JUPITER, Fla. – Garrett Hutson took a look around at the scene that was unfolding in front of him on the St. Louis Cardinals side of the Roger Dean Stadium Complex early Friday morning and reached a fairly obvious conclusion: He wasn’t in Kansas anymore.
“I’ve never seen anything like this,” he said as a wide-eyed smile spread across his face while golf carts crowded with scouts and college coaches secured their positions behind the backstops at the four fanned-out fields in the Cardinals Quad.
“I love everybody being able to watch me; as long as I can get my name out there, that’s what I want. It’s not like this in Kansas, so when I get out of state baseball is a lot more serious, and I like that a lot.”
This is about as serious as baseball can get for Hutson and his Midwest Warducks teammates this weekend while they play for the most prestigious of all the Perfect Game national championship trophies and national championship rings at the 15th annual PG WWBA World Championship.
What Hutson was witnessing early Friday morning was the arrival of the first of many hundreds of professional scouts and college coaches that will attend the event daily through its conclusion Monday afternoon. What the scouts will see in Hutson is an elite 2015 prospect that as a right-handed pitcher/shortstop/outfielder has climbed to No. 37 in Perfect Game’s class of 2015 national rankings. He is ranked the No. 1 overall prospect in the state of Kansas.
“He’s such a good athlete that you can put him anywhere on the field and he’s going to be just fine,” Midwest Warducks founder and head coach Jason Arrowood said Friday morning. “He’s a power arm, and at this age and this level the things he’s able to do are pretty advanced. He’s not raw but he’s still young and developing; he’s just going to turn 17 as his junior year is ending.
“He has really, really, really good poise on the mound; he’s a leader,” Arrowood continued. “He wants the ball all the time and he gets a little upset sometimes when he doesn’t get the ball. He wanted it today; he wanted it right out of the box.”
Corbin Osburn, a high-follow 2014 left-hander from Tulsa, was brilliant throughout his start in the Warducks’ tournament-opening 1-0 win over PG Team Northeast Friday morning. He pitched six innings of no-hit ball and allowed only two base runners on an error and a walk before giving up a leadoff single in the top of the seventh. He finished with eight strikeouts in his six innings of work.
Hutson came on to work the top of the seventh and picked up the save after striking out all three batters he faced; his 13 fastballs all sat between 90 and 92 mph. Hutson, who stands 6-foot-1 and weighs in at 185-pounds, is tentatively scheduled to start the Warducks’ final pool-play game on Sunday against the powerhouse Cardinals Scout Team/FTB Chandler.
“He’s a hard-working kid and he loves being on the big stage,” Arrowood said. “He’s one of those kids who live in the moment and likes being in that moment.”
This is the fourth Perfect Game tournament Hutson has attended with the Midwest Warducks, and the previous three were all this summer: the PG WWBA 18u National Championship, PG WWBA 17u National Championship and the PG/EvoShield Upper Class National Championship.
He was named to the all-tournament team as a pitcher at all three of those events, combining to allow only two hits and no earned runs in 17 innings, while striking out 31 and walking five; he gave up just one hit in eight innings and struck out 17 at the PG WWBA 17u alone. He was also named all-tournament at the PG WWBA 18u as a position player after hitting 7-for-16 (.438) with a couple of doubles and three RBI. What he likes most is that he continues to improve.
“My freshman year I hit terribly but by my sophomore year I raised my batting average by about 200 points,” Hutson said. “That’s what I try to work on the most is my hitting, especially.”
Hutson and his two younger brothers – Gavin, a sophomore in high school, and Gunner, a sixth-grader – have received their primary guidance from their father Gabe. In an email correspondence last week, Arrowood said that Gabe Hutson “gives his boys no reason to fail, giving them everything he can to succeed in life and baseball.”
“He’s tough on us and he’s been like that our whole lives,” Garrett Hutson said of his dad. “He’s pretty strict with baseball; he’s a lot of fun away from baseball but when it’s baseball time he’s pretty serious.”
Hutson has taken his younger brothers under his wing, helping to get them to school and back while also including Gavin in his workouts. Gavin Hutson, a second baseman and right-handed pitcher, played on the Warducks’ 16u team this past summer
“If I don’t have a workout class during school, I’ll get up at 5:30 (a.m.) and work out before school,” Hutson said. “Gavin is with me all the time; he’s the one that works with me the most with our baseball. I definitely work on it with Gavin a lot. Gunner isn’t as active with it, but he still plays.”
This is the fifth year the Tulsa, Okla.-based Warducks have been in business as an organization. Arrowood started it up shortly after he completed a three-year minor league career (2006-08), catching for various teams in three Independent leagues.
“We just basically wanted to give kids a chance to have what I didn’t have growing up,” he said. “We didn’t have Perfect Game when I was in high school and what was around wasn’t anything near this magnitude. We wanted to give kids the opportunity to have what we didn’t have, and the biggest thing is to try to teach the kids how to play the game right.”
The Warducks roster here this weekend consists primarily of Texas prospects, with players also coming from Oklahoma and Mississippi, and Hutson arriving from Kansas and sturdy 2014 right-hander Josh Smith coming all the way from his home in Etiwanda, Calif.
“We’re spread out and we do have some new faces and stuff, so you see who’s available for what,” Arrowood said. “Me and my other coach, Coach (Craig) Rose, we just assembled our best that we had between the two of us. We have several really good arms with us, and they’re a solid bunch; they’re a bunch of gamers.
“We have a couple of kids that are under the radar but we went to Arizona for the (PG/EvoShield National Championship) and some of them popped up there and had good outings there,” he continued. “This is it, this is the Mecca, but I think we belong here,” Arrowood said. “We’re going to throw some guys out there – all four of our starters are 90-plus guys.”
Arrowood pointed specifically to Hutson; right-hander B.J. Myers (2014, Flower Mound, Texas), West Virginia recruit ranked 457th nationally; right-hander David Jolly (2014, New Albany, Miss.); righty Sean Wymer (2015, Flower Mound, Texas), a top-1,000 prospect and a recent Texas Tech commit; and right-hander Bailey Burks (2014, Trenton, Texas).
Top position players include catcher Seth Mullis (2014, Frisco, Texas), ranked No. 424 and first baseman Francisco DeJesus (2014, McKinney, Texas), a top-500 and a Texas Christian commit.
“We’ve got a bunch of kids that are really good,” Hutson said. “We picked up a bunch of kids from Texas, but we’ve got some chemistry. The kids from Texas kind of know each other and we’re building that chemistry day by day.”
Hutson has not committed to a college, although an Aug. 25 report in the Wichita Eagle stated he had committed to Wichita State. His Perfect Game profile lists 10 schools that he is interested in and Wichita State is not among the 10. He told PG on Friday that he wants to attend a college that will allow him to both pitch and play a position so he can continue to hit.
“As far as college, I’m definitely still looking for a college that will take me both ways,” Hutson said. “Most of the teams I talk to college-wise will take me both ways, they say, but if I do happen to get drafted (in 2015) it’s probably going to be as a pitcher.”
There will be hundreds of scouts on hand this weekend that can make their own assessments.