Showcase : : Story
Sunday, June 17, 2012

Sons shine for Father's Day

Nick Kappel        
Photo: Perfect Game

MINNEAPOLIS – The 2012 PG National Showcase has allowed more than 300 players in attendance to show off their talents in front of 300 college and professional scouts this week. It’s a big moment in the players’ lives. Some will use their performance in the showcase to attract college scholarships. Others will ascend up 2013 draft rankings in the coming weeks and months.

And some in attendance, such as Torii Hunter Jr. (Prosper HS, Prosper, Texas.), Preston Palmeiro (Heritage HS, Colleyville, Texas.) and Cavan Biggio (St. Thomas HS, Houston, Texas) have the unique advantage of playing under the tutelage of former major league All-Stars.

This experience has been especially exciting for Hunter, who grew up watching his dad, Torii Hunter, roam center field in the Metrodome.

This is a great experience,” Hunter said. “I’ve always dreamed of being able to play on this field one day.”

Hunter plays wide receiver for his high school football team and outfield in baseball. He also plays summer ball with the DBAT Mustangs. He has football scholarship offers from Arizona, Arkansas, Notre Dame, Oklahoma and Oklahoma St., among others. He’s also considering baseball offers from Stanford and Minnesota.

I want to be a dual-sport athlete,” Hunter said. “Most of the (football) coaches I’ve talked to are on board with me playing baseball, too.”

Picking a school is an important decision for a 17-year-old and Hunter knows it. That’s why he’s taking his time with it.

I’m just weighing my options,” he said. I don’t want to make a decision (then) de-commit. Whatever school I pick, I want that to be the school I go to. I guess if I do get drafted high enough, I’ll (explore) that. But we’ll just see how it goes.”

Hunter’s dad has been supportive in the decision making process.

He says I can do whatever I want, I don’t even have to play sports. I can be a lawyer, doctor, whatever. It doesn’t matter. He’s behind anything that I do.”

While Hunter’s dad couldn’t be in Minneapolis to watch his son this week (he plays right field for the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim), another big league star was.

Craig Biggio, likely Hall of Famer and father of Cavan Biggio (St. Thomas HS, Houston, Tx.) has been in Minneapolis with his son all week. This is particularly special because it allows them to spend Father’s Day together.

Father’s Day is a great day, obviously,” Biggio said. “To be able to be a part of this atmosphere and enjoy it with (Cavan) has been exciting and fun.

Biggio and his wife, Patty, have another son (Conor) and a daughter (Quinn). Conor plays baseball for the North Adams Steeplecats of the New England Collegiate Baseball League and just ended his freshman year at Notre Dame. His wife and daughter are spending father’s day in Texas at a softball tournament.

In Game 11 on Saturday afternoon, the left-handed hitting Biggio hit the first home run of the showcase, a three-run bomb over the 23-foot wall in right field. He also hit two homers in the Rawlings Home Run Challenge Saturday night.

It was a good feeling to get one over,” he said of his in-game home run. “I was just looking for a pitch to hit. With a runner on third I was just trying to get him in.

This has been a great opportunity,” Biggio said of his son’s participation in the National Showcase. “(We teach him) that nothing is guaranteed. You’ve got to go out there and play. You have to work hard, practice hard and try to be the best possible player you can be. He’s seen this, he’s been around it and he knows what it takes to get to the big league level.”

Biggio isn’t the only one. Preston Palmeiro, son of Rafael Palmeiro, has seen what it takes to reach the big leagues. His dad collected 3,020 hits and 569 home runs during his 20-year major league career.

He helps me with everything,” Palmeiro said of his dad. “After this I’m going to call him and talk about my swing because he was watching the game (on the Perfect Game/eCoach Sports Network iHigh broadcast). He watches everything I do here so he critiques me, teaches me how to play the game and helps me with the little things. Not just how to hit, but what to watch for in what the pitcher is doing, the right time to steal, the right time to bunt, stuff like that. It’s an advantage I have over everybody.

Palmeiro plays third base for his DBAT Mustangs summer team, and is weighing offers from several colleges. He attended the Junior National Showcase in Fort Myers, Fla. last year, an experience that Palmeiro says helped him prepare for this year’s National Showcase.

It’s good to see this competition,” Palmeiro said. “You don’t want to have to play in your little bubble of the country and not be exposed to be this level. It makes you want to work and get better. Seeing this level of pitching helps you progress as a hitter. It’s a little nerve-racking (playing in front of hundreds of scouts) at first but then you just kind of put it behind you.”

Palmeiro isn’t the only one who’s aware of the scouts in attendance. Kramer Robertson (Midway HS, McGregor, Texas), son of Kim Mulkey-Robertson (coach of the women’s Baylor basketball team that went 40-0 last season), was at a restaurant in Minneapolis this week when he received this tweet from PG Scouting Coordinator, Todd Gold:

"Watching @KramerR3 play for the first time @ #PGNational and have to say that I like what I’m seeing.”

That was awesome,” Robertson said. “It’s an honor to see him tweet about me because I know he’s a scout for Perfect Game. I’m not going to lie, I got pretty excited. I tried to hold it in a bit, but that’s pretty cool to know that they like you.”

Robertson plays shortstop and second base for his high school baseball team. He also quarterbacks the football team and plays point guard in basketball. Because of his small size (5-foot-11, 170 pounds) he says, his future is in baseball.

He recently committed to LSU, a decision that “Surprised a lot of people,” he said. “It was a hard decision because I have a lot of ties to Baylor, but LSU seemed like the best place for me.”

Mulkey-Robertson has been supportive of her son’s decision.“Being a college coach myself, I understand the pressures of making the biggest decision of that point in your life,” she said.

The National Showcase is Robertson’s seventh PG event, but he says this one is much different than most.

You do everything here,” Robertson said. “You do the infield, you do the BP. But the biggest difference in this event compared to, say, the Sunshine South is really just the pitching and the competition around you is the best in the country. It’s invitation only. It gives me a good feel on where I’m at and what I need to improve on. I feel like I have one of the better arms out here and I like to show it off across the infield. That’s my favorite thing to do here at these events.

While Robertson has a “firm” commitment with LSU, he’s open to any draft possibilities next year.

You’re proud as a mom first because he works extremely hard,” Mulkey-Robertson said of her son’s performance at the National Showcase. He wants to play against the best and with the best and this was a great opportunity for him to showcase his tools. It’s a proud moment to think you have an opportunity to (be selected to participate) in the PG All-American (Classic).”

In addition to Hunter, Palmeiro and Biggio, National Showcase participants Brantley Bell (Mountain Pointe HS, Phoenix, Ariz.), Manny Ramirez Jr. (IMG Academies, Plantation, Fla.), Brody Weiss (Regis Jesuit, HS, Castle Rock, Colo.) are the sons of former big-league All-Stars. Cody Bellinger (Hamilton HS, Chandler, Ariz.), Kennan Innis (Blessed Trinity HS, Cumming, Ga.) and Riley Unroe (Desert Ridge HS, Mesa Ariz.) also have fathers who played in the majors.

There’s a lot of talent out here,” Hunter said. “It’s so fun being able to play with a bunch of great talents and future draft picks. It’s just fun being able to be surrounded by this.”
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