On high school baseball fields around Philadelphia, an unusual group of spectators have joined the proud parents and grandparents lining the fields: Major league scouts are watching three players closely.
Armed with radar guns and note pads, the baseball scouts study every move of three of the top high school talents in America.
There’s the flamethrower at Mainland Regional High School who is hitting triple digits with his fastball. There’s the outfielder at Malvern Prep who is so talented, he’s also sitting on a full scholarship offer to play football at Penn State. Then, there’s the big lefty with the big wind-up from Bishop Eustace who tops the rotation for the number-one team in South Jersey.
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As Chase Petty - the flamethrower from Somers Point - said it, “I don’t want to stop until my name is in the Hall of Fame.”
The Philly region has had top talents before. Mike Trout’s heroics in Vineland remain the stuff of legend. But this year is different; the region has three players among America’s top 50 draft eligible players. Depending on which mock draft you read, all three players have the potential to be first-round picks.
We’ve been following them much of this spring for our “Diamond Dreams” series, which starts Monday at 5 p.m. on NBC10. Here’s a little more on each player.
Chase Petty, right-handed pitcher, Mainland Regional High School in Linwood, New Jersey
When Petty – at 17 years old – threw a baseball 100 miles an hour, he became a viral sensation. But hard work is his secret ingredient.
When he first walked into the Baseball Performance Center in Pleasantville, New Jersey he topped out at about 84 miles an hour. Three years later, he hits triple digits.
His coach, Mike Adams – who is now a Phillies farmhand and who has thrown pitches 98 miles an hour himself – has developed Petty to the point where Petty said, “I’d trust [Mike] with my life.”
Over the course of our two shoots this spring, Petty struck out the final 10 batters he faced in one game, then eight of the first nine in his next. That's 18 of 19 batters.
Big crowds follow him for every start. The excitement even has his father, Bob, a long-time coach, drawing Ks and hanging them along the Mainland outfield fence.
One week Bob Petty only brought 15 Ks. He came up three short when Chase whiffed 18.
Chase has a full scholarship offer to pitch for Florida, but if he’s drafted high enough – and more than 40 scouts attended each of the two games NBC10 attended – he could turn pro. As he says, “it’s a win-win situation.”
Lonnie White, outfielder, Malvern Preparatory School in Malvern, Pennsylvania
Meanwhile, out at Malvern Prep, Lonnie White is a do-it-all talent who hits with power, has blazing speed and makes major-league throws as a high school senior.
The last player this highly sought after from the Malvern Prep Friars was Ben Davis, who went second in the 1995 MLB Draft.
At NBC's request, Davis went into the batting cage to see what makes White tick. What he found is a gifted young man with lots of pop in his bat. Former Phillies scouting director and now Braves scout Joe Jordan also was there for a first-hand look on the day we shot with White.
Also watching White was James Franklin, the head coach of Penn State’s football team. White is so good in football that he’s got a full scholarship offer from the Nittany Lions and is one of the jewels of Franklin’s recruiting class.
But that's only if he doesn’t get drafted high enough in baseball. His coach and parents say baseball is his first love. White himself acknowledges he “has a tough decision to make.”
Anthony Solometo, left-handed pitcher, Bishop Eustace Preparatory School in Pennsauken, New Jersey
Then there’s left-handed ace Anthony Solometo. He has dominated South Jersey, throwing two no-hitters in his first three starts this season.
His long windup reminds scouts of Madison Bumgardner. He consistently throws his fastball in the low-to-mid 90s and is precise with his location.
He’s also competitive as competitive gets. Ryan Kulik, the head coach at Rutgers Camden and Anthony’s personal pitching trainer since he was 11, said, “the day after Chase [Petty] threw his no-hitter, Anthony said, ‘I’m throwing a no-hitter in my next game.’”
Solometo did even better. He threw no hitters in his next two games.
Solometo has a full scholarship offer to pitch for North Carolina, but Keith Law of the Athletic has Solometo as a first-round selection by the Yankees in his most recent mock draft.
When asked about Anthony’s upcoming decision, his legendary coach at Bishop Eustace, Sam Tropiano, said simply, “he’s a pro.” Former Phillies GM Matt Klentak has scouted Anthony personally.
Just one year removed from a year unlike any other, we are seeing another year unlike any other, but for a much better reason: Three high school top-50 talents in the Delaware Valley, all in the same year.