FORT MYERS, Fla. – When young Utah right-handed pitcher and first baseman Kayden Porter arrived at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla., last June for the 2010 Perfect Game Junior National Showcase, he wasn’t surrounded by much of a buzz.
By the time he left The Trop, he was surrounded by a virtual roar.
The PG scouting report on Porter’s pitching ability read: “… his fastball is already up to 93 mph and projects for even more, throws downhill, good life on ball down in zone, good pace to delivery … arm works well.”
The same report had this to say about his plate presence: “Big power potential with the bat, good swing, ball flies off barrel, 96 mph off bat in game, good approach.”
The report concludes with: “High-level follow both on the mound and with the bat.”
Back to the present, Porter came into the first day of the Perfect Game National Showcase Thursday not as an up-and-comer but as a serious high-level prospect, thanks in large part to what he showed at the 2010 Junior National.
“I went down there and I felt really good and I just went down there and I competed well and had a good showcase,” Porter said Thursday morning from City of Palms Park. “I was able to make a name for myself and now I’m just trying to continue with that.”
The Spanish Fork (Utah) High School incoming senior is PG’s No. 9-ranked national prospect in the 2012 class – the 2011 PG National features 270 of that class’s top prospects – and is a favorite of the more than 100 scouts and college coaches who were on hand for the PG National’s opening day.
Porter was generally excited to be at City of Palms, the host stadium for the PG National and the spring training home of the Boston Red Sox.
“It’s great weather, awesome kids, great players – I’m really excited to be down here,” Porter said, shaking off the mid-90 degree temperature. “There are a couple of expectations I have for myself on the mound, so we’ll see how it goes.”
After his performance at last year’s PG Junior National, Porter stayed on the scouting community’s radar by playing with the Utah Baseball Academy at the 2010 PG WWBA 17u National Championship in Marietta, Ga.
He then participated at the 2010 PG National Games Class of 2012 in San Diego, the 2010 PG WWBA Underclass World Championship in Fort Myers and finally in the PG WWBA World Championship in Jupiter, Fla. He was with the Midland/Royals Scout Team for each of the World Championships.
“It’s been kind of crazy,” Porter said. “I was traveling all over trying looking to make my college commitment – which I now have with North Carolina – and I was playing in a lot of tournaments, a lot of showcases. It’s been kind of crazy but it’s been real fun.”
Porter seems to thrive in the spotlight, even if his 6-foot-5, 240-pound frame blocks out a large part of it. Performing in front of a large contingent of scouts with their radar guns honing in on each of his pitches doesn’t rattle him in the least.
“Actually, I love it. I love getting out in front of everybody and just playing my game and playing with awesome kids like the ones that are here,” Porter said.
He pitched two innings in a seven inning game at the PG National Thursday afternoon, and didn’t allow a hit or a walk while striking out three.
His Spanish Fork High School team won the Utah Class 4A state championship this spring with a 29-3 record, also won the Arizona National Dugout Classic tournament and finished No. 3 in Perfect Game’s national high school rankings.
Porter said he felt like he had a “real good” spring, especially at the plate where he hit .570 with 14 home runs and 50 RBI. His powerful right arm and equally powerful right-handed swing seem to draw equal attention, and he’s not really sure he’ll pitch, be a position player or be a two-way player in college.
“Just whoever wants to draft me or whatever happens college-wise, I’ll just have to see how it goes,” he said of ultimately deciding on a position.
Porter took his unofficial visit to North Carolina late last fall and was able to take in both Tar Heel football and basketball games. He met with head coach Mike Fox and the rest of the coaching staff, checked-out the facilities and basically made his commitment on the spot.
“Honestly, I loved everything about it,” he said. “There wasn’t one thing in my mind that said ‘I shouldn’t be here.’”
The Tar Heels will be making their ninth College World Series appearance next week in Omaha.
“It’s really exciting,” Porter said. “I’m following it real closely. I’m a big fan now.”
He also entertained offers from Texas, Miami, Florida, Arizona State, Oregon State and Brigham Young.
Porter has played baseball since he was six years old, and he previously played football and basketball before giving those sports up in the last couple of years.
He will play this summer for the Tampa Bay Warriors, the same team that includes PG’s No. 1 national prospect, right-hander Lance McCullers, on its roster. The Tampa Bay Warriors won the 18u Perfect Game Memorial Day Classic championship in late May.
The 2012 MLB draft is 11 months away and Porter will play a lot of baseball between now and then. He admits he thinks about the draft but he refuses to dwell on it.
“I think about it, but it’s not like it’s a do-or-die,” Porter said. “When it gets here and I do get drafted, we’ll see how it goes then.”