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Saturday, February 11, 2012

Fultz swings big bat at PG Indoor

Jeff Dahn        
Photo: Perfect Game

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa – The Kansas City Metro Area suburb of Lee’s Summit (Mo.) was nicely represented on the first day of the 2012 Perfect Game Pitcher/Catcher Indoor Showcase at PG’s headquarters here on Saturday.

Lee’s Summit West  High School senior Matt Fultz – one of the country’s top catching prospects in the class of 2012 – was among the first to arrive at the indoor facility, in the company of Tom Hall, the father of Lee’s Summit left-hander Matt Hall. Matt Hall wasn’t scheduled to pitch until early afternoon, so he opted to sleep in a little later than Fultz and his father.

Fultz, on the other hand, was in the first group on hitters scheduled to face live pitching at 9 a.m. Wide awake, he stood in and took his cuts.

“(Fultz) is a strong left-handed hitter who took the best early swings of the group,” a PG blogger noted after Fultz faced his first of five pitchers at the well-attended event. “(He shows) a quick bat with bat speed, pull pop and good plate coverage.”

A little while later, the same blogger wrote Fultz “showed his strength as well as good plate coverage, driving an outer-half fastball for what would be a sure double to left-center” and “Fultz continues to square up pitches, letting the ball travel and attacking it with a short swing with minimal wasted motion in his swing.”

All things considered, it was a pretty successful morning at the plate for Fultz, a Kansas State signee who Perfect Game ranks the No. 39 top catching prospect in the country (No. 366 overall). Fultz also attended the 2011 PG Pitcher/Catcher Indoor Showcase and felt it was important to return to get back in front of the 30 or so scouts who sat in on Saturday’s morning session.

“Obviously, there are a lot of good scouts here and it’s good exposure,” Fultz said before going out and taking his cuts. “It’s a good chance to put myself up against some other good talent from around the Midwest or the United States, or where ever these kids are coming from. And I get to face some real good pitching; I’m sure (most) of the pitchers that are here are probably pretty solid pitchers, and that will help get me ready for (my senior) year.”

Fultz and the Halls – Matt Hall has signed a letter-of-intent to play at Missouri State next year – made the nearly five hour drive from the Kansas City area just to get in one more showcase experience before the start of their senior baseball season at Lee’s Summit High.

“We’re here for Perfect Game. This is the closest Perfect Game event to Lee’s Summit,” Tom Hall said. “We wanted to get to one before their senior season started, so that’s why we’re here. Both Fultz and my son have already committed to colleges, so as far as the college scene goes, it doesn’t benefit them at all. But for the pro scouts, it’s very beneficial.”

A third Lee's Summit West player, 2014 right-hander Alex Lange, was expected to be at the Pitcher/Catcher Indoor Showcase on Sunday.

Fultz, who boasts a solid, 6-1, 215-pound frame, committed to Kansas State midway through his junior year in high school simply because he felt a certain familiarity with the program and around the community of Manhattan, Kan.

“I had a few other options to go to school, but basically Coach (Brad) Hill, Coach (John) Szefc – they’re just real good guys,” Fultz said. “I went out there a few times and it just felt like home and I knew I’d have a good opportunity to play there my freshman year. It’s a good atmosphere – it’s a blue-collar place and the guys are really cool.”

Fultz and Matt Hall have some unfinished business before they can start thinking about collegiate – and in Fultz’s case, a possibly imminent professional – career. The Lee’s Summit West High School team is highly regarded and expected to contend for a Missouri state championship.

“We’ve been working real hard since school started … and I think we’re going to be something special,” Fultz said. “There’s a lot of hype around our high school team, and we can’t buy into any of that; we’ve just got to play hard. Last year we bought into it and we lost pretty early in the playoffs, and we don’t want that to happen again.”

Because he is focused on his final high school season, Fultz has been able to keep at bay any discussion of the upcoming MLB First-Year Player Draft in June. Perfect Game ranks him as the No. 479 overall prospect in this year’s draft, which should mean he would be selected sometime in the first 15 rounds.

“I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it when the summer comes around, and I’ll see what happens,” Fultz said. “The guys down at Kansas State, I have all the respect in the world for them and I’ve enjoyed working with them the past couple of years. I’m just going to be focused on winning games with my high school team – we’ve got a very good team this year and it’s the last time playing with all my friends, so I’m going to try to focus on spring baseball.”

Matt Hall isn’t as highly regarded as his teammate, but can still look forward to pitching at the NCAA Division I level in the Missouri Valley Conference with Missouri State next year with his eyes on the 2015 MLB Draft.

“It’s been a long eventful road for both of them,” Tom Hall said. “My son suffered through an injury two years ago and this is the first Perfect Game (showcase) that we’ve been able to attend; we’re excited about that.”

Fultz was excited as well, just as he was when he attended last year’s PG Pitcher/Catcher Indoor.

“You hear about other names, and you can come here and match a face with name and see what other players are out there; who might be your competition in college or pro ball,” he said. “You get these nice hats … and when you get home you can get on ( and check out your swing and they write a little blog about you. You can’t go wrong. It sure can’t hurt you.”

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