton Garrett from Florence, Ala., who came in a veritable equal of Ragans at 6-3, 190.

No. 2-ranked Jeff Belge doesn’t quite fit the mold only because of his heft. Belge, who hails from Syracuse, N.Y., stands out from the crowd with his powerfully built 6-foot-6, 235-pound frame. He then blended right back in with rest as he pounded the zone with 92 mph fastballs and odd-speed stuff that sat 77-79 mph.

When he finished his two innings just in front of a long lightning delay Saturday afternoon, he couldn’t have been more pleased with the opportunity the PG National Showcase presented him.

It was a great experience to get out in front of some of the best players in the country and some big-time scouts down here, and just show what you got,” Belge said. “It’s always exciting, every start in front of (the scouts) when you see them out behind the backstop. Some people get nervous when they’re back there but I think I do better when they’re back there.”

There is something else that sets Belge apart from the other southpaws, although it’s doubtful the casual observer would even notice – Belge pitches wearing special goggles. When he was 9 years old, he suffered an injury to his right eye that required surgery and left him nearly sightless in that eye; he sees only colors and vague outlines.

According to at least one published report, the goggles he wears feature a clear, protective right lens while the left lens is prescription. He calls the injury “no big deal” and it certainly has done nothing to slow what has become a very promising baseball career.

I’ve been playing baseball since I was about four years old,” said Belge, who was back out throwing less than a year after his eye surgery. “No one in my family never really played baseball besides me, so I don’t really know how I ever got into it. It was one of those things where I just kind of clicked with it once I started playing.”

Belge pitched all through Little League, but he always felt he was a better hitter than pitcher right up until seventh or eighth grade. He’s always thrown hard but he really took it to a new level velocity-wise last summer; the jump was, indeed, monumental.

Pitching for the Baseball U organization at three tournaments in 2013 – the 17u PG WWBA National Championship, 16u PG WWBA National Championship and the PG WWBA Northeast Qualifier – Belge offered fastballs that topped out 84-85 mph and a curveball that sat steadfast at 73 mph.

A year later, his fastball blew-up the gun at 94 mph at both the 2014 17u and 16u PG WWBA National Championships and touched 93 at the East Coast Professional Showcase and the PG Underclass All-American Games showcase. His curveball ratcheted up to the 76-79 range at those events, he was 79-81 with his slider and anywhere from 77 to 84 with his change.

During the offseason, Belge works with brothers Ben and Bryan Gaal, who operate out of John Wells’ Baseball U New York’s CNY Baseball Warehouse in Syracuse. Ben Gaal is Belge’s strength and conditioning coach and Bryan Gaal serves as his pitching coach.

Coach John Wells is a great coach, and Bryan and Ben Gall are both with Baseball U and it’s a great relationship,” Belge said. “It’s a great team and we’re all real close on the team – great friends. I remember the first time I ever pitched in front of scouts was with Baseball U at Temple University. The first time I ever traveled to Perfect Games was with Baseball U, so they’ve really helped me out a lot.”

He also met with Eric Cressey, the co-founder of Massachusetts-based Cressey Sports Performance. Cressey gave Belge a detailed workout plan that he used midway through his high school season and recently started back up with it again.

Belge, who will be a senior in the fall at Henninger High School in Syracuse, has committed to St. John’s University in New York City. The Red Storm are coming off of a tremendous 2015 season in which they won the Big East Conference regular season championship, the Big East Conference tournament championship and finished 41-16 after a loss to Arkansas in an NCAA Regional final. Six St. John’s players were selected in the 2015 MLB First-Year Player Draft, including five pitchers.

Ironically, Belge was directed to St. John’s by a friend of his who never made it to the Queens campus. Baldwinsville, N.Y., right-hander Scott Blewett was a second-round pick of the Kansas City Royals in the 2014 MLB June Amateur Draft right out of high school.

He had signed with St. John’s before the draft and helped steer Belge through the whole recruiting process while also getting him acquainted with the St. John’s coaching staff. Belge like the entire coaching staff at the school but developed an especially good relationship with Red Storm pitching coach Corey Muscara. “I went down for a visit and I like how it was in a big city but the campus wasn’t too big,” he said.

By the time Belge left Southwest Florida Saturday night, he had gained an appreciation for the entire PG National Showcase experience. He especially enjoyed being not only a part of the exclusive “left-handers fraternity” but a very prominent member.

It’s always fun to get around guys that you know you’re competing against,” Belge said. “You can get to know them a little bit and see how they are and see the similarities and the differences; it’s always fun. You can pick up things from them and how they go about different things that you might put together in your routine. This has been a real good experience and I’ll definitely build from this going into the rest of the summer.”

