Showcase | Story | 8/12/2015

Exuberant Turney turns heads

Jeff Dahn        
Photo: Perfect Game

SAN DIEGO – Even before participating in his PG USA (Red) Team batting practice session or taking infield/outfield or playing in the first of two games Wednesday on the first day of play at the Perfect Game Underclass All-American Games, Texan Cole Turney was a picture of youthful exuberance.

Spotted standing with friends and teammates on the main concourse at the University of San Diego’s Fowler Park, an animated Turney was swinging a bat while chatting with his pals, smiling and laughing while likely telling tales related to the just completed Underclass Area Code Games up the Pacific Coast in Long Beach, Calif.

Here was a kid in his element, one who with his dad, Terry, and his mom, Michelle, had left the 100-plus degree heat in their Houston Metropolitan Area home of Richmond, Texas, and replaced it with this coastal city’s temperate 80-degree highs. There was simply no place else the 16-year-old rising junior at William B. Travis High School in Richmond would have rather been.

“I’ve heard great things about (this event) and for Perfect Game to invite me to it is a great accomplishment,” Turney said Wednesday afternoon. “It’s exciting to come out here and play the game you love – it’s fun and you get to meet new people – and it’s just awesome; it’s a great experience.”

A 6-foot, 195-pound outfielder who wears fashionable eye-glasses and hair that drops below his ears and onto the back of his neck, Turney possesses a sweet and powerful stroke from the left side of the plate and a contagious love for the game. He is ranked 139th nationally in the class of 2017 but is Texas’ No. 9-ranked overall prospect and the state’s No. 2-ranked outfielder; he seems destined to climb the rankings ladder.

This is his first Perfect Game showcase, although he did play at last weekend’s Underclass Area Code Games which is the granddaddy of all showcase events. By the time Turney wraps up his two-day session here on Thursday he will have played with or against many of the most elite prospects in his class from every corner of the country.

“It was eye-opening to get out there and see a lot of the nation’s top players; a lot of good arms,” he said. “Everyone here pretty much has the same goal – we all want to make it to the pros or play collegiate baseball, it’s our dream– and it’s good to be surrounded by people with the same dreams as you. It pushes you and it’s just good to be around those people. You see hustle out there and you see people out there grinding and working hard and just pushing themselves.”

Among the many people in attendance at Fowler Park on Wednesday who could truly appreciate Turney’s exuberance was his father, Terry. He wanted to make sure his son could do both the Underclass Area Code Games and the PG Underclass All-American Games in succession so there was no drop-off in the talent-level Cole would face.

“This has been an awesome week,” Terry Turney said. “The baseball experience (in Long Beach) was incredible and from what I’ve seen so far and what I expect to see here, it looks like all the better talent will be out here. All these kids want that … because they’re all playing to take that next step and this is what will get them there.”

Turney gives a lot of the credit for his progression as a ballplayer to his father, who never played at the collegiate or professional level but has always been there providing words of encouragement. Cole also appreciates the guidance he’s received his older brother, Dillon Turney, a 2014 left-hander who began his college career at Texas-San Antonio but has since transferred to Blinn College, a NJCAA Division I school in Brenham, Texas.

Dillon Turney grew up playing frequently with 2013 PG All-American Stone Garrett and it was through that friendship that Cole Turney first became familiar with the PG A-A Classic. Now here he is performing at USD in the same city that will host this year’s Classic next Sunday – and again in 2016.

“I think it would be awesome playing (in the Classic),” Turney said. “Playing at Petco, that would just be amazing, and it’s something I definitely want to do and I’m going to work hard for it.”

Terry Turney has witnessed first-hand how a lot of dads can sometimes become too involved with their kids, and he prefers to take more of a backseat approach, although he’s still very much in the same vehicle. He said he has never coached one of Cole’s teams but when they get home on the driveway or in the backyard, they’ll talk things over.

“For him or any of these guys to fully understand the game, at some point they need to find out what they need to adjust on their own; it’s a part of not just baseball but of growing up,” Terry said. “As far as I can see, it’s been exceptional how he’s been able to self-adjust and self-evaluate and keep (a level head).

“… He needs to think himself through this and that’s why as a parent who appreciates the game, it’s good to stay on this side of the fence so I can stay more observant, and I think it’s helped him more in the long run.”

Turney, who has committed to 2015 College World Series participant Arkansas from the Southeastern Conference, has taken those lessons to heart: “I’m just trying to come out here and play my hardest and have fun,” he said. “If I do (poorly), it happens – you’re not going to play your best all the time – but you can control your hustle and your attitude and that’s what I’m here to do.”

While this is Turney’s first PG showcase he has played in half-a-dozen PG and PG Super25 tournaments, most recently with the South Texas Sliders. He describes an environment with the Sliders where everyone puts winning ahead of personal gain: “We love each other and we’re a family and we just love playing the game,” he said.

The Turneys, both father and son, used words like “outstanding” and “unbelievable” when describing the recruiting process that ended with Cole Turney committing to head coach Dave Van Horn and the Arkansas Razorbacks.

He said he was sold on Van Horn’s program after attending a game in Fayetteville with 12,000 fans in attendance. But Terry and Michelle wanted Cole to be sure it was decision he was going to be able to live with for what could possibly be three or four of the most important years in his young life.

“He had (generated) a lot of interest and had gotten a few offers from different people but as a parent it seemed very early (in the process),” Terry said. “When he made his decision, we made him sleep on it for 30 more days just in case he woke up and decided (it wasn’t the right fit). But he didn’t do that; he only wanted it more. … It’s his decision, he’s happy with it and we’re happy for him.”

Turney finally put down the bat he was swinging playfully in Fowler Park’s main concourse early Wednesday afternoon, but when he picked it back up to swing during BP, the results were impressive. He consistently delivered bombs to right and right-center field on Fowler’s Cunningham Field, then dropped the bat once again and sprinted out to leftfield to help shag.

Not long after the left-handed Turney finished his BP session, it was another Texan’s turn. Right-handed swinging Ryan Vilade, an Oklahoma State recruit from Frisco, stepped in and promptly deposited five bombs into left and left-center field before he too went out to shag.

The first player to greet Vilade with glove-slaps and arm-hugs was Turney, his youthful exuberance once again on display for all to see. It was two Texas boys living in the moment while becoming even more convinced this was a platform on which they not only belonged but one they could share. It was what exactly what Terry Turney had come to see.

 “I hope that what he gets out of this is knowing that he can compete with people on this stage; he’s at this level and he’s confident that he can perform,” the proud dad said. “He’s only one pitcher away from going 0-for-5, and being able to deal with that and stay confident and move forward, those are things we want him to get out of this.”

Cole Turney related that his biggest dream right now – like every other kid that put on their new Nike PG Underclass A-A Games jerseys and spikes on Wednesday – is to make it to the highest level of baseball he is able to attain. But as he reaches elite status within his age group and among his peers, he’s taking on more responsibility.

“You’re in a big spotlight and you’re on that stage where you have an opportunity to be a great role model,” he said. “You’re a hero to fans and little kids and you can make a huge difference with that, just being on that stage. You can inspire others and do something to change the world.”

Turney took a breath and then smiled broadly: “I’m never satisfied. I love being here but I have a lot more to work for,” he concluded. “I’m happy I’m here but I want to be a lot further, and I want to keep going until I can’t play anymore, and just push myself as hard as I possibly can.”

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