All American Game | Story | 8/10/2015

The Lowe-down on A-A Classic

Jeff Dahn        
Photo: Perfect Game

It was a year ago this week that Marietta, Ga., standout 2016 right-handed pitcher and left-handed swinging third baseman Joshua Lowe and his father, David Lowe, traveled to San Diego so that Joshua could participate in the Perfect Game Underclass All-American Games showcase.

They arrived a day or two before the start of the Underclass Games, and on Sunday, Aug. 10, they decided to head downtown to watch the 12th annual Perfect Game All-American Classic in person from the stadium seats inside beautiful Petco Park, the home of the National League’s Padres.

Sitting just blocks from scenic San Diego Bay, Joshua Lowe and his dad watched the West team of prep all-stars roll past the East, 7-0, for its fourth straight victory in the Classic’s history and its seventh win against four losses and a tie. Lowe soaked-in the entire experience and decided right then and there what needed to be done.

“I was out there last year … and I was watching everything and I was like, ‘I’m going to set a goal for myself to be here at this time next year,'” Lowe told PG during a telephone interview late last week. The conversation took place as Lowe and his parents were preparing to leave for San Diego once again, this time with Lowe filling a spot on the East roster for the 13th PG All-American Classic on Sunday, Aug. 16, instead of filling a seat in the Petco stands.

“I’m super excited to be a part of the event,” he said. “I’m just truly honored to be selected to play in this game.”

Lowe, an athletic 6-foot-4, 190-pound incoming senior at Pope High School in Marietta who has committed to Florida State, will play in the Classic as the national high school class of 2016’s No. 12-ranked overall prospect and the No. 1-ranked overall prospect in Georgia.

The road Lowe took to his lofty No. 12 national ranking and a spot on the East roster at the Classic was tried and true. He moved along the route with a sort of precise patience for the first two or three years of summer ball before turning on the jets this summer.

The Classic will be his 15th Perfect Game event – 13 tournaments and two showcases – and while his arm velocity improved incrementally at every event, it wasn’t reflected in his national ranking.

The first time Lowe appeared in the class of 2016 national rankings was on June 25, 2014, when he came in at No. 171. That was on the heels of an all-tournament team performance playing with the TigerTown Tigers at the 16u Perfect Game-East Cobb Invitational in which his fastball sat 86-89 mph, topping out at 89, and he showed an 80 mph curveball and 83 mph changeup.

Those velocities told the tale of an impressive jump from a year earlier when he pitched for the East Cobb Longhorns at the 14u/15u PG-EC Invitational and his fastball sat 77-82, his curveball came across at 71 and his changeup at 74.

Lowe’s fastball continued to sit in the upper-80s through four more 2014 events – it topped at 88 mph at the 2014 PG Underclass All-American Games where he was named to the Top Prospect List – and his ranking reflected that, ranging from No. 107 on Sept. 3, 2014, to No. 147 on Feb. 3, 2014. It may have been his performance at the Underclass Games at the U. of San Diego that really got the ball rolling for a return visit to the city, a place he immediately fell in love with.

“The weather was awesome – it didn’t really change much from day to day – so I could expect the same thing every day,” Lowe said of the experience. “Baseball-wise, it’s fun to hit out there because … the ball just jumps off the bat. It was pretty cool just getting to know people from the West Coast, and bringing in talent from all over the country and playing with those guys.”

In truth, Lowe’s stock in the collective eye of the nation’s scouting community didn’t really begin to soar until he delivered a breakout performance at the Perfect Game National Showcase in Fort Myers, Fla., in mid-June. It was there that something did, indeed, hit the fan.

In a frenetic display of velocity, power, speed and overall athleticism, Lowe topped the charts in just about every workout category and was named among the top-10 prospects at the prestigious, 310-player event. He threw 95 mph across the infield, which tied for the best effort, and ran a 6.57-second 60-yard dash, almost four-tenths of a second faster than the event average; his 10-yard sprint time of 1.65-seconds ranked just slightly above the event average.

On the mound, Lowe was nothing short of electric. His fastball sat at 91-94 (topping out at 94), and he also showed an 83 mph slider and 82 mph changeup during a pair of one-two-three innings. Based on that top Prospect List performance, Lowe jumped to No. 12 from No. 147 in PG’s most recent class of 2016 national prospect rankings released on June 28.

Lowe admitted to feeling quite an adrenaline rush when he walked out on the field at JetBlue Park on his first day at the National Showcase and on top of his workout and pitching performances, he hit well during batting practice and in game-action. With two TPL showings in two high-profile PG settings, Lowe proved he can perform at the highest level on PG’s biggest stages.

“I’ve come to realize that the scouts and other people come here to watch these games and see some good talent,” he said. “So for me it’s just going out there and playing the game as hard as I can and giving it 100 percent with everything that I do. That’s what I hope to do for the rest of my life while I’m playing baseball.”

If any statement was put forth that Lowe had switched from a primary third baseman to a primary pitcher, it didn’t come from him; he professes to enjoy them equally. He was both a position player and a pitcher as a youngster, continued his two-way ways throughout his school and Perfect Game careers; he was recruited to Florida State as a two-way guy.

“I feel like there (are levels) that I haven’t reached yet in both sides of my game, with the bat and on the mound,” Lowe said. “I’m just going to let it go as far as I can and let it sort itself out down the road. (The FSU coaches) told me I’d be out there on the field and then I might get out there on the mound and close a game or something like that, but I just want to keep both (options) open as long as I can.”

