Malcom adjusting with Albany

Photo: John Malcom (Samantha Engelmyer)

Blake Dowson
Published: Wednesday, July 11, 2018


2017 Perfect Game All-American John Malcom has seen himself in plenty of big games. The title of “Perfect Game All-American” sort of solidifies that statement. His Team Elite squad was constantly making deep runs in tournaments all over the country, and his high school team was no different in his native Michigan.

The jump from his high school days to playing for the Albany Dutchmen of the Perfect Game Collegiate Baseball League, however, has been an adjustment according to Malcom.

“During my last high school game, the guy was throwing like 75 miles per hour, now I’m facing guys throwing in the high-80s,” he said. “That’s a huge adjustment. But the biggest adjustment is mental, not physical. It’s staying focused for the whole nine innings, because in high school we usually play seven. It’s a grind playing every day, too.”

Grind is a word used quite a bit by college players when describing summer league schedules. Those guys typically have one mid-week game and then a three-game weekend set. The professional-style schedule the PGCBL runs on is an adjustment. Even more so for a kid coming off a high school season.

Malcom knows the mental aspect of this summer, and the rest of his baseball career for that matter, is the most important thing. He has every physical tool needed to be extremely successful in the game – he is 6-4 and weighs almost 220 pounds. And according to his head coach, he is taking steps to improve himself on the mental side of things.

“We just had a conversation today about how he’s still learning,” Albany head coach Nick Davey said. “[About] learning to adjust to not being as successful as he’s used to. He told me today that he needs to prepare better. When a kid can see that he needs to make a change, that says a lot. He’s very athletic, and he’s going to be a very talented player. He just needs to let the speed of the game slow down a bit. But he’s listening to what we’re saying to him, and he realizes it’s still just baseball.”

The physical tools and the will to harness the mental side of the game is why Malcom is headed to Nashville in the fall to play for Vanderbilt, and it’s why he can call himself a Perfect Game All-American.

Malcom is joined on the Dutchmen by four other recent high school graduates, one of whom, Luke Murphy, will be joining him at Vanderbilt in the fall. There are a number of high school graduates bound for big-time college programs scattered across the PGCBL this summer.

For all those guys, including Malcom, this summer is invaluable, according to Davey.

“They’ve always been the best player on their team,” he said. “They have to learn the ability to handle failure quicker. Respond to adversity quicker. How do you get out of that? Do they have consistent routines? Are they asking the right questions? Are they seeking you out for their development?”

The great thing about the schedule of the PGCBL is that they have to learn all of that on the fly. It’s trial by fire in a way. There is no time to overthink things because before you know it, it’s your next at-bat or your next game or your next week in the summer. That’s exciting.

It’s also a time to refine your game and work on new things. For Malcom, that means getting time in the outfield. That’s not a place he has much experience, as he’s played mostly first base during his career. As he put it, however, he’s already looking out for his future. And with his athleticism, the outfield might not be the worst place to put Malcom.

“My outfield abilities are the biggest thing I’m working on this summer,” he said. “At Vanderbilt, you don’t really have a set position, they ask you to play anything. So if I want to play early on, it could be out there. It gives me a better chance.”

Davey said he could see Malcom having a future patrolling the grass beyond the infield, as well.

“We’re putting him in the outfield for pregame and in BP. We’re watching him getting reads and getting used to it. He’s more than athletic enough to do it. If he gets comfortable, it gives him an opportunity to get on the field earlier.”

It’s been one adjustment after another for Malcom so far this summer. Facing college pitchers for the first time is a tough adjustment, just like switching positions on the fly. He’s also living with a host family for the first time, which can be quite a different experience.

It’s all happening right now, as well. The dust has barely settled from his move out to Albany from Michigan. He only has eight games under his belt at this point, and Malcom hasn’t gained a great footing yet. He’s had two hits in his first 16 at-bats, though he’s drawn three walks on top of that.

What do you expect out of a high school kid during his first few weeks in the PGCBL? Well, that’s pretty much it. And according to Davey, we can expect to see Malcom take off fairly soon, too.

“What we see is that [high school players] go through peaks and valleys. You pick your time to get them rest and get the developmental stuff in the cage and talking to them about the mechanical things you want to see them work on,” he said. “You want to see they’re starting to work on a routine and see the grind of college baseball. Being able to take these eight weeks and do something like this enhances the process of doing it in college. It puts them a step ahead.”

Copyright 1994-2020 by Perfect Game. All rights reserved. No portion of this information may be reprinted or reproduced without the written consent of Perfect Game.