FORT MYERS, Fla. – Just a little over a year ago, right
around Christmas Day, 2009, Matthew Crownover made Chattanooga (Tenn.)-area high
school sports history.
It was then when he accepted a baseball scholarship offer
from Clemson University, the prestigious South Carolina school and national
baseball power that is a member of the powerhouse Atlantic Coast Conference.
With the commitment, Crownover – now a junior at Ringold
(Ga.) High School – became the the youngest athlete from a Chattanooga-area
high school (Ringold is right across the Tennessee-Georgia border) to make an
NCAA Division I commitment.
“Most people don’t understand in baseball there are only
usually 11 scholarships per team, so getting a full scholarship is a big
thing,” Crownover told the Chattanooga Times Free Press the day he made the
commitment as a 16-year-old sophomore.
“I plan to stay humble and work on my game,” he said. “I
want to become more comfortable with my secondary pitches and work on my
velocity. It’s going to be fun, but I won’t stop working.”
A year after making that commitment, Crownover is still
hard at it.
The 6-foot, 195-pound left-hander is arguably the most
high-profile player at this week’s Perfect Game 2010 National Underclass
Showcase-Main Event being held at Terry Park and the Red Sox 5-Plex Player
Development Complex here. He is ranked as the 52nd top national
prospect and the No. 3 Georgia state prospect (class of 2012) by Perfect Game.
With a college commitment already in hand, some may wonder
why Crownover would travel from northeast Georgia to southwest Florida for yet
another PG showcase. It is the 27th Perfect Game tournament or
showcase he has attended since 2007.
“College-wise, I’ve already decided where I want to go,
but pro draft-wise, they still get to see you,” Crownover said on the chilly
opening morning (Tuesday, Dec. 28) of the National Underclass. “You’ve got to
be very fortunate to catch those guy’s eyes, but it helps you to keep on
developing your skills and be ready for the upcoming seasons.”
Crownover pitched the first three innings for the PG
Texas Orange team at the National Underclass early Tuesday afternoon and
allowed only one hit while facing 10 batters with seven strikeouts and no
walks. His fastball topped out at 87 mph.
At the 2010 Junior National Showcase held in June at
Tropicana Field in Tampa, a Perfect Game scout made these observations about
“(Crownover) hides the ball well, deceptive, spots
fastball well to low corners, curveball has good depth, throws strikes, flashed
a very good change, really knows how to pitch, gets outs. LHP to watch
Crownover is joined here this week by several of his
teammates from the East Cobb (Ga.) travel teams he played with over the summer
and through the fall. The familiarity helps everyone.
Guerry and Kevin – Coach Baldwins – we all go together as a team down these
things and try to keep the team unity as close as we can,” Crownover said. “I
like the Perfect Game stuff with a team benefit the most, but these (the
showcases) are also beneficial for yourself as individuals. They help you get
seen and (Perfect Gameis) a great organization.”
With his college decision out of the way, Crownover can
concentrate only on baseball and his class work (he owns a 3.98 GPA). Concetrating
just on baseball required some sacrifice, however.
“This was my first
year not playing football, so it was a tough year,” Crownover said. “But I’m
getting ready for the (baseball) season to start and I’m getting anxious.”
He has two more high school seasons remaining to impress
the citizenry of greater-Chattanooga.