After watching Lowe perform at the East Coast Professional Showcase in Tampa, Fla., late last month, PG Vice President of Player Personnel David Rawnsley wrote the following when naming Lowe to his personal Top Prospect List as a position player:

“Lowe may be listed as a primary pitcher on the PG All-American Classic roster, but many, if not most, of the scouts in Tampa … will likely view him as a primary position player for now, even accounting for the 91-94 fastball and true slider. His power/speed combo was on display in every game.”

When asked to expound on those thoughts late last week, Rawnsley had this to say in an email he sent while simultaneously monitoring the action at the Area Code Games in Long Beach, Calif.

“I would have said on the morning of July 27 (at the ECP) that Lowe was a plus-athlete who had first-round potential on the mound, in part due to his athleticism,” Rawnsley wrote. “However, he put on such a show as a third baseman at ECP that I’m pretty sure a significant number of scouts think he is a primary third baseman.”

Rawnsley related that Lowe had the best batting practice session of any prospect at the event and described one moon-shot that completely left Steinbrenner field; he hit six BP home runs. He continued to show the same type of power during ECP game-action, and in another instance used his speed and hustle to turn a routine, opposite-field single into a double.

“He was his usual 91-94 (mph) on the mound with a decent slider and lots of low-zone life,” Rawnsley wrote. “I still like him better as a pitcher but I might be in the minority.”

Lowe started his summertime travel ball career in 2012 and 2013 playing his hometown East Cobb Longhorns, and then in 2014 joined the Lakeland, Fla.-based TigerTown Tigers. He spent this summer playing with the elite Virginia-based EvoShield Canes at the 17u PG WWBA National Championship in Emerson, Ga., and the 17u PG World Series in Goodyear, Ariz., both PG national championship tournaments. All three travel team associations resulted in distinct learning experiences.

His time with the Longhorns was important because it was a “family” team made up of local boys that put the emphasis on having fun. The months spent with the Tigers – the summer before his junior year in high school – was especially valuable because the coaches spent a lot of time on instruction, and he worked frequently with Kevin Bradshaw, a former minor-leaguer and field manager in the Detroit Tigers organization.

Next up came his involvement with the Canes, the winner of multiple PG national championship tournaments over the past three years that this season boasted a roster brimming with eight PG All-Americans, including Lowe.

“This past year was really about just branching out and being on one of the best teams in the country,” he said. “I really couldn’t ask for anything more than that, playing with all that amazing talent and the great coaches that we had, and all of the exposure that we got.

“These last couple of years I’ve been able to see myself progressing with everything I’ve done,” he continued. “I realize that the harder I work, it’s just going to pay off for me even more in the long run; you have to put in the work now or you’re not going to get what you want later.”

All of that PG tournament and showcase experience has helped lead to his development as a ballplayer but he also gives a lot of credit to his family. His father, David, played baseball and football at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md., and has helped guide him along his course. “He’s definitely strict, which all parents need to be with their kids,” Lowe said of his dad. “He’s been through it all and he knows what’s good for me and what’s not.”

Lowe also gives a shout-out to his brother, Nathaniel Lowe, who was an NJCAA first-team All-American infielder this spring while playing at St. Johns River State College in Palatka, Fla. Nathaniel – a veteran of 18 PG events, most of them tournaments with various East Cobb teams, from 2010-13 – will be at Mississippi State in the fall.

“He’s helped me with my hitting and he’s given me a lot of pointers about a lot of things that some people really don’t know about,” Lowe said of his brother. “It’s great to have (my dad and brother) around and, of course, my mom (Wendy) for all of her support and just for being there to help everything work out.”

Lowe played football as recently as last fall but won’t extend his football career into his senior year at Pope HS. He decided his athletic future lies with baseball, and he won’t get any argument from MLB front offices across the country. More and more, it seems, the top high school athletes are finding the game’s allure too powerful to pass up.

“With football, there’s nothing like catching a touchdown pass and looking up into the stands and seeing everybody that you know going crazy; it’s a special feeling,” Lowe said. “But with baseball, it’s one of those streaky things that when you’re playing good and your team is playing well, everything just works.

“It’s a (sport) where you can win a game or you can lose a game and you can expect to play the next day … and it’s one of those things you can look forward to,” he continued. “Having baseball there, it’s just one of those things that makes me happy every day.”

Joshua Lowe will certainly be among the happiest of any of the 51 PG All-Americans taking part in this week’s festivities. He wants to imbed every experience in his memory for a lifetime, starting with Thursday’s Welcome Dinner and continuing through Friday’s visits to Rady Children’s Hospital, Trevor Hoffman’s oceanfront beach house and the first practice session at USD.

On Saturday there’s another practice session and the start of the Home Run Challenge and that night the annual Classic Awards Banquet. Through it all, there are seminars and sessions, and more than enough free-time for the players to enjoy their own Hospitality Room (re: no parents allowed) at the beautiful San Diego Marriott Mission Valley Hotel, the event’s base of operations.

“I just hope to become brothers for life will all of the kids I’m playing with out there,” Lowe said. “I want to become part of a family with all the people that I’m on the team with and meet some good coaches out there, and just have a good time while I’m there.

“I’m looking forward to seeing all those kids in the hospital and giving them a little bit of my time hoping that I can make their day and everything else like that.” Spoken like a true PG All-American.

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