Over the past few days, Tucker Neuhaus has performed for scouts in big-league ballparks like Target Field in Minneapolis, Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City and, of course, Tropicana Field.
None of the venues have made Neuhaus, the son of a longtime college baseball coach, particularly awed or nervous.
He suspects that might change Tuesday morning, when the Chicago Cubs welcome him, his family and friends to Wrigley Field for a private workout.
“That’s a dream come true,” Neuhaus said. “I grew up going to Wrigley Field and my dad is a big fan (of the Cubs.) His son is going to take (batting practice) and he’ll be watching with some of his buddies.”
It will be quite the punctuation to the MLB pre-draft workout circuit for the former Wharton star who has showcased his considerable skills for nearly a dozen clubs. He’ll leave Chicago for a workout with the Milwaukee Brewers later in the day.
Following that final workout, Neuhaus and his father will drive back to Chicago for a late flight to Tampa, where they’ll wait anxiously for Thursday’s draft.
“I’m really pumped about everything,” he said. “Things have been going great so far.”
Consider it a change of pace.
Dubbed the top draft “wild card” from Florida by PerfectGame.com, Neuhaus is making a strong case for early draft consideration despite a disappointing close to his high school career.
Neuhaus came into the spring boasting the physique (6-foot-3, 190 pounds), production (.329, six home runs), athleticism (plays at the high-value shortstop position) and pedigree of a top major-league prospect.
But the death of his older brother, Ty Neuhaus, in a single-car accident in November, and a series of injuries that forced him to miss most of the season, meant Tucker Neuhaus suffered through a year his high school coach called the worst he had ever seen for a player of his caliber.
Neuhaus hit only .222 and had one RBI in 35 plate appearances.
His draft prospects have remained high in spite of all of that, with Scout.com analyst Kiley McDaniel saying Neuhaus should still be a second-round pick.
“People can see the untapped potential,” McDaniel said. “Guys know his makeup and know he’s been through a lot.”
Neuhaus said scouts and coaches have told him much the same. His said the injuries weren’t particularly serious and he’s been essentially 100 percent since the start of May.
“All that’s behind me,” he said. “The storm has passed and it’s bright from here.”
National champ, Pasco alum optimistic
If all transpires as Jake Schrader hopes, the national title celebration in which he immersed himself Saturday night will be the commencement — not the culmination — of the best week of his baseball life.
Schrader, whose playoff power surge helped lift the University of Tampa to its sixth Division II national championship, said roughly a dozen big-league clubs have contacted him regarding this week’s draft.
“There seem to be a lot of them interested,” said Schrader, a third baseman who totaled four home runs and 13 RBIs in the Spartans’ last seven games. “So hopefully this is the year it’s going to happen.”
As a college senior, the 2009 Pasco High graduate realizes he has no bargaining leverage. What he does possess is physical upside (6-foot-2, 210 pounds), power (team-best 10 homers, .567 slugging percentage) and the ability to play both corners.
Spartans coach Joe Urso calls Schrader — who also played first for UT — his best defensive third baseman. “Not even close,” Urso added.
“Being a senior, you’re not going to get the huge draft bonus, signing bonus, all that type deal,” Schrader said. “I told ’em, give me two wooden bats and a plane ticket. I’m ready to go to that next step.”
Mann solid on USF if draft doesn’t pan out
At 6-foot-2, 195 pounds, Seminole High catcher Michael Mann has the body and big-time arm professional scouts look for. Running on Mann was nearly futile for opponents this season. He threw out 21 of 23 potential base stealers and also picked off 11 runners already on base.
But he had a down year at the plate — .306 with 15 RBIs. It’s not as if he can’t hit. The USF commit batted .405 with 19 RBIs as a junior.
Mann is not listed among Baseball America’s top 500 prospects or on Perfect Game’s top Florida prospects list. But with a college scholarship already in hand, Mann isn’t going to fret once the draft begins Thursday. He’s committed to the Bulls — unless, of course, his name comes up early.
“I haven’t really heard anything so we’ll see,’’ Mann said. “Right now I’m planning on going to USF and I’m looking forward to it. I guess if I go between the third and 11th rounds, I’ll have a decision to make. And the only way I’ll go is if they also put aside some money for college, like they did with Brett (Phillips).’’
Phillips was a teammate of Mann’s last season who signed in the sixth round with the Houston Astros. As part of Phillips’ contract, the Astros set aside $40,000 for college.
Staff writers Joey Knight and Rodney Page contributed to this report.