Jeff Dahn

Father's Day tribute

The Perfect Game National Showcase is held during Father's Day each and every year, and we would like to thank all of the fathers who spent the day with us at JetBlue Ballpark in Fort Myers, Fla. (or in the comfort of your own home watching the action online) for making us a part of your day.

Here are a few of the players participating in this year's National Showcase who have big league dads:

Connor Capel – son of three-year big leaguer Mike
Quinn Hoffman – son of 18-year big leaguer and PG All-American Classic Honorary Chairman Trevor
Grae Kessinger – son of one-year big leaguer Keith and grandson of 16-year big leaguer Don
Jacob Matheny – son of 13-year big league catcher and current St. Louis Cardinals Manager, Mike
Jaren Shelby – son of 11-year big leaguer and current Milwaukee Brewers assistant coach, John
Bo Weiss – son of 14-year big league shortstop and current Colorado Rockies Manager, Walt

Live Streaming

For the fourth consecutive year the Perfect Game National Showcase is available for everyone to watch online. The live stream to all of the workouts, batting practice sessions and games can be accessed in real time here (archives of the events will be added at a later point in time):

Archives to all of the action from the 2015 National Showcase can be accessed here:

PG National Scout Blogs

Read even more about the game-by-game highlights and the workout results from the 2015 Perfect Game National Showcase scout blogs:

National Impressions

Ranked 11th in the most recent iteration of Perfect Game’s class of 2016 rankings, Anthony Molina (RHP, Pembroke Pines, Fla.) took to the mound Sunday for his first appearance in this year’s National Showcase. Those who have seen Molina previously were unsurprised to see the young righty display an extremely loose and clean arm action with easy velocity. Molina sat in the low-90s over the course of his two innings and ran his heater up to 94 mph in the early going. The West Broward High School righty struck out the side in his first inning of work, largely because of his lively fastball, but he also mixed in a developing low-70s curveball and mid-70s changeup with fading life and good velocity differential off of his fastball.

Another top member of the 2016 class, Reggie Lawson (2016 RHP, Adelento, Calif.) displayed solid command of two quality pitches. The athletic, 6-foot-4, 205-pound Arizona State commit sat in the low-90s with his fastball and was able to locate the offering to both sides of the plate consistently. He also showed nice feel for a curveball that had very good bite and depth to it, constantly locating it in the bottom half of the zone.

A Cedar Rapids native, Spencer Van Scoyoc is no stranger to Perfect Game events, and in his National Showcase debut, the long, lean lefthander struck out four in his two innings pitched. The 6-foot-4, 195-pound southpaw consistently threw his fastball in the upper-80s, peaking at 89 mph. He also displayed a very good curveball with excellent depth and tight spin, which he was able to locate adeptly throughout the outing. As one of the most projectable arms in the class, Van Scoyoc’s strong performance in front of many scouts from around the country certainly opened some eyes.

D.J. Roberts, a righthanded pitcher from Jacksonville had an impressive outing in the morning’s first contest. At an athletic and solidly-built 6-foot-2, 218-pounds, Roberts showed good life on his fastball, which was clocked as high as 92 mph. The South Florida commit projects very well and he also worked in a sharp slider from his three-quarters arm slot and showed developing feel for an upper-70s changeup.

Nick Long (RHP/IF Sarasota, Fla.) threw two solid innings, showing a clean, easy arm action and a fastball up to 90 mph. He projects for more velocity as he continues to mature and fill into his 6-foot-2, 195-pound frame. Long showcased good command of his fastball, and also had solid feel for his mid-70s breaking ball. The University of Florida commit also had a very impressive round of batting practice in the Sunday’s workout portion of the event.

Speaking of the workout portion, players from the last four teams took to Jet Blue Park to participate in batting practice on Sunday morning. Aside from Nick Long, a few other players impressed.

Mason Templet (3B, Youngsville, La.) has a very athletic look and he carries his solidly-built 6-foot-1, 190-pound frame very well. The lefthanded hitting infielder stood out in batting practice with an easy weight shift, aggressive, impactful swing and good feel for the barrel, particularly when hitting balls hard to his pull side.

Mickey Moniak (OF, Encinitas, Calif.) may have had the best overall round of batting practice of the entire National Showcase. Moniak has great bat speed and an exceptional feel for using the barrel. The lefthanded hitting outfielder hit balls from foul line to foul line throughout the round, prompting our own David Rawnsley to label it a “windshield wiper round” as the hits were sprayed from one direction to another and then back around.

Andrew Krause

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