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Livin' the dream 'since Minnesota'

Tournaments : : Story
Jeff Dahn        
Published: Friday, October 25, 2013

JUPITER, Fla. – It is unlikely there are very many young men from Hawaii whose boyhood dreams come to fruition in downtown Minneapolis on a warm June day under the roof of the soon to be demolished Metrodome.

Buildings can, indeed, be torn down. But top Hawaiian pitching prospect Kodi Medeiros is living proof that the hopes and dreams those buildings nurtured can be extremely difficult to implode.

It was just over four months ago that Medeiros, a 6-foot, 180-pound left-hander from Hilo, was welcomed onto the national stage at the Perfect Game National Showcase in Minneapolis. In two quick innings of work in the event’s first game, Medeiros flashed a 93 mph fastball, an 82 mph changeup and high 70s slider, and became the darling of the show. Colleges called. Pro scouts salivated. It was an experience he later called a “life-changer.”

Life has continued to change for the personable, modest and humble Medeiros in the months between Minneapolis and his Friday afternoon debut at the PG WWBA World Championship, pitching for the tradition laden Ohio Warhawks.

Medeiros, his father Robert, his mother Kori and his grandfather on his mother’s side made the nearly 4,600-mile, 13-hour trip from Hilo to Jupiter just so Kodi could experience the fanfare that surrounds the PG WWBA World Championship.

“I heard this was the biggest tournament with hundreds of scouts and it’s the biggest stage I could play on,” Medeiros said before stepping out on the mound Friday. “This was going to be a pretty good way to wrap up my fall and that’s what pretty much brought me here. The scouts have really only seen me maybe three times, so this gives them another look.

“There are a lot of scouts here and I just need to go in there and get it done and keep it simple.”

Medeiros kept it simple, all right, pitching three innings and giving up no runs on two hits while striking out five and walking one. His fastball sat consistently in the 89-92 mph range and topped-out at 94 mph. The Warhawks won their pool-play opener 6-0 against Chandler Baseball.

“The scouts wanted to see me throw more than two innings … so I’m going to try to satisfy them with all my different pitches and show them what I have to offer,” he said. “I want to go out there and throw good strikes and get a lot of ground outs.”

Medeiros’ story, however, wasn’t necessarily how he pitched Friday afternoon, although his strong appearance was certainly beneficial.  It is more about the amazing journey he has been on since that appearance in the Metrodome just more than four months ago. There has been a definite “Wow!” factor at play.

“It’s hard to comprehend. It’s been so overwhelming,” his mother, Kori, said Friday. “It’s like a total shock for us and it’s like ‘Wow!’ where did all of this come from. We didn’t realize what talent Kodi has and what he can do on the mound. I’m really out of words to describe it.”

Medeiros received his invitation to the Perfect Game All-American Classic after his outstanding two innings of work at the PG National Showcase, and in between those two blockbuster events he also pitched in the Area Code Games.

Young Kodi was now squarely standing in the center of the national amateur baseball spotlight and soon became the No. 1-ranked left-handed pitching prospect in the national class of 2014, and the No. 5 national prospect overall.

“Ever since I went to Minnesota I started getting noticed a lot,” Medeiros said. “Everything started happening with colleges and my advisor (David Matranga) helped guide me through it all. It’s just been like ‘Wow!’ the whole time since Minnesota.”

His father, Robert, has seemed even more amazed at this “awesome” ride than even Kodi is. Robert became emotional in June when Kodi received his invitation to the PG All-American Classic and became emotional again on Friday when asked to relive the events of the past four months.

“From a parents’ standpoint, it’s just been unbelievable,” he said. “The exposure for him has just been amazing, and everything just kind of fell into place ever since Minnesota. We didn’t really know what this whole (Perfect Game) program was about until we went to Minnesota and then we were like, ‘Wow, this is where it’s at.’ It just kept falling into place, and then making (PG) All-American, that was just unbelievable.

“Perfect Game has been just awesome with exposing Kodi and giving him the opportunity to pitch in these big events. It’s made a huge difference in what’s happened to him the last four months.”

