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TAMPA — There’s been a rather popular exhibit this year at King. While it’s not new, not at all, in fact, the level of attention it’s generated recently has grown exponentially.
It’s colloquially called “The Keon Show.”
“He’s had more exposure than anyone we’ve ever had,” Jim Macaluso said of senior first baseman, Keon Barnes. (Macaluso has coached the Lions since 1976 and had four players reach either the major leagues or Olympics.) “It’s been fun. I probably get two to three calls a night, two to three more in the mornings, a handful of texts and a handful of emails.”
And after getting Macaluso’s blessing, the scouts, who hail from all the major league teams, have descended upon King’s campus to see the player ESPNHS ranked as the No. 1 high school 1B in the country.
The show started in the fall and reached a crescendo this spring with as many as 15 scouts taking in a pregame batting practice. During games, they stand alongside the chain link fence on the first base side. At practices, they watch from the third-base dugout, as representatives from the White Sox, Cardinals and Twins did with others Tuesday.
Once on the field, Barnum is hard to miss — he’s 6-4 (or 6-5, depending on who’s measuring) and about 225 pounds — and the routine, towering shots over the 365 marker in right-centerfield don’t do much to divert attention. His size actually forced him to stay focused on baseball when he was younger, as he couldn’t make the weight limits to play football like his two older brothers.
“And I hid his tennis shoes when he got here,” joked Macaluso, adding that Barnum’s basketball days ended with middle school.
The Keon Show started when Barnum was in eighth grade, a 14-year-old playing on an 18-and-under travel ball team with former major leaguer Reggie Williams and his Dawg Pound Baseball group.
“Yeah, I’m used to it,” Barnum said of the attention. “I kind of like attention, though, so it doesn’t bother me at all.”
There are other perks that come with all the eyeballs, like the 10 pairs of cleats and similar number of gloves he’s picked up on the showcase circuit. And after setting a school record with a .491 batting average last season, which went along with six home runs and 27 RBIs, he earned a trip to San Diego in August for the 2011 Perfect Game All-American Classic, which showcases the top high school prospects in the nation. He calls it the highlight of his prep career.
“I love the guy,” Perfect Game founder Jerry Ford said at the time. “I think his ceiling is astronomical. He has some of the best hitting tools and power in the country. He has that kind of Jason Heyward, Fred McGriff kind of framework.”
On the cusp of this year’s Class 6A, District 11 tournament, Barnum is hitting .403 with five home runs and 15 RBIs. The games at Jefferson could be the last of his amateur career — while he is technically a Miami commit, he has the potential to be a first- or second-round pick in June’s first-year players draft. Should that happen, the Keon Show will pick up in any number of far-off towns or cities.
“I might be a little homesick,” he said of life away from his parents and five siblings — Chris (24), Keith (23), Chelsea (20), Kobe (13) and Neah (9 months). “But I just want to be the best I can be, make it to the pros, one day, and help my family out.”
And in the interim, scouts and fans will keep flocking to King before the The Show’s Tampa run ends.
8A-7 at Durant
Monday: No. 3 Wharton vs. No. 6 Newsome, 4; No. 4 Plant vs. No. 5 Durant, 7; Tuesday: No. 2 Alonso vs. Wharton/Newsome winner, 4; No. 1 Bloomingdale vs. Plant/Durant winner, 7; Thursday: Final, 7
7A-9 at Gaither
Monday: No. 4 Gaither vs. No. 5 Chamberlain, 7; Tuesday: No. 2 Freedom vs. No. 3 Wiregrass Ranch, 4; No. 1 Steinbrenner vs. Gaither/Chamberlain winnner, 7; Thursday: Final, 7
7A-8 at Brandon
Monday: No. 3 Riverview vs. No. 6 Tampa Bay Tech, 4; No. 4 Plant City vs. No. 5 East Bay, 7; Tuesday: No. 2 Hillsborough vs. Riverview/TBT winner, 4; No. 1 Brandon vs. Plant City/East Bay winner, 7; Thursday: Final, 7
6A-11 at Jefferson
Tuesday: No. 4 Sickles vs. No. 5 Leto, 5; No. 3 Strawberry Crest vs. No. 6 Armwood, 7; Wednesday: No. 2 King vs. Strawberry Crest/Armwood winner, 5; No. 1 Jefferson vs. Sickles/Leto winner, 7; Thursday: Final, 7
5A-11 at Middleton
Tuesday: No. 3 Spoto vs. No. 6 Blake, 4; No. 4 Middleton vs. No. 5 Lennard, 7:30; Wednesday: No. 1 Jesuit vs. Middleton/Lennard winner, 4; No. 2 Robinson vs. Spoto/Blake winner, 7:30; Friday: Final, 7
4A-9 at Berkeley Prep
Tuesday: No. 2 Tampa Catholic vs. No. 3 Sarasota Booker, 7; Thursday: No. 1 Berkeley Prep vs. TC/Booker winner, 7
3A-8 at Bishop McLaughlin
Monday: No. 5 Carrollwood Day vs. No. 4 Seffner Christian, 7; Tuesday: No. 1 Tampa Prep vs. CDS/Seffner winner, 4; No. 3 Bishop McLaughlin vs. No. 2 Brooks-DeBartolo, 7; Friday: Final, 7
2A-8 at Bayshore Christian
Tuesday: No. 1 Cambridge vs. No. 4 Tampa Bay Christian, 4; No. 2 Bayshore Christian vs. No. 3 Academy at the Lakes, 7; Thursday: Final, 6