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Tournaments | Story | 7/1/2019

Klassen creates more hype

Cory Van Dyke     
Photo: George Klassen (Perfect Game)

EMERSON, Ga. – George Klassen rocked back in his delivery with an overhead windup, worked downhill, and used his long stride to generate uncommon power on his first pitch of the game. 

The scoreboard at LakePoint Sports Complex flashed the two digits that sent the crowd into a hushed roar: 95 mph.

Oohs and aahs filled the background. College coaches and scouts did a double take and rechecked their own radar guns. One onlooker let out an expletive. 

Klassen unleashed his next pitch. 95 again. It was a consistent theme all night for Klassen whose fastball never dipped below 90 mph. The GRB Rays pitcher also showcased a devastating slider, revealing why Klassen is now the No. 73 overall player in the 2020 class. 

“He’s certainly an electric arm,” head coach Greg Reinhard said. “He does things that a lot of people can’t do. He’s got a plus breaking ball that he throws extremely hard for his age. When he throws strikes with his stuff, he’s about as unhittable as people can be.”

The 6-foot-2, 165-pound righthander was nearly unhittable Sunday night as he limited the Beast Mode Prime 17u offense to just one hit over five innings pitched. Klassen walked one batter and struck out three in the GRB Rays 7-0 victory. It was simply another look at the talented pitching that GRB lines up after Reece Lawler and Ryan Stefiuk turned in dominant starts earlier in the tournament.

Klassen’s rapid rise to the prospect that he is today began earlier in June when he attended the Perfect Game National Showcase in Arizona. Despite the uncustomary stifling heat for Klassen, a Wisconsin native, he began to turn some heads with his performance on the bump. 

After decommitting from Purdue earlier in the month when head coach Matt Wasikowski left for Oregon, Klassen quickly became one of the hottest uncommitted commodities on the market.

“It was a drastic change from what it was before,” Klassen said. “Maybe two days after my phone blew up. A lot of schools to choose from, but I’m keeping it open right now.

“After Arizona and after I decommitted, it was a whole new world for me. It’s pretty crazy.”

Despite the swift spike in interest, Klassen still maintains that his favorite part of the whole experience this week at the 2019 WWBA 17u National Championship is the memories he’s making with everyone on the team. He’s the same player who will quip with his teammates and let his actions on the mound speak for themselves.

“He’s a great personality in the dugout,” Reinhard said. “He’s not walking around like he’s gotten all the attention. He handles it how a professional does.”

Right now as it stands, Klassen named Kentucky as his top choice. He noted that he’s also interested in Washington, Mississippi State and Vanderbilt, but even more suitors might come calling following Sunday’s outing.

“I really liked the coaches there [at Kentucky],” Klassen said. “That’s probably my No. 1 right now because that’s the only place I’ve visited so far. I really like that place.”

Wherever Klassen decides to play his college ball, Reinhard is positive that it will be a well-thought out decision that will provide the best future for the talented hurler.

“A lot of times kids have different situations where they feel they’re not in control of the recruiting situation,” Reinhard said. “He certainly has played it where he’s in control. He’s not in any rush and he’s not getting pressured. Making a sound decision is probably his goal.”

Opposing Klassen on the bump was Beast Mode Prime’s Jaylen Paden. Paden was no slouch either, using his 5-foot-10 frame to produce a fastball that topped out at 92 mph and a slurvy breaking ball for a swing-and-miss pitch. 

Unfortunately Beast Mode Prime was undone by some early errors, but Paden still struck out eight over five innings, surrendering only two hits, one walk, and one earned run.

“He fills it up,” Beast Mode Prime head coach Pete Sass said. “He gives us a chance to win every time he steps on the mound. He just gives energy and that’s all you can ask for.”

Like Klassen, Paden is uncommitted and going through his own recruiting process. The Lilburn, Georgia native is currently the No. 372 ranked player nationally in the 2020 class. So far, he’s heard the most interest from Eastern Kentucky University, UAB, Southern, Stetson and Missouri. 

Despite the brilliance that he flashed on the mound, Paden still contends that shortstop is his favorite position. It’s why his favorite player to watch is Andrelton Simmons and his “smooth action” in the infield. Paden is the three-hole batter in Sass’s lineup, hitting a grand slam earlier in the day on Sunday. When Sass looks at Paden, he sees a complete player who’s work off the field is most impressive.

“He works hard and he keeps a level mind,” Sass said. “I know whatever he does, he’s going to do it well. Off the field he’s always focused. That then turns into the game. I think he’s a legit two-way guy at the next level.”

It’s the beauty of the 17u WWBA. Those players previously overlooked for a variety of reasons can let their play on the field speak loudest to all those in attendance waiting to hear. It’s what Paden is attempting to do with the help of the greatest influence on his baseball career.

“My dad has been pushing me since I was younger,” Paden said. “He’s been telling me to keep grinding. I might start off a little slow just because of my size, but as long as I keep grinding and stay committed to it, it’ll work out in the end.”
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