Pro scouts descend on Northcut, bring attention to underclassmen
Check out MBC Reporter Abby Miller’s in-depth interview of Nick Northcut.
Joey Deaton | Staff Writer
Whenever senior Nick Northcut steps up to the plate, his every move is examined, critiqued, and criticized. Not just by the home crowd or the away dugout, but by major league scouts. Members of all thirty organizations in Major League Baseball (MLB) have appeared in some frequency at practice, pre-game batting practice, or games.
Northcut said that he is used to the pressure of scouts, but he can sometimes get in his own way.
“I grew up playing in front of a lot of people very early,” Nortcut said. “And for me, it’s no big deal to have people watch me, but it’s also very humbling at the same time. Sometimes I’ll just get in my own head, and I try to do too much. I’m just trying to keep things simple.”
Northcut, in his fourth year in the starting lineup for the Comets, is batting .344 with an On-Base Percentage (OBP) of .543. In other words, he gets walked a lot because opponents have such a respect for his game.
In order for pro scouts to have the opportunity to evaluate Northcut as much as possible, the team holds extra batting practice before their games that a number of teams attend.
“My personal schedule is a little bit different than what the team’s doing,” Northcut said. “Obviously, there’s fifteen-twenty guys showing up for BP and they just want to watch me hit and not see the whole team. At the same time, I want my teammates to get as much work in as they can as well. I think this year is huge that we’re all getting on-field BP. I think it has shown for a lot of us at the plate this year. We got a real talented group.”
Senior 3B/P Nick Northcut prepares to swing at a pitch in the Comets 8-0 win against the Colerain Cardinals on April 6. Northcut is hitting .344 with an on base percentage of .543, 2 home runs, 9 RBI and 12 runs scored. On the mound Northcut has struck out 12 batters in nine innings pitched with an ERA of 2.33.
Through 12 games, Mason Baseball is 10-2 and batting .352 as a team. This comes from a squad that relies heavily on contribution from underclassmen; Harrison Johnson and Cole Harting, sophomores, are consistently in the starting lineup and have the fourth and second best batting averages, respectively, of players with at least 10 at-bats. Freshman Max Johnson has made his way into the starting lineup with an OBP of .467 and leads the team with seven stolen bases.
Max Johnson said that while he was surprised to be in the varsity lineup, he knew he would be able to contribute on the bases and in the field.
“When they told me I was gonna be on varsity and I was gonna contribute, that really just made me excited because we have a really good group of guys here,” Johnson said. “For me, the biggest thing is at the plate, I just need to get on base so that maybe I can steal, and somebody like Northcut or Joe Powell can hit me in.”
Head coach Curt Bly said the presence of Northcut’s professional opportunity has not conflicted with the growth of the younger members of the team.
“First and foremost, the young guys that are playing have earned their opportunity to play,” Bly said. “They’re helping us succeed. They’re helping us win. So, it isn’t a decision about ‘we wanna get better for the future.’ Every day we go out there, we’re trying to win a ballgame. They’re contributing to that as is our whole team. Nick’s situation and the situation of having young players-I don’t think they affect each other.”
Northcut said that while some of his teammates might not be draft prospects, the scouts could help the players be known in the collegiate world.
“It’s huge,” Northcut said. “All those scouts have connections with all the college guys, and if they like a kid, maybe they’re not going to consider him for the draft, but they could definitely help find him a home for college baseball. It opens a door and gets a whole other set of eyes on all the talented athletes we have here at Mason.”
Harting said he does not feel pressured by the presence of scouts.
“When Nick comes up to bat they all pull out their cameras,” Harting said. “Obviously they’re focused mainly on Nick, but it still helps us get exposure too, so that’s cool. It doesn’t bring any pressure to us because we know we’re not the ones they’re really watching.”
Max Johnson said that it is awesome for the young guys to see what professional teams are showing up to watch.
“Having all those pro scouts there for batting practice, we’re just kinda like, ‘woah, that’s the Boston Red Sox’ or ‘woah, that’s the Cincinnati Reds,’ so it’s been neat,” Johnson said.
Bly said Northcut is one of the best players to ever put on a Comet uniform.
“Nick is very special,” Bly said. “He’s got that combination of rare natural ability, tremendous work ethic, and a desire to be great. He’s obviously a tremendous player; you could certainly make an argument he’s one of the best, if not the best, to come through here, and we’ve had some tremendous players. Hopefully, he paves the way for some younger guys, and they see his example. We have a lot of talented kids in the community that love the game, and my hope is that we’ll continue to grow good players.”
Northcut said despite the scouts and the possibility of being drafted, his focus is on this season with his team.
“(I’m) trying to block it out as much as I can,” Nortcut said. “You’d drive yourself crazy if you’re constantly focused on that or about what could happen. You gotta live in the present. We’re playing baseball every day and I’m wearing a Mason uniform. I’m not wearing any other uniform or thinking about anything else. I’m just trying to win every single day and give my team the best situation for us to make a run in the tournament.”
Photo by Tanner Pearson.