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Saturday, August 03, 2013

Rouse can play with anyone

Matt Rodriguez        
Photo: Perfect Game

LEXINGTON, Ky. - Listed at just 5-foot-10 155-pounds, Luke Rouse is showing everyone at the Ohio Valley Showcase that he can play with anyone.

Rouse, a veteran of eight Perfect Game events, continues to build his stock in front of scouts year after year. The patient left-handed hitter put up his best numbers yet during the showcase on Friday at Whittaker Bank Ballpark, running a 6.54-second 60-yard dash (tied for second-best after Day 1) and recording an outfield velocity of 88 mph (second-best after Day 1).

“I did speed training with a trainer and that really helped. He got my 60 down to 6.68 in the winter and then just doing some leg workouts and stuff at the gym,” said Rouse. “Throwing long everyday with Jevon Shelby, who played on my high school team, really strengthened my arm.”

“Luke works hard everyday at practice. He can do anything for you --  put down a bunt, steal a base,” said Ken Jackson, the owner of Kentucky Baseball Club, an elite travel ball organization. “He’ll still grow and put some size on him, but he’s a gamer. He’s just a real great kid.”

The eleventh ranked prospect in Kentucky is at his second Ohio Valley Showcase, just down the road for the Lexington native.

“It’s a pretty cool experience. You see a lot of talent from the Ohio Valley region,” Rouse said about the showcase. “Playing in the games is fun too. You get to experience a couple positions other than what your primary position is.”

Rouse impressed on Day 1 and his skills transferred seamlessly into game play. He stroked a single to right field in his first at-bat and nearly threw a runner out at home from center field, showing off a plus arm.

“Luke is just a flat-out baseball player. He’s got very good speed and a good arm for his size,” Jackson. “He plays bigger than he is. This past weekend he threw a couple guys out at a tournament we were in, one at third (and) one at home.”

Jackson said Rouse has been playing with the core group of guys that make of the KBC 17u team since he was 7-years-old and has been a KBC player since the age of 13. Over the years, that core group has had great success on the field, playing in Cal Ripken’s tournaments when they were 10 and 12-year-olds and making it to the quarterfinals in last year’s 16u WWBA National Championship in Marietta, Ga.

Rouse has been long time teammates with University of Louisville commits Lincoln Henzman and Devin Hairston, so it’s no surprise he’s comfortable around scouts.

“I’ve gotten used to it, but once they first started coming when we were 15-years-old it was pretty nerve-wrecking,” said Rouse. “You still gotta hustle every play and you can’t be lazy out there.”

Rouse has attracted interest from several schools, including Cincinnati, Valparaiso, Western Kentucky, Tennessee Tech, and Wright State.

“I’ve traveled up to Wright State and Tennessee Tech,” Rouse said. “Hopefully after this I’ll get some more. I’d like to get some more eyes on me.”

The 2014 prospect has been working to figure out where he would like to play his next four years of baseball after high school and said there are several factors that go into the decision.

“You’re just looking to see what fits you best and where you’ll be loved,” Rouse said.  “It’s pretty tough cause it’s where you’re gonna play your four years at --  and finances. It can be tough for your family.”

Their mother has raised Rouse and his brother since their father passed away when Luke was just 4-years-old.

“My mom is a strong woman,” Rouse said. He also credits his many baseball coaches for being there for him in father-figure-type roles. However, he still keeps his dad close. Before each at-bat, Rouse draws his father’s initials in the dirt with his bat.

“I started last year and I just thought I’d start doing it,” Rouse says of his tribute to his father. “I’ve done it ever since, every time I go up to the batter’s box. I also have a tattoo.”

Rouse’s dad would be very proud of the young man and ballplayer he has become. He will have the opportunity to play baseball at the collegiate level and is eager to figure out where that will be, but he still has plenty of baseball to come before that point.

“I’ll hit the weights hard and then I might go out the Jupiter, Fla., but if I don’t do that I’ll just get prepared for next spring,” Rouse said.

Watch out for this guy. If he continues to improve at the rate he’s going, he will be a player to watch at the collegiate level very soon.

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