SEMINOLE — From his view in centerfield, Seminole’s Brett Phillips can see the men with notepads and radar guns. They’ve been coming to just about every Warhawks game this season.
They are there to watch him chase down fly balls, beat out infield grounders and throw out runners at the plate. Game after game, Phillips has not disappointed. He is Seminole’s senior leader and catalyst on a 24-4 team that plays at Gaither tonight in the Class 7A region semifinal.
Last season, Phillips played in front of college scouts and eventually committed to N.C. State. This season, he is projected to be selected among the first four rounds of the Major League Baseball first-year player draft, which begins June 4.
If so, he will likely forgo college and turn professional.
“It’s like a dream come true,” Phillips said. “Playing in front of pro scouts is a lot different, but I haven’t let the pressure get to me. It’s been an experience of a lifetime.”
The affable Phillips has had another above average season, hitting .368 with 18 RBIs and eight doubles from the leadoff position. He has turned in another error-free season in centerfield.
After playing sparingly his freshman year, Phillips settled into centerfield as a sophomore. He has played there ever since and has gained the trust of his teammates.
“If the ball is hit to centerfield I don’t have to turn around,” said Jordan Doyle, who will start tonight against Gaither. “It’s going to be caught.”
First-year Seminole coach Jeff Pincus has the same confidence in Phillips.
“He’s a one-of-a-kind kid,” Pincus said. “He is truly a five-tool player. I think his arm is major-league caliber right now.”
Phillips has the same confidence in himself.
“Not to be cocky, but anything hit out there I’ll catch it,” he said. “Anything hit between 403 and 388 (outfield signs), that’s me, that’s my ball. I’ll catch anything for my pitcher.
“And I’ll throw the ball as well. I’ll throw my arm out to get somebody at the plate. It may cost me my big-league career, but I’ll do it.”
Phillips doesn’t shy from risk. Sitting in the stands at Seminole’s first football game last fall, he felt antsy. Even though he had never played football for the Warhawks, he wanted to be out there.
The following Friday, Phillips was in the lineup at linebacker and running back and played the next nine games. He was a Times’ second-team All-Pinellas selection.
An injury could have put his baseball career in jeopardy, but he said it was worth it.
“I just couldn’t sit in the stands,” he said. “I know I could’ve gotten hurt, but I made sure nobody used the ‘H’ word around me. It was a lot of fun.”
The last thing on Phillips’ to-do list at Seminole is winning a state title. He had not won a district title until this season. Now the Warhawks are two games from the state tournament.
Phillips and his teammates, many of whom have been together since Little League, want nothing more than to end the season with a win.
“The whole motivation this year was to not get ahead of ourselves,” Phillips said. “Last year, we see Dunedin lose (in districts) and we’re thinking regional final, state tournament. Then we lost to Tarpon Springs (in the district semifinal). One game at a time this year.”
7 p.m.Tuesday; admission is $7
7A: Seminole at Gaither
6A: Tarpon Springs at Winter Haven
3A: Calvary Christian at St. Petersburg Catholic
2A: Canterbury at Sarasota Christian