That Medeiros ended up with the Ohio Warhawks for the PG WWBA World Championship should surprise no one. It took only a couple of phone calls and little persistence from Warhawks head man Ron Slusher to get one of the country’s top senior prospects hooked up with one of the country’s most successful and tradition-rich travel ball programs.

“When I first called Kodi he didn’t big-league me,” Slusher said. “Some kids act like big-leaguers at 17 years old and when kids talk to me like that I just hang up the phone and move on. Hey you’re 16 to 18 year old kids, act like you’re a high school kid, and don’t act like you’re big-leaguers because you haven’t arrived there yet, son, and you’ve got a long way to go.”

Slusher said Medeiros was very respectful when first asked if he’d like to join the Warhawks for this tournament but he initially declined the invite. Slusher also initially accepted the declined offer but after thinking about it for a couple of days he decided to give Medeiros another try.

“I called Kodi back and I said, ‘Son, how about this: for some reason I’m not going to give up on you until you send me a telegraph or something and tell me to back the hell off,’” Slusher said. “I told him that I don’t care where you go, where you play, what tournaments you go to, there is no tournament, no showcase, nothing else in the world that compares to what they bring down here to Jupiter.”

After doing a little research, Robert Medeiros said the family agreed Kodi should pitch at the event and should do it wearing a Warhawks uniform.

“When the Warhawks called, we just had a gut feeling like it was meant to be,” Robert said. “They have a great program … and we just had this gut feeling inside so we said, ‘OK, we’re going to go.’ It’s been great and it’s been awesome; this is such a huge event.”

Medeiros is on an Ohio Warhawks roster that is loaded with seven top-150 prospects (and about a dozen more top-500s) from the 2014 and 2015 classes, including 2015 right-hander Nolan Kingham from Las Vegas, ranked No. 3; 2015 shortstop Cadyn Grenier from Henderson, Nev., ranked No. 38; and 2015 third baseman Ke’Bryan Hayes from Tomball, Texas, ranked No. 50.

“This group has come from guys that we scouted at all the tournaments we go to,” Slusher said. “There are a lot of pro scouts, cross-checkers, high school coaches, you name it and they recommend these kids to us to play. Over the years I’ve got a group of guys that I trust that knows the players, and then I will call Perfect Game … and ask them about a player, and they will give me an honest opinion about this guy.”

Fifteen prospects on the roster have already committed to NCAA Division I schools – including Grenier to Oregon State and Hayes to Tennessee – bringing up another big happening in Medeiros’ life in the last couple of months. He has committed to Pepperdine University, ultimately choosing the relatively small (7,700 undergraduate students) Christian school over second finalist UCLA. Pepperdine is located in Malibu, Calif., and the campus offers breathtaking views of the Pacific Ocean which made Medeiros feel right at home.

“I chose Pepperdine because the school itself is a real nice place,” he said. “It’s sort of like Hilo – the weather’s the same – and it’s a small school so the education is really good there. It made my decision pretty easy once I made my visit there.”

The Medeiros’ family will more than likely have a decision to make when June rolls around and the 2014 MLB First-Year Player Draft gets under way. Left-handed pitchers who throw 94 mph usually don’t stay on the board very long – even if they happen to be 18 years old – and Medeiros is viewed as a likely first-round selection.

 “(The draft is) on my mind, but I’m just happy about college so far; I’m happy that I’m going to go to Pepperdine,” Medeiros said. “I keep it in mind but for now I’m just focusing on college.”

Robert Medeiros shares the same view.

“Right now we’re just really, really excited that he has committed to his college,” he said. “We had a really good feeling about Pepperdine and the coaching staff, and we just kind of fell in love with the school as soon as we walked on campus. It was the right fit for Kodi and the weather is always a big factor when you come from Hawaii.”

From Slusher’s way of thinking, Medeiros will be just fine where ever he lands next summer.

“He’s a super nice kid; there’s nothing about this kid that I see that’s trouble,” Slusher said. “He’s very respectful, a hard-working kid you can tell, he’s focused, he knows where in the hell he wants to be next year and the year after and he’s going to go after it.”

In many ways, the journey that began four months ago in Minnesota is really just getting started.

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