Tournaments | Story | 6/19/2019

Metcalf guides WF Scorps 2021

Jeff Dahn        
Photo: Todd Velotta (Perfect Game)

FORT MYERS, Fla. – After 44 years as a baseball coach, including the last 38 as the head of the program at Sarasota (Fla.) High School, Clyde Metcalf is pretty much set in his ways and feels pretty certain – pretty comfortable, really – about the way he reads things.

And the thing he is most certain about, or at least it seems, is that he loves being around young, talented and passionate ballplayers just as much now as he did when he was first getting started.

“Things change, but I think they’re still getting a lot of the same things now as they have been for the last 44 years that I’ve been doing it,” Metcalf told Perfect Game late Wednesday afternoon as he got ready to lead his West Florida Scorpions 2021 Select team into the playoffs’ quarterfinal round of the PG WWBA 16u National Championship Qualifier.

“We’re fortunate,” he added. “We get to be around what I consider to be the best of the best, and it’s nice. But I think kids are still kids. They love the game and that’s why they play it.”

The official WF Scorpions 2021 roster consists of class of 2021 prospects who attend Sarasota/Tampa area high schools. Four of them play for Metcalf at Sarasota HS: infielder/right-hander Conner Whittaker (a Florida State commit ranked No. 250 nationally); middle-infielder/catcher Garrett Browning; catcher Caden Marsters and third baseman Daniel Torrealba.

Three players – first baseman/outfielder Aidan Troy, infielder/right-hander Todd Velotta and outfielder Luke Holman – attend Cardinal Mooney High School in Sarasota; shortstop Brayden Mann and right-hander/outfielder Thomas Calves will be juniors at Sarasota’s Riverview High School in the fall, and top utility Michael Spack and outfielder Carlos Baldor attend tradition-rich Tampa Jesuit.

“We’ve all played together on different summer teams before this,” Browning told PG Wednesday afternoon. “And even at our local schools, we all play against each other and we hang out together. It’s kind of different because you’re not with the same people all the time, but to come together and play as a team is pretty cool.”

Metcalf explained that he and his assistant coaches held tryouts for this team and it “just kind of worked out” that so many of the roster spots were secured by players from Sarasota-area high schools other than his own.

Those guys turned-out to be in the top 15 or 20 from the tryouts so it didn’t make any sense to send them home. It’s nice to have his players with the other kids, he said, and he feels like it’s a good all-around situation for everyone involved.

“We’ve got all kids from the west coast of Florida,” Metcalf added. “We had a good summer last year … and we’ve added a little bit of pitching this year. It’s basically the same group of kids and they’re a very talented group of young men who come from good (high school) programs; they enjoy playing together a lot.”

A morning thunderstorm delayed the start of play at the venerable Terry Park complex – Connie Mack first brought his Philadelphia Athletics to Terry Park for an early spring training exercise in 1925 and continued to bring them for the next 12 years – for 2½-hours, but once play began it continued uninterrupted.

The WF Scorpions 2021 Select outscored their four pool-play opponents by a combined 28-9 and earned the No. 2 seed in Wednesday night’s quarterfinals. That’s an average of seven runs per game and several players came up big at the plate.

In their final pool-play game against the Fort Myers-based SWFL Canes 16u, the 5-foot-9, 150-pound Todd Velotta threw a complete-game, nine-strikeout no-hit shutout (he walked one) in a 6-0 victory that clinched the No. 2 seed. His fastball averaged 78 mph and his curveball 68 mph but the kid got it done and saved a lot of bullpen arms in the process.

“He’s really done a good job for us,” Metcalf said of Velotta. “He’s a strike-thrower and a very dependable kid on the mound for us.”

In those first four wins, Browning went 6-for-10 (.600) with a double and four RBI; Torrealba was 6-for-12 (.500) with two doubles and three RBI; Troy was 5-for-12 (.417) with a triple and three runs knocked in; Nicolas Rodriguez singled five times in 12 trips (.417) and Spack went 4-for-7 (.571) with a double and five runs scored.

“There are some great teams out here and to be able to compete against them and get better as we go is good,” Whittaker told PG Wednesday. “To play for a championship and celebrate as a team and know that you’ve accomplished something, it’s great.”

The champion at this event receives a prize that goes beyond a banner and big trophy. The team that comes out on top in Thursday’s championship game will also earn a paid berth into the mega PG WWBA 16u National Championship to be held July 5-12 at fields in the north Atlanta suburbs.

Browning told PG that it would be “awesome” to win the championship and get the paid berth that comes with it, but the truth is that the West Florida Scorpions 2021 Select are going to be playing at the PG WWBA 16u National Championship even if they don’t get the paid invite; they’ve already been invited and accepted the invitation.

Metcalf doesn’t really believe that playing for a paid berth at the 16u National Championship is all that much of a motivating factor for these young players. They’re playing for a PG tournament championship – nothing more, nothing less – and if there’s some sort of cherry on top of this sundae, well so be it.

“We play it for each tournament, and we play every kid in every game and try to give them all a good experience and we try to make sure that they’re getting better at their game,” he said. “That’s what they do this for in the summer.”

Metcalf, who is in his mid-60s. is a Florida high school coaching legend. He is a 1971 graduate of Sarasota HS and a 1975 grad of Florida State University who became head coach at SHS in 1982; he has led the Sailors to six Florida state championships during his 38 seasons at the helm.

Early this season he picked up his 900th career win, placing him third on Florida’s all-tine career win list. He was inducted into the Florida High School Athletic Association Hall of Fame just this year.

Perfect Game honored his achievements in the best way it could when he was named the head coach of the East Team at the 2012 PG All-American Classic. His players love him.

“It’s an honor, just to know his background and what he’s been through,” Whittaker said, “and to know how he’s worked with other kids to get them to the next level. He’s definitely a guy you can trust and count on, for sure.”

Added Browning: “eHeHe teaches us how to play the game the right way. Always hustle, don’t have a bad attitude, and how to present yourself in a manner that gets you places, gets you to the next level.”

After nearly 40 years of leading the same elite high school program during the spring, it might be easy to think that Metcalf would look forward to slowing down during the summer months – that couldn’t be any further from the truth.

He still enjoys it, he claims, and if he didn’t he would simply walk away. He enjoys being around different kids every summer but he also enjoys being around his players from Sarasota High. He pointed out that all but one of the juniors-to-be on this West Florida Scorpions 2021 Select team played on his junior varsity team this spring, so he’s kind of getting to know them a little bit, too.

And, despite the criticism today’s youth get because they all seem to have their faces buried in their phones and they don’t pay attention to anything that isn’t on social media, Metcalf. remains convinced that kids are still kids. And the ones he has on this 16u ballclub are seriously dedicated to the job at hand.

“There’s a whole lot of things they could be doing over the summer besides what they’re doing today,” he concluded. “Our ballclub this morning sat through a two-hour rain delay, played a game and then sat through another (pool-play) game that had to be played before they could start the playoffs.

“There are a lot of other options out there but this is what they choose to do, so there obviously is still a passion.”

The West Florida Scorpions 2021 Select scored two runs in the bottom of the eighth inning when Holman was plunked by a pitch with the bases loaded and Baldor delivered an RBI single to escape No. 7 X Team 2021, 4-3, in the quarterfinals on Wednesday and will play in tomorrow morning’s semifinals at the CenturyLink Sports Complex in Fort Myers.

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