SAN DIEGO – He’s a Southern California kid, playing the game he loves under the warm Southern California sunshine only about 150 miles from his home in the Los Angeles area and doing it with what seems like a perpetual smile stretched across his face.
Yeah, it’s pretty easy to say with little hesitation that Dean West was in his element and then some Sunday and Monday, taking everything in at USD’s Fowler Park while all the happenings at the Perfect Game Underclass All-American Games showcase unfolded around him.
During a casual conversation with PG at Fowler Park, West revealed that he’s always been a baseball guy, never really flirting with any of the other sports and their tempting bites of the apple.
He really started getting into the game when he was around 8 years old watching his older brother Tyler West play, and like younger brothers are apt to do, Dean tried to emulate Tyler’s every move. His love for the game came easy then, continues today and it’s evident in his words.
“There’s just something about being on this field that just brings so much happiness and excitement, and then the adrenaline gets going,” he said. “Hitting, running, fielding, all of it; it’s just so much fun to be out here and play.”
Dean West is a 5-foot-9, 165-pound revving motor, a kid who celebrated his 17th birthday a week ago and is starting his junior year at Notre Dame High School in Sherman Oaks, Calif. He resides in the city of Woodland Hills with his parents Marcus and Terry West, and he’s been making noise on baseball fields from coast-to-coast for the last four years.
Perfect Game ranks West the No. 9 overall national prospect from the class of 2023 and the No. 4 outfielder; he’s ranked Nos. 1/1 in California, a single digit that should grab everyone’s attention. He’s already made his college commitment to Pac-12 and national power UCLA and when speaking with him it’s easy to get the feeling that the best is yet to come.
The PG Underclass All-American Games are a nice diversion from a standard showcase in that, as the name suggests, there’s more game-play than anything else. And it brings out a lot of the top prospects, like first baseman Nolan Stevens (No. 20, uncommitted), shortstop Eric Bitonti (No. 28, uncommitted) and Carl Schmidt (No. 59, Oregon) who joined West on the California Team roster.
“You’ve got a lot of the kids here from around the nation, just the best of the best,” West said. “It’s always good to come out here and compete with the best of them and see where I stand amongst them.”
During the “Covid Season” of 2020, West was able to get out to three PG events and made the most of those appearances. He was a Top Prospect List performer at the PG Class of 2023 All-American Games in Marietta, Ga., before earning all-tournament recognition at the PG Upperclass Fall National Championship Protected by G-Form in Surprise, Ariz., while playing with the San Diego Show, an organization he treasures.
Then, in October, came the biggest event on West’s 2020 calendar, the PG WWBA World Championship, commonly referred to as Jupiter, in Fort Myers, Fla., playing for the Show. He was named all-tournament at that mega-event too, as were his Show teammates Marcelo Mayer, Mikey Romero and David Horn.
Mayer was a 2020 PG All-American who the Red Sox selected with the No. 4 overall pick in the 2021 MLB Amateur Draft; Romero and Horn are 2021 PGAAs. Seeing Mayer drafted so high left a lasting impression on the young West.
“When I saw him get drafted I was so happy for him; not only is he a great baseball player he’s a great person, too,” West said. “It’s just amazing to see somebody like that (realize) their dream. It came to them and they took advantage of it and it worked out for him.”
Having had his 2020 high school season totally erased by the pandemic and then playing such a limited summer season made West all the more eager to get back out on the field this spring and summer. He was a sophomore starter on a Notre Dame Knights team that finished 21-5 overall and 13-5 in the Mission League, good for a runner-up finish behind perennial national power Harvard-Westlake.
“The Mission League is a great league but really Notre Dame is more like a family,” West said. “Especially learning from the older kids and seeing how they go about everything and the way they go about the game the correct way. Our coaches really emphasize playing the game the right way and leaving it all out on the field.”
Playing up an age group as always, West was with the Show at the 17u West Ultimate Baseball Championship where he was named all-tournament and went to see more action at the WWBA 17u National Championship and, most recently, at the PG 17u World Series back in Surprise.
“It definitely was [productive] especially coming off the Covid season when we only played a little bit,” West said. “Just coming back out with 100 percent baseball, it’s [my] life; I love it, it’s great. It’s good to be out here; it’s amazing.”
