Showcase : : Story
Saturday, December 29, 2018

Colon doesn't pull his punches

Jeff Dahn        
Photo: Bryant Colon (Perfect Game)

FORT MYERS, Fla. – One of the boxes a prospect has to fill out to complete his Perfect Game Player Profile Page is a two-word line that reads “Other sports.” Here, the player lists the sports he’s been involved with other than baseball and, depending on the part of the country, the most frequent responses are basketball, football, golf, track and field or something else fairly mainstream.

Bryant Colon, a 2021 outfielder out of Greenacres, Fla., marches to a little bit of different drummer. In the space allowed for “Other sports”, the 6-foot, 165-pound Colon – a U. of Miami commit ranked No. 49 overall (No. 10 Florida) in his class – listed boxing. It was a sport he first got a taste of when he was a fifth-grader and he stuck with it for several years.

“Boxing really helped me become more of a man, I’d say, and helped me mature more,” Colon told PG. “Just knowing that there’s always going to be somebody stronger than you, getting into that ring can be really tough. It’s the same nervous feeling getting into that ring as when you go up to bat to hit in front of (a lot) of people.”

Colon wasn’t pulling any punches as he spoke to PG while participating at this weekend’s National Underclass Showcase-Main Event at the jetBlue Park Player Development Complex in this city’s far southeast corner.

He’s an enthusiastic 16½-year-old who is in the middle of his junior year at Palm Beach Central High School in Wellington, Fla., and an alumnus of both the 2017 PG 14u National Showcase and the 2017 PG 14u Select Baseball Festival.

“Sometimes you get nervous as a ballplayer, when you see all these kids, and you go, ‘Wow,’ I’ve got to prove myself out,” Colon said. “You’ve just got to relax and have fun with it and try to do what the others can’t.”

The son of Pedro and Arlene Colon – Pedro is a private business owner, Arlene a nursing supervisor – Bryant was at the jetBlue Park Complex on Friday with his dad. The National Underclass-Main Event is being run simultaneously with the Uncommitted-Main Event and the 14u-Main Event, and the three events combined to put more than 900 prospects out on the fields at jetBlue, the Lee County Player Development 5-Plex and at Terry Park during its three-day run. They’re all here for the same reason.

“It’s very important to keep him on the right track with the right competition,” Pedro Colon told PG. “A lot of these kids want to take their game to another level … and for them to get better they’ve got to come to this showcase. It will definitely help them because they’re going to see talent from all over the country.”

At 34 events and counting – he has two more summer and fall showcase and tournament seasons in front of him – PG may not have a bigger fan than Colon. He calls PG “just the best” and raves about the reports its professional scouting department generates.

When Colon talks about his experiences to date, he frequently looks back on receiving the invitation to the 2017 PG Select Baseball Festival as a game-changer. It came not long after he’d earned Top Prospect List recognition at the 2017 PG 14u National Showcase and both events allowed him to rub shoulders and exchange thoughts with the best from among his age-group peers.

“Nobody does it better than Perfect Game,” Colon said. “That Select Festival event was the best time of my life. We had the best (14u) players out there and it was awesome to take all the best talent they could possibly get and put them in one event and treat (the players) like major league players. …

“You can pat yourself on the back and say you were one of the best players and being a part of that group was awesome.”

After attending the Festival, Colon sat down and re-worked his own goals. He had been around players who were performing at a high level than he was and became determined to not only catch-up with those players but ultimately surpass them.

It’s the game within the game, so to speak. Every player wants to be a notch better than the guy standing next to him because, well, everyone’s fighting for one spot. It often comes down to who playing at high level most consistently, so Colon sat out to become the most consistent player he could be – no surprises.

At the Select Festival, Colon became friends with Joel Perez Jr., a top 2021 prospect from Miramar, Fla., who at the time was listed at 5-feet-10 and 155-pounds, and really didn’t draw much attention to himself. Perez changed that when he singled twice, drove in a run, scored a run, stole a base and played highlight-reel defense during the Festival game and was named the Most Valuable Player.

“It was just great how he put himself in that situation,” Colon said. “He was the definition of working hard and not (taking a backseat) to nobody.”

Colon plays his travel ball with the Texas-based Banditos Baseball organization, which has extended its reach into Florida. He’s been named to 12 all-tournament teams since the summer of 2012, almost all of them with while part of a Banditos roster.

He was a member of the MVP Banditos 14u team that won the 2017 PG WWBA 14u Southeast Championship title and the Banditos Prospects 2020 team that won the 2018 WWBA Underclass East Labor Day Classic.

“All I can say about the Banditos is that I love it,” Colon said, adding that he enjoys a special relationship with program founder and head coach Ray DeLeon. “I’m with one of the best and craziest coaches out there and I love him. As much as he gets on us – and he gets on us a lot – he puts you in your spot as a coach and I love that.”

Colon is fully aware of the differences between tournament play and showcase play and how the whole dynamic changes from one to the other. When playing at a tournament, team comes first. The showcase experience, on the other hand, puts the spotlight on the individual during the workouts and batting practice. Showcase games bring back a little bit of the “team first” mentality but showcase game-rules restrict what can be done.

That doesn’t mean a player can’t still show scouts what he can do during this weekend’s showcase games, with the pitchers showing their stuff and the hitters facing live pitching, many for the first time in months.

After one of his games on Friday, a PG scout noted: Bryant Colon has an advanced approach at the plate. Colon showed present feel for the barrel and plus bat-speed. The 2021 Miami commit made consistent loud in-game contact.”

Colon is committed to the University of Miami, a decision he made both for baseball and academics. He carries a 3.5 grade-point average at Palm Beach Central HS and actually made his commitment as an eighth-grader.

It was interesting process he and his parents went through. He didn’t want to go to Miami just because it’s Miami and, in his words, “Everybody loves the U.” They sat down and looked at the various course offerings at the school, and after talking speaking with Canes assistant coach/recruiting coordinator Norberto Lopez and said he was all-in.

Pedro Colon played baseball when he was Bryant’s age and eventually went on to play at the University of Puerto Rico. Pedro felt fortunate in getting those opportunities and he tries to stress to his son the most important thing is getting a good education.

“I tell him that anything is possible but you’ve got to have the right attitude, the right mindset,” Pedro said. “I’ve always told him that you have to (play baseball) because you want to do it and you love it and not because I want you to do it.

“He’s always been that guy; even on his days off he just wants to get his bat and go outside and start swinging. … But for me, he needs to go to school and just focus on that, and anything beyond that is a plus.”

Colon put the boxing gloves away when he was about 13 years old mostly at the behest of his mom, who encouraged him to pursue baseball. Both of his parents have always been in his corner – it’s Pedro who usually carts him around – but Bryant said it is Arlene who really pushes him. She’s the one who motivates him to become the best young man that he possibly can.

“As much as love my dad, my mom is super hard-working,” he said. “She’s a nurse and she’s helping other people … and it just makes me realize that I have to work really hard (in life). I want to be just like my mom, maybe not nursing or what she does, but I want to (assume) her same role as a baseball player.”

So, yes, batting gloves have replaced boxing gloves in Bryant Colon’s equipment bag. The next three years of high school baseball and two years of Perfect Game baseball will be important ones for the Miami recruit with what looks like a pretty high ceiling. And he’s not going to forget what all that punching and jabbing taught him and how he can use those lessons to make him a better ballplayer.

“I believe boxing really helped me growing up and made me stronger, for sure, and made me realize there’s always somebody better than you,” he said. “It’s just the same as going up to the plate and facing somebody throwing 90 (mph).”

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