Baseball in Park City getting stronger
In the June 4 edition of the Salt Lake Tribune, writer Steve Luhm laid out all the reasons supporting the theory that baseball talent in Utah is dwindling.
One-sport specialization, long winters and questionable coaching are all reasons Luhm mentions as possible reasons for the declining talent pool in the state. In fact, it took until Round 8 (pick 237) before a player from Utah, the Utes’ Mitch Watrous, was selected in last week’s MLB Draft.
Overall, of the 1,215 selections made in the 40 rounds of this year’s draft, only seven players had Utah ties, according to MLB.com. Out of those seven players, none were selected from the high-school ranks.
But, while baseball statewide may be experiencing a down year, Park City baseball has been thriving for the past couple years. Coming off a school-record 22 wins, the Miners’ high school squad landed four players on the 3A All-State team.
Juniors Chandler Anderson and Chandler Barkdull earned first-team All-State honors, while senior Blake Morin and junior Scott Stokes were selected to the second team.
"I think this is the first time there have ever been more than two kids on the All-State team from Park City," PCHS coach Lou Green said. "And then to have four on the top two teams, that’s a really good individual accomplishment for our program. That shows you what kind of athletes we have."
Though Green knows losing Morin is going to be tough next year, he added that having three returning All-State players is an amazing occurrence.
"For us, that’s unbelievable," he said. "You look at Juan Diego and their first-team guy is graduating. You look at Desert Hills and all those guys are graduating. For us, it’s a good feeling having those guys coming back. It’s an exciting time for our program."
Though Morin didn’t have contact with any professional scouts during his senior season, he’ll continue his baseball career next year. He received a full-ride scholarship to attend Western Nevada College in Carson City. He’ll follow in the footsteps of his brother, Parker, who is currently in the Kansas City Royals’ minor league system.
"He went to Southern Idaho (a community college) first, then [the University of] Utah and then he got drafted," Morin said. "I kind of knew I wanted to go to a junior college first so that I’d have a chance to play my first two years. If I did get to go Division I, I probably wouldn’t have played until my junior year."
He added that Parker has helped him navigate and plan the next step of his career.
"He was my mentor," Morin said. "I kind of went the way he did, so he was able to help me through that process. It’s kind of funny, though – I’m going to his rival school now."
Maybe if Morin lived in a baseball-heavy state like California, Arizona or Texas, he’d have gotten some looks from MLB scouts. Green said getting recognized in Utah is a difficult task.
"I think there are some draftable guys in the state, but I think it’s a lot harder to get recognized in this state if you’re not out on the national stage," he said. "I coach a lot of these traveling teams and national teams through the baseball academy in Salt Lake and there are some players drawing professional attention. I think there are some players coming up who are going to change Utah’s fortunes, but you have to see things from both sides of the fence. As a scout, he wants to come to a game and see three or four guys who have a chance, so it makes it a lot harder on the scouts in this state.
"You can go to California to a high school game and there are probably four draftable prospects out there you can see."
Green points to one of Park City’s opponents this year as a player that was overlooked by Major League Baseball.
"The kid from Desert Hills – [Dylan] File – he threw 88-93 mph, got two pitches in the zone," he said. "That was exactly my makeup – I had a bigger body than him, though. He’s got a smaller makeup and I was a big kid, but those were exactly my radar gun readings when I was 17 and I was drafted by the Atlanta Braves."
Green understands that Utah will probably never compete with the quantity of talented players in states like Arizona, California and Texas, but he said he expects MLB teams will take a longer look at Utah prep talent in the coming years.
"This is definitely not a baseball hotbed, by any stretch of the imagination," he said. "But I thought there were some draftable players in this state and I think there will be next year.
"Bingham almost always has a draftable guy or two, but they were a little down this year. I think we just had one dry year."
But, Green added, in order to change the perception of Major League Baseball, the perception within the state, including Park City itself, needs to change.
"There are people in and out of this community that think we have inferior athletes," he said. "They think we have inferior athletes with inferior swings or inferior tools. To me, you can look through [the All-State teams], but you count the number of our guys on the first and second teams and we’re probably a top two or three program in the state in terms of how many All-State players we produce."
With the way the Park City program has improved since Green took the helm four years ago, it’s seemingly only a matter of time before a scout or two will take a look at what the Miners have to offer.
"Obviously we lost in the semifinals this year or whatever," Green said. "But I think our program is heading in the right direction. I’m proud of our program. There are always people who want to knock it, always people who think you can do it better. I’m sure there are things we could do better, but we work hard for our kids and our kids work hard for us.
"Am I claiming to be the best baseball coach in America? No. But do we work the hardest? Yes. That’s something to take pride in. Now it’s just expected. The kids expect to work hard and compete for state titles and region titles."
The quest for the 2015 state title started on Monday evening, when Park City squared off against American Fork in the first game of the summer baseball season.
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Park City, South Summit and North Summit continue to shine on the court while their respective girls tennis and soccer seasons have all come to an end.