The next big thingTwo years ago Chicago White Sox associate scout Adam Barta told Pat Kelly he wasn’t old enough to try out for the Minnesota Blizzard, the elite traveling baseball team in the state. Barta’s still kicking himself for that decision.
By: Brett Boese, The Republican Eagle
Two years ago Chicago White Sox associate scout Adam Barta told Pat Kelly he wasn’t old enough to try out for the Minnesota Blizzard, the elite traveling baseball team in the state. Barta’s still kicking himself for that decision.
Kelly, who will be a junior at Red Wing High School, has become one of the nation’s elite baseball prospects since Barta banned him from the tryout.
“I had no idea what type of player Pat was,” Barta said. “I get calls from parents all the time saying their kid is the next A-Rod or whatever. I had no idea Pat actually had that in him.”
When Kelly was finally allowed to try out as a sophomore, Barta and other scouts rated him fifth-best player in the program. The four in front of him were all seniors who got drafted or received Division I scholarships (Minnesota, Oregon, Vanderbilt).
He was suddenly on the fast track to success.
Though college coaches can’t begin formal recruiting until next July, Kelly already has drawn interest from Kansas, Baylor, Ohio University, Cal-State Northridge and the University of Minnesota, among others.
“(Baseball) is all I think about,” Kelly said, engrossed in Tuesday’s Major League Baseball All-Star Game.
@Sub heads:The opportunity
@Normal: Jim Kelly, Pat’s father, was roused from his slumber July 4 by his wife and daughter in tears. He immediately feared someone had died. Instead, he may remember it as the day his son hit the big time.
Barta, who also manages the Hastings Hawks, had called to inform the Kelly family of important news.
Despite being the youngest player in the Classic Cannon Valley League, Kelly was selected to play in the CCVL/CVL All-Star Game. More importantly, the standout had been selected to represent the White Sox in the Area Code Games in Long Beach, Calif.
“I couldn’t talk,” Kelly said of his reaction. “I didn’t know what to think. My jaw just dropped.”
The Aug. 3-10 showcase is widely regarded as the most prestigious high school baseball event in the nation. Every major league team will have scouts in attendance, and college coaches also will fill the stands to study the best high school players.
Area Code Games has produced more than 300 major league players in its 23 years, according to ESPN.com.
Kelly was one of 30 players the White Sox selected to represent the organization. Of the 240 players invited, he’s one of the few juniors.
To put this in perspective, the four big-time Division I prospects Barta worked with a year ago did not receive invitations.
“For Pat Kelly to go as a junior, that’s pretty special,” Barta said. “It’s really the showcase of showcases. These guys are predetermined to be playing at a very high level in their future.”
@Sub heads:Dreams and decisions
@Normal: Kelly is considered a five-tool prospect with a high ceiling.
His 60-yard dash of 6.8 seconds is already better than the major league average of 6.9. He can drive the ball to all parts of the field. He’s got a strong arm and often makes difficult plays look routine at shortstop.
He also carries a 3.57 grade-point average, which he has vowed to bump up his final two years of high school.
“He’s a 16-year-old kid that has man bat speed,” Barta said. “It’s pretty scary, because he has a long way to go. And I mean that as a compliment.”
While opportunities abound, so do difficult decisions. He has already confronted a handful.
He missed two days of basketball last winter to play with the Blizzard in Arizona. The ensuing game on the bench helped him decide to skip a baseball tournament in Utah a few weeks later.
He’s played with the Red Wing VFW and Legion teams this summer, while also playing with Barta on the Hastings Hawks amateur team.
Though Kelly tries to get to every game, it has sometimes meant playing favorites. That could become a common theme in the Kelly household.
The young standout sleeps under a Nebraska comforter and the family dog, Ace, has a matching collar. His father received a football scholarship to play for the Cornhuskers in 1978, but tore up his knee before seeing any action.
The pair made an unofficial visit to the campus last summer and Kelly fell in love with the facilities. Now he just needs to draw interest from the baseball program.
To do so may require the most difficult decision yet.
The Blizzard travel the country playing a busy fall schedule. It includes a Perfect Game showcase tournament in Iowa that could conflict with the football season, where Kelly is expected to play quarterback and be a two-way starter for the Wingers. According to Barta, 70 percent of high schoolers who get drafted have experience with the Perfect Game atmosphere.
Does he remain a three-sport athlete or narrow his focus in hopes of raising his stock further? Kelly has been on the fence all summer with that decision. Football camp starts Aug. 17 so the answer will soon become clear.
“My ultimate goal is to get drafted, no doubt about it,” Kelly said. “I think that’s definitely within reach. When you see your hopes and dreams right in front of you, you don’t want to let that go.”