Tournaments : : Story
Saturday, August 31, 2013

UNC commit continues to impress

Jeff Dahn        
Photo: Perfect Game

FORT MYERS, Fla. – During a two-month stretch this summer, highly regarded 2015 Florida first base prospect Desmond Lindsay attended two of Perfect Game’s most prestigious underclass showcase events.

The 6-foot, 203-pound right-handed hitter from Bradenton, Fla., was pretty darn good at both the Perfect Game Junior National Showcase at the Metrodome in Minneapolis in mid-June and at the PG Underclass All-American Games at the University of San Diego in mid-August.

Those were both heavily scouted national stages on which the junior at Out-of-Door Academy in Sarasota, Fla., was able to perform. But it was while playing with Team IMPACT at the PG WWBA 17u and 16u National Championships in Marietta, Ga., in July that Lindsay made his biggest – and certainly most life-changing – impression.

Lindsay happened to crush long home runs at both PG national championship tournaments and at least one University of North Carolina coach/recruiter was hand to witness them. Phone calls and conversations followed and soon arrangements were made for Lindsay to make a visit to Chapel Hill. Following further conversations, the Tar Heels extended Lindsay a scholarship offer.

“It’s all very exciting,” he said from Terry Park late Saturday morning, speaking of his lot in life.

Lindsay is in Southwest Florida this holiday weekend taking part in the 3rd annual PG WWBA 18u Labor Day Classic, his 10th PG WWBA or PG BCS Finals tournament with Naples, Fla.-based Team IMPACT since the 2012 PG WWBA 16u East Memorial Day Classic. As Team IMPACT prepared to play BPA-Baseball Pros Academy in pool-play Saturday morning, the moment took on special meeting for Lindsay.

“This is my first tournament playing as a commit because I just recently committed to UNC,” he said with a smile crossing his face. “It’s just basically getting back into the swing of things; I’ve been working out and hitting in the cages a lot, but this is my first tournament back for the fall.”

Yes, it’s been quite a summer for the personable Lindsay. He managed to play in three WWBA and one BCS Finals tournament with Team IMPACT in between his appearances at the PG Junior National and PG Underclass All-American Games appearances.

Lindsay, ranked the No. 169 overall national prospect in the 2015 class (No. 5 first baseman prospect) and Nos. 26-1 in the state of Florida, said he wasn’t necessarily thrilled with the way he performed in Minneapolis because he had been sick in the days leading up to the event. That didn’t stop him from enjoying the experience, however.

“That was really the first time I’ve played against a big group of kids where everybody’s at the same kind of talent level,” Lindsay said of the Junior National. “It was good to really see and look at everyone else and compare yourself to them and see how you (stack up) against the top players in the country.

“We all got along great – we had never played with each other before and you would have thought we had been playing with each other the whole season.”

Next up was the PG Underclass All-American Games, which took place at the University of San Diego in the two days immediately following the 11th annual Perfect Game All-American Classic presented by Rawlings.

Lindsay had the opportunity to attend the All-American Classic on Aug. 11 at the San Diego Padres’ Petco Park and walked away impressed.

“That was really a lot of fun,” he said. “It made me really want to try to do my best to get there next year.”

The class of 2015 prospects dotting the Team IMPACT roster here this weekend have been playing together for three years, according to head coach Bryan Smith. The 17u’s (class of 2014) has also been together for about three years, but there aren’t as many in fold as the younger guys.

“This is a good group; this is the third year we’ve been doing it,” Smith said. “The 16s are the ones that really have the talent … and I think they’re going to end up having about a half a dozen D-I guys.”

Smith thought it was important the team – made up mostly of prospects from nearby Naples – was here this weekend.

“We haven’t played since mid-July,” Smith said. “I’m big on giving them a month off at the end of the summer to go have some fun – fishing, chasing girls, do whatever you’re going to do – because as soon as they get back … we want to bring them out here where the competition is always pretty good.”

Team IMPACT won its first two pool-play games Friday and Saturday by a combined score of 21-2. It clinched its pool championship with a 6-2 win over BPA Saturday and will play in Sunday afternoon’s round-of-eight playoffs. Lindsay was 2-for-5 (.400) with a double, three RBI and a 1.171 OPS in those two games.

When it comes to speaking about Lindsay, Smith is filled with superlatives.

“He brings a lot to us, even though with all the tools I don’t think he’s quite there yet,” Smith said. “But he can hit for power, he can hit it the other way (and) he runs a little bit. I’m not sure exactly what his position is going to be – he plays third in high school – but we have him at first and in right field because a number of the scouts have said that’s where they see him. He works at both (first base and right field) and in my opinion he’s above average in both.

“Hitting is his deal; when he’s on it’s just big; he’s got a very sound approach.”

Lindsay was identified as a primary third baseman up until about three weeks when he made the decision to switch to a primary first baseman. He might continue to play third for his high school team but would like to concentrate on first base. Lindsay has been pleased with his progress to date.

“I think last year was my turning point,” he said. “That offseason I had really started to work out every day and train with my trainer and I saw a really big improvement that year. That’s when I started getting recognition from colleges and my Perfect Game ranking starting to go up.”

Smith has known Lindsay since the latter was 12 years old and playing for an opposing team (Smith was in charge of the Collier County Tigers at the time). When the squad Lindsay was playing for disbanded, Smith invited him to join the Tigers, which eventually became Team IMPACT.

Lindsay has been raised by his mother, Robin, and it’s obvious when talking to Desmond that she has done a remarkable job of bringing him up.

“He’s extremely polite; he’s got a great attitude, very humble, very mild-mannered. I’ve seen him get fired up a couple of times but nothing unruly, and you like to see that,” Smith said. “I’m sure he could go play at Marucci Elite or FTB Mizuno or one of those other (premier organizations), but he keeps coming back here and, obviously, we like that.”

Lindsay’s PG travels this summer alone have taken from Fort Myers to Atlanta to Minneapolis to San Diego. At each stop he has been asked to perform to the best of his abilities in front of dozens, even hundreds of scouts and college recruiters.

He admits to some nervousness in front of the scouts when he was younger but has reached the conclusion that if he just goes out there and plays his game, the college recruiters and MLB scouts will be sure to notice. Someone from UNC certainly did and Smith couldn’t be any happier for the young prospect that carries a 3.65 GPA.

“I think (UNC is) a great fit for him,” Smith said. “The coaches are tremendous there; they’ll work with him. Obviously, it’s a good academic (fit) … and I think he’ll be productive up there.”

Lindsay is sure his early commitment won’t affect his approach to the game. There is still far too much at stake, even though he’s still more than a 1 ½ years away from being eligible for the 2015 MLB draft.

“Maybe in the back of my mind when I don’t have my best game I might be thinking, ‘Well, I’m committed so it’s not that big of a deal,” he said, “but I’m always wanting to get better and just keep pushing myself to get better. It’s really not that much of a break.”

There are, after all, plenty of professional scouts to keep impressing, right? “Yes, sir,” he said, that smile crossing his face one more time.

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