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Tournaments | Story | 7/21/2019

Paden propels PFA to win

Jack Nelson        
Photo: Jaylen Paden (Perfect Game)

MARIETTA, Ga.- The PFA Cavs made the cross-country trip from Los Angeles to compete in this week’s Perfect Game 17 Summer Showdown. On Sunday, they sent the event’s top prospect, Jaylen Paden, to the bump and the young righty electrified the crowd with a dominant outing to improve PFA’s record to 2-0-1 with a 9-1 triumph over the Ninth Inning Royals 16u Borden.

“He was lights out,” PFA coach AJ Perry said. “It’s hard to find good two way players these days, but he’s special. He’s a little undersized, but he’s electric. He can swing it, too. He was 5-for-6 yesterday with four stolen bases. He brings great energy to the table, and he just performs.”

In the five inning, mercy rule win, Paden went the distance. The 5-foot-10, 165- pound righty allowed just three hits, no walks, and struck out nine. He peppered the zone with a fastball that reached 90 mph, and finished hitters with his sharp curveball or a cutter. He has a real feel for pitching that is uncommon for most kids his age, considering he just picked up the cutter earlier this week.

“I just started throwing it,” Paden said of his newfound cutter. “I was practicing it with my dad the other day. It helps that I can have three reliable pitches. I’ve been fastball-changeup and fastball-curveball. That was a good pitch to add.”

Paden’s prowess on the mound has not gone unnoticed by colleges and pro scouts. Perfect Game has the Lilburn, Ga. Native ranked 373rd overall in the high school class of 2020 and the 33rd-ranked prospect in the state of Georgia. He was selected to participate in the PG National Showcase last month held at Chase Field in Phoenix, Ariz.

“It was very cool to play in a major league ballpark and compete against the best guys in the country,” Paden said. “That’s definitely something I’ll never forget.”

A two-way prospect, Paden plays the middle infield when he’s not on the hill. This dynamic talent earned him a scholarship to attend Georgia Southern.

“The recruiting process was a little slower for me,” Paden said. “Being a smaller guy, I was little overlooked. It was a bit harder for me, but once I got my name out there, interest started picking up and I thought Georgia Southern was going to put me in the best position to play at the next level.”

PFA coach AJ Perry thinks the sky is the limit for his young righthander.

“He’s a Georgia Southern commit, but you’ll probably be seeing him playing in the big leagues real soon,” he said.

With his immense talent also comes a relentless work ethic. Becoming a top amateur prospect is not an easy task, and as you ascend to the higher levels of the game the competition becomes stiffer and the margin for error become smaller. Paden has a strong foundation in his family, who motivate him to put in the work necessary to achieve his dream of playing in the major leagues.

“My dad played at a high level and had the potential to get drafted,” Paden said. “But he ended up getting hurt, so he’s been pushing me to make sure I’m taking care of my body. He’s really gotten me to where I am today.”

“I try to lift every day that I can, and do shoulder exercises to keep everything strong. Strength and conditioning is very important,” he said of his workout regimen.

Attending elite events like the Summer Showdown allow players to square off against the very best in their age group. It’s how you get better. And that is what the PFA program is all about.

PFA was founded by former big leaguer, Dave Coggin. After he retired from playing, he started training aspiring athletes, and has helped develop the likes of David Robertson, Joe Kelly, Adam Plutko, and Tyler Beede. MLB organizations trust his methods and hire him as a consultant to assist their coaches. PFA stands for “Preparation, Fitness, and Attitude.” True growth is accomplished in a holistic manner.

Self-improvement is a process, and that pursuit has brought this California based team to Georgia for the week. Playing against elite competition provides the ultimate barometer for an athlete to judge his ability.

“I always tell the kids that it’s a team game, but it’s also individual,” Perry said. “So the question is how do you get your game to the level where you can play in the big leagues? I tell them to prepare mentally and physically to go out there and get better every day. Our goal is to make average ballplayers into good ballplayers, and good ballplayers into great ballplayers.”

“Coming out here is great because it instills a sense of realism,” he said. “Where are you, realistically, compared to your peers? Are you above par? Below par? And from there, how can you get better? That’s the main thing with these guys.”

Despite going 2-0-1, PFA fell short of making the playoffs. They lost the tie breaker with the East Cobb Yankees 17u. But the Cavs still have one more game to play on Monday. It’s another opportunity to get better. It’s another chance to work toward the dream of major league baseball.

“We have a few arms left in the tank,” Perry said. “We’ll be read to rock and roll tomorrow.”

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