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Monday, May 16, 2011

Haase finally has fun in the sun

Jeff Dahn        
Photo: Perfect Game

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa – An unseasonably chilly morning eventually blossomed into a gorgeous Eastern Iowa spring day Monday at Perfect Game Field at Veterans Memorial Stadium.

It is for days like this that top catching prospect Eric Haase is willing to travel south to play baseball.

Haase and his father, Don Haase, made the eight-hour drive southwest from their home in Westland, Mich., to Perfect Game Field so Eric could participate in Monday’s PG National Pre-Draft Showcase alongside nearly 50 other outstanding prospects from across the country.

Michigan struggled through a cold and wet April and early May, just as Cedar Rapids did. Haase may not have been aware of Iowa’s weather woes, but he was grateful for the opportunity to showcase his considerable talents under cloudless blue skies and in a 65-degree temperature on Monday.

“It’s a nice break from high school ball, to get out of the state a little bit in the middle of the high school season,” Haase said. “We still have a couple of weeks left (in the high school season) because we can’t really start that early – the weather is just horrible at the beginning of the year.”

Haase, a 5-11, 190-pound 18-year-old catcher and third baseman, is considered one of the nation’s top prospects in the class of 2011.

He is Perfect Game’s No. 1-ranked prospect in his home state and No. 37 nationally. He was a 2011 Rawlings Preseason First Team All-American, and was named to the top prospect teams at the 2011 PG World Showcase in Fort Myers, Fla., and at the 2010 PG WWBA World Championship in Jupiter, Fla.

Haase was amazed at the amount of exposure he received at those two prestigious Florida events, and was looking for more of the same at the PG National Pre-Draft.

“The scouts don’t really get an opportunity to see me up in the northern states, because there’s no doubt it’s a southern kind of sport with all the scouts that are down at Jupiter and places like that,” he said. “This is a good opportunity for me.

“And when you go (to PG events) in the middle of the winter it’s especially good because it’s snowing up where we’re at,” he continued. “It’s just a good time to go down and play against good competition in the warm weather.”

His father, Don Haase, is more than happy to help his son gain that national exposure.

“He loves baseball and he does pretty well at it – obviously Perfect Game seems to think so,” Don said. “He’s played baseball his whole life and this was kind of one of the mapped-out trips that we were hoping to attend, since it’s an invitation-only. It’s a vacation day for us and it’s my time with him before he goes away to school or to play (professional) baseball.”

Haase graduated from Divine Child High School with a 3.95 GPA and is an elite recruit at Ohio State University after deciding to leave his home state for the perceived villains to the south. To Haase, choosing the Buckeyes and head coach Greg Beals was kind of a no-brainer.

“The coaching staff is just great – they’re new and young – and the endless possibilities and resources that Ohio State has to offer is just insane,” Haase said of deciding to attend OSU despite being a Michigan kid. “I’ll probably get hated on for that, but, you know.”

There were several other talented catchers at the National Pre-Draft Monday, including NCAA Division I signees Drew Stiner from Sand Springs, Okla. (Oklahoma State), JC Coban from Boca Raton, Fla. (Penn State) and Vincent Tranchina from Manasquan, N.J. (St. John’s).

Haase and those other prospects will also be keeping an eye on next month’s MLB First-Year Player Draft. Don Haase said the draft has definitely been a part of his family’s conversation throughout the spring.

“You just never know what’s going to happen,” he said. “The draft changes from minute-to-minute as they go through the proceedings but, yeah, if the opportunity is right, he would consider playing professional ball.

“It’s sure been a lot of a fun,” Don concluded. “It’s been a pretty good ride.”


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