Showcase : : Story
Friday, December 13, 2013

'New York' meets the desert

Jeff Dahn        
Photo: Perfect Game

GLENDALE, Ariz. – Manny Hermosillo from San Diego, one of the acting coaches at last weekend’s Perfect Game National Underclass Showcase-Session 1, needed to get his big first baseman and right-handed pitcher’s attention, so he called out in a way he knew would create minimal confusion.

“Hey, New York!” Hermosillo shouted in the direction of Ryan Coulon, a 6-foot-4, 225-pound St. Anthony’s High School junior from Lindenhurst, N.Y., a village located on the southern shore of Long Island. “Hey, New Yorker, here you go,” Hermosillo yelled while tossing Coulon the brilliant white PG game ball. “It’s your turn today.”

A smile crossed Coulon’s face as he snagged the baseball bare-handed. “The atmosphere here is great,” he said a few minutes later. “Everybody’s nice, everyone’s accepting of you for who you are.”

More than 110 prospects from the high school graduating classes of 2015, 2016 and 2017 were in attendance at the PG National Underclass Showcase-Session 1, which ran simultaneously with the PG West Uncommitted Showcase Dec. 7-8 at the Camelback Ranch spring training complex here in Phoenix’s west suburbs.

They came from 14 states – primarily California, Arizona and Texas – and Ontario and Alberta, Canada, but Coulon was the only one that came from the Northeast or from the East Coast, for that matter.

“I wanted to get seen out here on the West Coast,” said Coulon, who has not yet committed to a college. “I want to get my name out across the country, and not just on the East Coast where I live. I think this can be very beneficial because there are more opportunities out here for a player.”

Coulon may have been out of his geographical region at a showcase held more than 2,400 miles from his New York home, but he wasn’t out of his league. He has been playing with the New York Steelheads – an East Coast travel ball organization headed by director of baseball operations Brad Jackson, director of player development Joe Francisco and general manager Hector Aristy – since his sophomore year in high school, and had visited other parts of the country and been around other top prospects.

“We’ve been traveling a lot – I’ve been with them for a year-and-a-half now, and it’s been real good exposure,” Coulon said of the Steelheads experience.

He enjoyed his first taste of Perfect Game tournament action with the Steelheads at the 16u PG BCS Finals June 27-July 3 in Fort Myers, Fla., and was named to the all-tournament team after going 7-for-13 (.538) with four doubles, a home run, seven RBI and four runs scored, with a whopping 1.702 OPS. That performance started the proverbial boulder rolling down the side of the mountain.

“We started with Perfect Game a little late, with that tournament down in Florida (the PG BCS Finals),” Ryan’s father, Mike Coulon said last weekend. “He’s a power-hitter and he’s so strong, (PG officials) were saying, ‘We don’t have you on our bank (database). Ryan, we have to get you in our bank; you’ve got to come to these showcases.’”

Coulon accepted an invitation to perform at the Mid-Atlantic Underclass Showcase in Hamilton Township, N.J., Aug. 24-25, and continued to impress. He was named to the event’s Top Prospect List and Top Prospect Team, with a PG scout indentifying Coulon as “one of the event’s strongest hitters” who “showed an ability to drive the ball to the opposite field and make consistent contact to his pull side.”

The New Jersey showcase was more of a regional event, a fact that Coulon and his dad, Mike, were fully aware of. They both thought it was important that Ryan attend a national underclass showcase, and while they considered the PG National Underclass Showcase-Session 3 in Fort Myers, Fla., early next month, they decided to head to the desert instead just to get a jump on things.

“It was very important for Ryan to be here this weekend,” Mike said. “His goal is to play (NCAA) Division I baseball. He’s got the size (and) he’s got the strength, so we wanted to come down to a national event.”

Coulon continued to perform well at the National Under-Session 1. After his batting practice session, a PG scout noted that Coulon has “good hitting mechanics for a big power hitter” and has “good bat speed and the ability to drive the ball deep.”

“I felt really good,” he said of his BP session. “I was driving the ball to right field as well as to my pull (left field) side; the pitches were there and I just went with them. I feel like I’ve progressed a lot. I’ve hit the weight room and I’m happy with where I’m at right now.”

He also threw 79 mph from first to third base during the workout session, the second highest first baseman velocity recorded at the event.

Simply judging by his size, it would be easy to assume that Coulon is also a football and/or basketball player, but he gave up football his freshman year in high school and quit playing basketball as an eighth-grader.

“I found out baseball was the sport I wanted to play and I have a passion and a love for the game,” he said. “I like going into the last inning and being the hero … like getting the base hit or getting the home run to win the game,” he said. That passion is evident when he’s in his element at PG showcases and tournaments.

“He shines during these events. He loves hard baseball,” Mike said. “Unfortunately, a lot of the pitching up in New York is getting watered down because there are so many travel teams and it’s hard to really play up with talented kids; Perfect Game is great for providing that. He plays up to the competition … and that’s what you get here; that’s the positive.”

Coulon has already started looking ahead to the spring and the summer. St. Anthony’s has a policy that forbids freshmen and sophomores from playing up on the varsity squad so he will be playing his first year of varsity baseball this spring.

He said his plans for next summer include playing in a lot more tournaments with the Steelheads while also attending as many college camps as he’s able to. A combination of PG tournaments and college camps should go a long way toward removing that “uncommitted” tag from his PG Player Profile page.

Mike Coulon will support his son all the way, whether that involves lessons or further showcase commitments or even traveling to places where someone can shout “Hey, New York!” and everyone knows who they’re yelling at.

Both father and son know that Ryan has to work on his speed and footwork around first base, while also adding muscle to even further enhance that “power hitter” tag, but they seem willing to put in the work.

“In ninth grade he played basketball, football and baseball and he decided, that’s it, I want to play baseball,” Mike recalled. “I was a little upset because I enjoyed watching him play football – he’s a big kid, he was a defensive end. … But he’s following his dream, which is always the best thing, and I’ll give him every chance that I can.”

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