Showcase : : Story
Monday, August 30, 2010

Twin Cities twins perform well at Midwest Underclass

Jeff Dahn        

These twins from the Twin Cities are anything but identical.

Brent Stong is a 6-foot, 170-pound left-handed pitcher, outfielder and first baseman with a rocket arm and dependable bat. Nathan Stong is a 6-1, 175-pound right-hander, catcher and third baseman who also has a serviceable arm and a reliable bat.

Physically, the fraternal twins from Andover, Minn. - a suburb of Minneapolis and St. Paul - aren't much alike. But they share a passion for baseball and were in attendance at the 2010 Perfect Game USA Midwest Underclass Showcase held Aug. 28-29 at two locations in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. The Midwest Underclass Showcase was held in conjunction with the Midwest Top Prospect Showcase.

It was the brothers' first experience with a Perfect Game showcase event, and they were feeling the benefits even after the first day.

"It seems like it's really well run and it seems like we're getting quite a bit of exposure right now, and all eyes are on you," Brent said.

The showcase games and skill evaluations were held at Perfect Game Field at Veterans Memorial Stadium - the home of the Cedar Rapids Kernels, a Class A minor league affiliate of the Los Angeles Angels - and at the beautiful facility at Kirkwood Community College.

"I think it's a fantastically run program they've got going here," Nathan said. "These are awesome fields and they're very in control of what they're doing here. I like the experience with the games because previous showcases I've been to haven't had games, they've just gone through the skills. I love having the games and having the scouts see kids in game situations."

Brent and Nathan won't celebrate their 17th birthdays until Nov. 22 but they're already playing with kids a couple years their senior. The brothers started on the Andover High School varsity team as sophomores last spring and played on the same Andover American Legion team during the summer. They estimate they played between 30 and 35 games with the Legion team during the summer after a full high school season in the spring.

Brent and Nathan have participated in showcase events in the Metrodome in Minneapolis put on by Acceleration Minnesota, a group that provides sports training programs. They will also play in a fall league through Acceleration Minnesota with three other players from Minnesota who were on their Midwest Underclass Crimson team at the Perfect Game showcase. Among those players was Nick Weeks, a third baseman/pitcher/second baseman who is a classmate and teammate of the Stongs at Andover High.

Brent is probably the higher prospect of the two at the moment, and came through with one real eye-popping performance at the Midwest Underclass. In the first base arms skill test, the left-hander unleashed a throw from first to third that was clocked at 88 mph. The top throw in the Midwest Top Prospect first base arm skill test was 84 mph by Jordan Stroschein from Marion, Iowa.

Brent also delivered a throw of 87 mph in the outfield arms skill test.

On his high school team, Brent was used primarily as a pitcher while also playing the outfield and first base as a sophomore on the varsity squad. Brent said he hopes to continue to pitch his way into college.

"I project myself more as a pitcher," he said, noting his fastball has been clocked at 85 mph. "I don't know for sure what other people are thinking but I see myself more as a pitcher. I love being out on the mound."

Nathan Stong hasn't settled in on a position. He pitched and caught at the Midwest Underclass and took part in the infield arms skill test where he threw 78 mph from short to first, about the middle of the pack for the Underclass competitors. He also took part in catching drills and recorded a "pop time" of 2.03 seconds and a catcher arms speed of 72 mph.

"I haven't caught for awhile and I'm just getting back into it because I have to do it for my fall team," Nathan said. "I'm expecting to do it (next spring) because we lost our senior catcher from our high school team, so I'm hoping to get back into that.

"I haven't really decided what I'm best at yet, I just haven't really thought about it yet. I'm trying to focus on all of them and especially get my hitting down because that's one of the big assets."

The Stongs are also hockey players and are on the varsity team at Andover High. They previously played football but gave it up so they could focus on fall baseball.

The brothers' goal, like the other 140 or so players who were at the two Perfect Game showcases, is to catch the eye of a college coach and land a scholarship, or even get drafted right out of high school. Expect to see Brent and Nathan Stong at many more Perfect Game events as they pursue that goal.

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