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Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Davis sprints onto PG scene

Jeff Dahn        
Photo: Perfect Game

SAN DIEGO -- Once Brendon Davis got his feet wet at a Perfect Game tournament event, he made sure he wasn't standing in cement.

The newly minted 16-year-old and incoming junior at Lakewood (Calif.) High School played in his first PG event only 11 months ago when he suited up for Garciaparra Baseball Group (GBG) Yak Baseball at the 2012 Perfect Game/EvoShield National Championship in Peoria, Ariz., in mid-September. It's been a dead-on sprint ever since, with three more events coming in rapid succession.

Most importantly, Davis -- a 6-foot-4, 160-pound third baseman/right-hander -- has never once failed to impress, and when he showed up Monday for the Perfect Game Underclass All-American Games, he was already very much on the scouting community's radar.

Not that a promising prospect can ever be eye-balled enough, of course. Davis is yet to commit to a college -- he has two more years of high school left, remember -- and like the other 92 participants at this event, he already fully understands the value of exposure.

"Perfect Game, they do some good stuff for all the kids as far as getting looked at," Davis said from the University of San Diego's Fowler Park, where the Underclass AA Games are being held. "Everybody's trying to go to college, everybody's trying to  play pro ball so it's good to come out here and have all the scouts; they help you with everything, so it's cool."

The exposure Davis has received in the last 11 months already has him rocketing up the Perfect Game national prospect rankings. He entered this event as the country's No. 24-ranked overall prospect in the 2015 high school class, and its No. 1-ranked third base prospect. He is ranked No. 6 overall and No. 1 at third base in the state of California.

"I just try to play my game," Davis said when asked if he pays attention to the rankings. "I know I can hang with a lot of these guys ... and I just keep trying to get better and better every day so that hopefully I can be better than everyone else."

Davis was pretty good on Monday. His initial PG scouting report from the first day of the two-day showcase noted that he has shown "a positive step forward in terms of his bat speed. While he is still a thinly built athlete, he is beginning to generate enough bat speed to drive the ball for gap power, and looks capable of continuing to develop that power as he matures. He was impressive defensively at 3B as well, and while he takes his time to wind up on his throws, he makes up for the release time with his velocity and carry. "

Nestled among the scouts, college recruiters and other onlookers at Fowler Park were Brendon's parents, Gary and Londa Davis. Gary Davis looked as content as any other parent in the gathering as he watched Brendon perform out on Cunningham Field.

"I coached him in Pony ball and to see his progression and his competitiveness on the baseball field has been a joy," Gary said. "I wish he would have played basketball, but ..."

The final comment was said jokingly but is understandable. Gary Davis was a standout basketball player at NCAA Division I Cal State Fullerton from 1981-85 and still ranks 13th on the Titans' career scoring list with 1,165 points.

"I played baseball up until high school, but I had one of those high school (basketball) coaches that wouldn't allow you to do two sports," Gary said, while quickly adding, "I've always been a baseball guy."

Baseball was always close at hand for Gary Davis. He grew up in Compton, Calif., near historic Jackie Robinson Stadium where former big-league greats like Eddie Murray, Daryl Strawberry and Hubie Brooks once played.

By taking part in his first Perfect Game showcase event, Brendon Davis is following a path well-traveled by most of the top prospects in the last decade, including one Davis knows well.

Lakewood High School is the same school 2012 Perfect Game All-American John Paul "J.P." Crawford graduated from, and the Philadelphia Phillies took Crawford with the 16th overall pick of the first-round in last June's MLB amateur draft. The Perfect Game-first round draft pick connection isn't lost on Gary Davis.

"Perfect Game usually has some of the best kids in the country and it gives them a chance to come out here and compete," he said. "We're kind of following in one of (Brendon's) high school teammates' footsteps -- J.P. Crawford -- and this is the route that he took. So we're trying to fill those shoes and follow him; it's led (Crawford) to some good things."

Almost to a man, the prospects that attend high-profile showcase events like the PG Underclass All-American Games enjoy the experience of surrounding themselves with other top-notch players who share their same goals and ambitions. They all want to perform well but Davis didn't come in with any unrealistic expectations.

"I hope I do good," he said. "I'm just trying to showcase my talent and whatever happens; I feel pretty comfortable with myself. A lot of kids peak at one level, and you never want to do that; you want to keep getting better, keep progressing. I feel like I've been progressing and getting better every day, and that's what I want to do -- get better every day."

Davis has certainly had a successful, albeit brief, tournament history with Perfect Game. The GBG Yak Baseball team he debuted with last September won the PG/EvoShield National Championship (Underclass) PG national title. GBG followed that with a championship at the 2013 Perfect Game MLK Championship in Glendale, Ariz., in mid-January.

Davis was named to the all-tournament team at the PG/EvoShield event as a pitcher after throwing 6 2/3 innings of five-hit, shutout ball with six strikeouts and four walks.

"I like pitching, but I don't count that as my primary position because I like to hit," he said. "But whenever I need to come in and pitch, I'll do it; I love pitching. I really just want to stay on the field as much as I can."

GBG is owned and operated by nine-year minor league veteran and current St. Louis Cardinals area scout Michael Garciaparra; Davis feels like they've developed a mutually beneficial relationship.

"Mike is great; the whole coaching staff is just great," he said. "They know their stuff and they teach you the game,  but they have fun at the same time -- most of the time when we come to these tournaments it's all about having fun. Mike puts together such a great team and you're winning, and that makes it so much easier to have fun. Mike knows a lot of people ... and he brings a lot of scouts to our games and that helps all the players out."

"Mike is a good guy and they do a lot of good things with the kids," Gary Davis said. "(Brendon has) shown a lot of progress since he's starting working out with Mike and those guys."

Davis also played for the Long Island Storm at last month's PG WWBA 2015 Grads or 16u National Championship in Marietta, Ga.

On his Perfect Game profile page, Davis lists Cal State Fullerton and any of the Pacific-12 Conference schools as colleges he's interested in attending. "I don't want to commit anywhere too early; hopefully I'll get some offers that will be good for me," he said.

"We're not in a hurry," Gary added. "Things can change quickly at these schools that you commit to, so we're just taking our time and we're going to make the right decision. I'm looking forward to his junior and senior years just to see how he develops. I know body-wise that he's going to get stronger and I know once that happens some good things are going to happen."

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