Thursday, February 22, 2018
Sports

Osceola High pitcher impresses MLB scouts

Keith Weisenberg has 20 guns pointed at him, and he isn't even fazed.

Osceola High is playing Northeast in an early season baseball game, and Weisenberg is mowing down Vikings as major-league scouts point radar guns and jot down notes. When his work is done after the fifth inning, the scouts pack their bags and head home.

That's the way it was for Weisenberg all season. He was the main attraction, a flame-throwing, 6-foot-5, 195-pound right-hander who lured scouts to his every start even though they know he had committed to Stanford.

"It doesn't bother me," said Weisenberg, who went 9-2 with a 1.09 ERA and 88 strikeouts in 64 innings as a senior.

That's because he is used to the spotlight.

Weisenberg has been getting noticed since he was 9 years old. He left traditional Little League that year to play on summer travel ball teams. He and his father, Marc, have logged thousands of miles crossing the state and country to play in showcase events.

During the time before his junior and senior seasons, Weisenberg spent his summers on the travel ball team Marucci Elite. He played in tournaments in North Carolina, Atlanta and Syracuse, N.Y., as well as throughout Florida.

Most of the time, scouts crowded behind the backstop to watch him pitch.

Last summer, Weisenberg was invited to try out for Team USA, a select team of high school players that plays other national teams. He made the cut from 120 players to 40, narrowly missing the final cut to 20 in Los Angeles.

"He came back a different pit­cher," Osceola coach Stefan Futch said. "He was good to begin with, but he got even better."

For Weisenberg, the Team USA experience was a revelation.

"That was when I thought I had a chance to play pro ball," he said.

Those in professional baseball clearly agree.

Baseball America has ranked Weisenberg the 70th-best prospect — 10th in the state — for the draft, which starts tonight. That could make him a pick in one of the top five rounds.

"I think teams are looking at Keith and seeing a kid who can throw 100 mph," said St. Petersburg High coach Travis Phelps, who pitched in the majors for the Rays and Brewers and briefly worked with Weisenberg in the past.

The Green Devils also faced Weisenberg during the season, losing 5-3.

"As it is this season, he touched 92-94 without really using his legs. He's got huge upside," Phelps said. "The thing is: Will he be willing to change? When you go pro, you become an employee. You will change or you won't pitch."

Northeast High coach Rob Stanifer, also a former major-league pitcher whose team faced Weisenberg during the season, believes his best days are still ahead.

"The first thing you notice is his size," Stanifer said. "You look at that big frame and arm strength, and it's no wonder scouts are looking at him. He's got that big fastball and a good changeup. And he's only going to get better. He fixes a few holes, and his velocity will only get better."

Aside from his pitching, Weisenberg hit .329 with two home runs, a triple and 15 RBIs as a senior. But scouts are looking at him solely as a pitcher.

What might have them leery is his commitment to Stanford. If scouts believe he is leaning toward college, he will fall in the draft. But if he is picked high enough, the Weisenbergs will have a decision to make.

If they are leaning one way, they aren't saying.

"There are no bad outcomes," Marc Weisenberg said. "We have set things up for two good things to happen."

This week was set up many years ago. Ever since Weisenberg gave up club soccer (his dad's sport) to focus solely on baseball, they have been aiming toward this outcome.

If Keith could stay healthy, if Marc could keep driving from tournament to tournament, then, perhaps, one day it would all be worth it.

"Keith and I have talked about it many times while we're in the car going to another showcase," Marc Weisenberg said.

"What a wonderful experience this is. It only happens once, so enjoy it."

Rodney Page can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter at @RodneyHomeTeam.

   
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