Showcase : : Story
Saturday, April 16, 2011

A long haul to PG Spring Top

Jeff Dahn        
Photo: Perfect Game USA

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa – Canadian outfielder Philp Warner and his father, Greg Warner, really went beyond the call of duty to get to this weekend’s Perfect Game Spring Top Prospect Showcase at Perfect Game Field at Veterans Memorial Stadium.

By hook or by crook, by airplane and by rental car, the Warners were among the first to arrive at Perfect Game headquarters Saturday morning, while outside the temperature hovered around 32 degrees and a wet, heavy April snow accumulated on pavement, grass and automobiles.

“I wouldn’t have missed this for the world,” Philip Warner said.

That became glaringly obvious after hearing the hurdles the Warners had to clear just to get from their home in Oshawa, Ont., to Eastern Iowa to attend the showcase, one that had to move its Saturday morning batting practice session indoors because snow, strong winds and cold temperature.

Wanting to leave their home on Friday for the Saturday-Sunday showcase, the Warners were looking at a 14-hour drive from Oshawa – about 40 miles east of Toronto – to Cedar Rapids, so they decided to fly instead.

Their flight from Toronto into Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport went off without a hitch, but upon arriving they found out their flight to Cedar Rapids had been cancelled because of adverse weather conditions at the Eastern Iowa Airport.

The Warners weren’t able to get on another flight to Cedar Rapids until around 2 p.m. Saturday, and that arrival wouldn’t have meshed with the PG Top Prospect Showcase schedule. So they rented a car in Chicago and drove to Cedar Rapids.

“We drove through hail (and) we drove through some of the most amazing thunderstorms,” Greg said.

Before leaving Chicago, airline officials assured the Warners that Philip’s baseball gear would be on the next flight to Cedar Rapids, even though there was no room on that flight for the Warners themselves.

The gear never made it to Cedar Rapids.

“We had to scramble (Friday night) to find a local sporting goods store and we had to buy him a bat and cleats,” Greg said. “The only good thing was I had him put his glove in his carry-on bag. So he had his glove, and that’s the most important piece of equipment anyway, right?”

Baseball is important to Philip Warner, and he and his dad were bound and determined to make it to the Spring Top.

“We were coming here no matter what,” Greg said. “He’s been looking forward to it for a long time and he’s been playing ball for as long as he could walk. This is his second Perfect Game (event) and we’ve always had good experiences. We love it.”

Philip, a right-handed outfielder, attended the 2010 Perfect Game Canadian Top Prospect Showcase at Pearson Fields in Guelph, Ont., in July and got a good review from a PG scout:

“Philip Warner is … an interesting raw athlete, very strong with quick reflexes. Made hard contact consistently … . Quick defensive actions with high energy and solid arm strength. Has upside.”

It just seems to come naturally to 17-year-old Philip.

“I’ve been playing since I was four; I’ve grown up with the sport,” Philip said. “I did gymnastics, as well, when I was younger, along with volleyball and track and field.”

During Saturday’s skill sessions at the PG Spring Top, Philip recorded a 60-yard dash time of 7.00 seconds and came through with an outfield arm velocity throw of 82 mph, both very respectable showings.

Philip Warner plays with the Ontario Prospects summer and fall travel team, which criss-crosses the United States playing in tournaments almost 12 months a year. He also is involved with Home Run Baseball Academy, which is run by brothers Rob and Rich Butler, both of whom enjoyed short stints with the Toronto Blue Jays in the 1990s.

Philip won’t pay much attention to the upcoming MLB First-Year Player Draft, but he definitely plans on playing college baseball. Greg Warner said his son has been contacted by around 20 different colleges in the States, and playing collegiately in the United States is what Philip aspires to.

“His goal 110 percent is come down here to go school,” Greg said. “He is coming down here for sure.”

The son has only one stipulation when it comes to playing college baseball.

“I hope to play in college, and with that I want a high-quality education,” said Philip, who sports a 4.0 GPA at Eastdale C.V.I. High School is Oshawa. “That’s what I’m emphasizing (to college recruiters). I don’t want to sacrifice that.”

There were two games played at the PG Spring Top Prospect Showcase Saturday evening and two more are scheduled on Sunday when the weather conditions are expected to be much improved.

Philip Warner hopes to continue to impress college coaches and recruiters at Perfect Game events throughout the summer and fall. And it’s likely the Warners will go though just about anything short of apocalypse to make sure they make it on time.

“It’s always been a positive experience,” Greg said as Philip and the other PG Top participants waited for the weather conditions to improve enough so they could get outside Saturday afternoon. “Honestly, I’d recommend it to anybody. It’s great.”

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