Potsdam's Jerry Coleman latest of Clarkson baseball draft prospects
POTSDAM -- Never underestimate the importance of a good summer camp.
Back in June 2003, the Clarkson University Baseball team was running one of its many incarnations of a summer camp or spring league. Two days a week, usually on Tuesday and Thursday evenings, aspiring young ballplayers between the ages of 12 and 18 would arrive at Jack Phillips Stadium at Snell Field to participate in drills, take batting practice, and play in some low key games. Players shuffled in and out, as some skipped certain days or left early for varsity, junior varsity or American Legion games. The talent level at times could be disparate, but the loose atmosphere made the results inconsequential.However, even in that relaxed environment, Clarkson head coach Jim Kane noticed the skills of certain players above the others. One of those standouts was the youngest player there, an undersized 12-year-old second baseman named Jerry Coleman who more than held his own against the older competition.
That would be the last look that Kane would get for a few years, as Coleman and his family moved to Philadelphia, NY when his father took a job at Indian River High School. Fortunately for Kane, when the family moved back to Potsdam for Jerry Coleman’s senior year, the program’s impression had stuck with him, and he committed to Clarkson via early decision.
“No other school contacted me to play baseball during my senior year of high school,” Coleman, now a sturdy 6-foot-3, explained. “I applied to one school (Clarkson), since I knew I could make the baseball team. I had two offers to play football and two offers to play basketball, which also included Clarkson. In August before coming to Clarkson, I was contacted by New York Institute of Technology, a Division I school, to play baseball under scholarship, but I declined due to the agreement I had with Clarkson.”
Sheltered in Northern New York, not exactly a hotbed for baseball prospects due to weather constrictions and short high school and summer ball seasons, Coleman didn’t get a lot of looks from colleges for his baseball prowess, despite dominating the competition. A regional scout for a National League team saw him in play in high school and invited him to participate in a summer workout. Coleman admits he was overmatched by some of the older competition, and the scout determined he would follow the youngster’s progress through college. That scout is far from alone now.
After a standout summer in the Atlantic Baseball Confederation Collegiate League, Coleman followed up with some workouts in front of professional scouts along the East Coast. One scout from an American League team traveled from near Toronto, a four-hour drive, just to watch a fall ball practice to get a glimpse of Coleman in an inter-squad scrimmage. That buzz has pushed Coleman, who batted .359/.428/.570 last season with six home runs and 10 stolen bases, near the top of the Division III draft prospects for 2011, according to a recent list by the publication Baseball America.
“I was surprised that I reached that kind of level in the country,” a humble Coleman admitted. “I really didn’t think I was that good….good, but not that good. I still may not be, but that’s was this season is for. If you told me my senior year of high school (that) I would be scouted all the way up here in Potsdam, I wouldn't have believed you.”
Coleman was chosen as the number-two prospect in all of Division III, a section that covers nearly 400 baseball teams, by Baseball America, which gets the majority of its information from the scouting community. Close to a dozen teams have already contacted Coleman, and since many teams play their draft “hands” close to the vest, many others could be lurking come June, especially if Coleman performs as expected through the 2011 baseball season at Clarkson. Whether Coleman is selected in the draft or not, the notoriety is welcomed by the Clarkson Baseball program.
“I was a bit surprised, but not shocked at where Jerry ranked,” head coach Jim Kane said of the Baseball America listing. “He certainly has the tools and the body-type that they look for at the next level.”
Coleman’s tools were impressive when he arrived on the Clarkson campus back in the fall of 2008, and his baseball skills have been refined since then. A switch-hitter, his arm is already a plus professional tool, and he has bottomed out at 6.58 seconds in the 60-yard dash in front of scouts, though he usually sits in the 6.6-6.7 range. Combined with his productivity with wood bats this past summer, he could make for a very interesting selection, especially if he is able to repeat the performance after a stint in the New England Collegiate Baseball League this coming summer.
“His overall ability jumps out at you,” Kane remarked. “As he has matured, his arm strength, speed, and power have all come along, as well as his knowledge of the game. His versatility helps, too, since he has played all over the diamond and in the outfield. Jerry’s athleticism and ability to pick things up quickly sets him apart as a position player.”
Coleman isn’t the first player to receive notice from scouts at Clarkson while under Kane’s watch. Lefthanded pitcher Matt Nolan was an All-American for the Golden Knights in 2000, but went unselected that year and in his senior year. Righthanders Dan Hojnacki and Andy Noonan got a few looks as well, with Hojnacki making the MLB Draft Tracker on the league’s official website, but the duo never received anything close to the attention that Coleman is getting now. And that status will certainly be noted by opponents in a few weeks when the season begins.
“I don’t want to sound full of myself, but I am expecting more respect (from pitchers),” Coleman said. “I don’t know if you (would) call it respect, or just trying to win or something, but I’m not going to get the pitches (to hit) that I got my last two years.”
With the new acclaim, the increased contact from scouts and potential advisors making phone calls and sending emails, and the heavy load as a team leader, one might think that Coleman would wilt under the pressure. However, he is trying to keep things in perspective.
“It’s a simple game...everything has a direct correlation,” Coleman said. “While it’s simple, it’s very challenging, (and) I enjoy the challenge.