Showcase : : Story
Tuesday, January 10, 2012

A mind-blowing experience

Jeff Dahn        
Photo: Perfect Game

FORT MYERS, Fla. – It seems like Seminole, Fla., standout athlete Brett Phillips has been getting his mind blown a lot over the past several months.

His first mind-blowing experience came this past fall when he was persuaded to go out for football for the first time in his high school athletic career, and ultimately excelled. He joined the Seminole High School team two weeks into its regular season as a running back and outside linebacker, and wound up playing in the Pinellas County All-Star Game at the conclusion of the season.

Phillips’ most recent mind-blowing adventure took place just this past weekend. He and his father, also named Brett, made the roughly two-hour drive down the Gulf Coast from their home in Seminole to Terry Park for the 2012 Perfect Game World Showcase, and Phillips wasted no time impressing the dozens of professional scouts who gathered for the event.

Saturday morning’s workout session began with the 60-yard dash, and Phillips covered the distance in a respectable 6.76 seconds, 11th quickest among the hundreds from three concurrent showcase events that ran it. That performance led directly to Phillips’ biggest moment under the bright Florida sunshine.

At the outfield throw velocity workout, Phillips fired a throw from right field to home plate that reached 96 mph on the gun, the top reading among all the outfielders at the event. While it wasn’t anywhere close to the World Showcase event record 101 mph throw recorded by Jarred Cosart in 2008, it was decidedly stronger than the second-place 93 mph throws turned in by Jorge Fernandez (2012, Puerto Rico) and Joey Curletta (2012, Phoenix).

“I came in not having real high expectations from other people, so (the strong throw) really gave me a chance to come in here and do what I have to do,” Phillips said Sunday morning before his playing in his second of two games at the World Showcase. “I was looking at hitting around 90, and when I saw 96 it just kind of blew my mind. My arm strength has always been one of my plusses but I never thought it would be at where it was (Saturday).”

This was the first Perfect Game showcase Phillips attended and he was intent on making a good impression. He has already committed to play college baseball at North Carolina State for head coach Elliott Avent but wanted to take this opportunity to get out in front of the MLB scouting community.

“I came down here to showcase everything in front of all the pro scouts,” Phillips said. “I’m committed to North Carolina State but playing in front of pro scouts is always an open door for me. I never really want to cut myself off or burn any bridges, so coming down here and showing off my speed and throwing and hitting, it’s awesome.

“It’s definitely beneficial (and) I’m here for the exposure because there are a hundred scouts lined up and I want to give them a little taste of what I have.”

Phillips’ full name is Brett Maverick Phillips and his father’s full name is Brett James Phillips, so this isn’t a Phillips Sr.-Phillips Jr. situation. Brett James, the father, agreed it was important for Brett Maverick to be in Fort Myers last weekend.

“My son has been non-stop with baseball starting in T-ball, and then he got involved with the AAU programs and he’s been playing non-stop since he was 7 years old,” Brett James said Sunday. “That’s where we’re at and it’s where we’re headed, and our family can’t be more proud of him for what he’s already achieved.”

It’s that devotion to baseball that made Phillips’ decision to play football in the fall all the more intriguing. His father wasn’t all that thrilled with the idea, but Phillips thought it was something he should try.

“It was my senior year and I just said, ‘I’m going to play some football’. I went out there and just basically blew my mind there, too,” he said. “It was fun. Playing football definitely helped me in baseball and in life – everything.”

Phillips said he was never really concerned with getting injured while playing football and possibly jeopardizing his baseball career.

“Getting hurt, that was never an option,” he said. “My friends weren’t allowed to say that word in front of me because we all know you can get hurt playing football, but I just went into everything open-minded and it worked out for the best.”

Brett the father played some baseball in his youth, but was mainly a hockey player and power-lifter. Those endeavors require a certain mentality and he has tried to pass that on to his son.

“I’ve always stressed strength first and I know in the past a lot of his baseball coaches did not like me telling him to get in the gym and do squats – he squats close to 400 pounds and he’s only (180) pounds,” Brett James said. “I attribute weight training to a lot of his success now. It’s helped with (avoiding) injuries and his stats kind of speak for themselves.”

The World  Showcase was the first Perfect Game event Phillips – ranked 424th nationally in the class of 2012 – had attended since he played for the St. Pete Hurricanes Elite 18u in the 2011 18u PG WWBA Memorial Day Classic at Terry Park in late May. He previously played in six PG WWBA and BCS Finals in 2009 and 2010.

“I played in that Memorial Day tournament and then our coaches just kind of shut it down,” Phillips said, explaining his absence. “I could have played with a couple of different teams but I just thought I’d take a break. I’ve been playing baseball for a couple of years straight so I just took a month off for my arm, and it worked for the best. I’m back fresh and feeling good.”

Phillips received interest from a few other D-I schools before deciding to join the Wolfpack in Raleigh, N.C. His sister, Brittany Phillips, recently completed a four-year softball career at NCAA Division II Nova Southeastern University in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., but Phillips decided to leave the state for his education.

“I visited a couple of schools like Florida, and a couple of other schools were interested, like Mississippi State,” he said. “When I went to North Carolina State I really had no intentions of signing with them until I met the coaches and saw the area – Raleigh is a great place to be – and everything just fit well for me and my family.”

With the college decision out the way, both Brett Phillips the son and Brett Phillips the father felt it was important to be at the PG World Showcase, and jumped at the chance when the younger Brett was extended an invitation to the prestigious event.

“It’s the exposure,” Brett Phillips, the father, said. “Nobody knows what’s going to happen in the future and he’s keeping his options open. Regardless of whether he goes to college and nothing changes, if he makes his mark here hopefully two years from now most of these scouts will remember him. He’s obviously going to be on the radar playing for a Division I school, so in that respect he really can’t lose. If he comes out of here at the top of the pile it certainly can’t hurt having the pro scouts looking at us.”

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