But the summer really started in earnest at the PG Junior National Showcase in Marietta, where West absolutely shined. The post-event scouting report noted that West was “full of fast-twitch” and an “excellent runner” with “fast hands” and “high bat-to-ball skills”. Most descriptive was a note at the end of the report: “Plays the game in fast-forward mode.”
He was on a PG Green team at the Junior that featured a couple of other top-10 2023 prospects in Alabama shortstop Walter Ford (No. 4, Alabama) and Florida shortstop Braden Holcomb (No. 6, Vanderbilt).
“Typically people want to say that when you’re doing a showcase you kind of want to play a little bit selfish but I’ve always felt like that I never play [well] when I’m playing selfishly,” West said. “I always want to keep it about the team. If the team does good and I do good, then I feel great about the game.”
Dean West got started on the PG showcase circuit in a big way in 2019 when he was first invited to the 14u National Showcase. After a TPL performance at that prestigious event, he was subsequently invited to the PG 14u Select Baseball Festival in Fort Myers, Fla., along with 40 other top age-eligible prospects, including California 2023 middle-infielder Austen Roellig (No. 43, LSU) who was also here this week.
“It was like a little sip of what that [professional] life feels like,” West said of the Select Fest experience. “Doing it at 14, it was definitely just a blessing to go out there, playing with those top kids and seeing where you are amongst all of them. That was a crazy and fun event; that was so much fun.”
West first joined the San Diego Show as a 12-year-old and has always felt right at home with the program. He called the coaching staff “amazing” with guys like Luis Lorenzana, Anthony Stabile, Thomas Peabody and others, leading the way.
And he’s been able to learn from the older players in the program as he’s worked his way up, saying that he’s always made the attempt to model his game after the veterans. He studies their approach when confronted with varying circumstances and tries to integrate their tendencies into his own.
“Honestly, I just try to keep it simple. Just control the things that I can control and not worry about anything that’s uncontrollable,” West said. “I try to play my game and if I do that I feel like I’ll be real successful doing it.”
West said his parents Marcus and Terry, both Mississippi State grads, have provided valuable guidance and support as he navigates these waters, mostly just by being there when things might not be going his way. That support comes in the form of encouragement and also by the sacrifices they’ve made to make sure Dean is exactly where he needs to be in order to capitalize on the opportunities before him.
They’re also there to make sure his priorities are in order and he doesn’t lose sight of what’s important when it comes to playing the game of baseball:
“It’s all about going out there and having fun,” West said. “No matter what it is, there’s something about going out there and competing and it’s even better when you can compete out here on the baseball field. There’s just so much excitement and joy; it’s so much fun.”
The 19th annual Perfect Game All-American Classic will be played Sunday at Petco Park in downtown San Diego, a premier all-star game event for the top 60 prospects from the class of 2022. Dozens of alumni of the PGAAC from years past were at the PG Underclass All-American Games the year before they received their Classic invite, and the San Diego connection is difficult to dismiss.
West’s San Diego Show teammates David Horn and Mikey Romero were at the Under AA Games last year and will be at the Classic this weekend. Fellow California preps Xavier Cardenas III, Mason McGwire, Malcolm Moore and Jaden Noot will join them at Petco, bringing the total number of PGAAs from the Golden State to 171.
Dean West would love to add to that number a year from now while also making a little bit of history. If he were selected he’d become only the second PGAA to have graduated from Notre Dame HS, joining Hunter Greene, who stole the show at the 2016 PGAAC. Now that would be something.
“I know that the end of the day I still have to work for it because nothing’s handed out,” West said. “I still have to grind for it and hopefully I make it...I feel like I’ve made some really good jumps and I just hope to continue the progress and just improving.”
In the here and now, that’s not really all that important. In the here and now, West will continue appreciate the camaraderie he enjoys will all his fellow highly-regarded peers from the class of 2023, the same ones he continues to run into time and again at PG showcases and tournaments across the country.
But this week anyway, in the here and now, this Southern California kid who enjoys nothing more than playing ball under the warm Southern California sunshine is going take a step back. Probably won’t last long but a little break just seems to be order right now.
“I’m just going to rest,” West said. “I’ve got to keep working out but I’m not going to do too much of that because I’ve been playing baseball every single weekend. But yeah, I’ll rest and then I’ve got a tournament in Arizona and then I’ll get ready for the big one in Jupiter.”