Nic Enright stood on the mound with the ball in his hand, ready to pitch. He kicked his leg, whipped his arm, and that’s when the radar guns appeared. The dozen or so scouts standing behind the backstop lifted their devices and pointed them at home plate.
Enright unleashed a fastball, which smacked into the catcher’s glove. The reading on one gun said 88. Another scout jotted a few words in his spiral notebook.
The crowd of men studying Enright on that day in April was small. On busier days, 25 men wearing the logos of major-league teams came to the Steward School, a small private school in western Henrico, to watch Enright pitch.
Enright knows many of them. They’ve been in his living room, on his phone and at his games for the past nine months. When he sees a scout he doesn’t recognize, he’s happy. That means a higher-level talent evaluator, a decision-maker, has been called to craft an opinion on Enright.
“New faces are good faces,” Enright said.
It all began one Saturday in October in Florida when he had the breakout performance of his career, and four emails appeared in his in-box the next morning. From that day on, scouts have studied Enright, the pitcher and the person, to determine if he’s worthy of a draft pick and a signing bonus worth hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Many expect him to be taken Tuesday between the third and fifth rounds.
“It’s been a whirlwind,” Enright said.
Twenty-nine major-league teams have contacted him, some visiting his home, others sending quirky and detailed questionnaires. Just one team, the Philadelphia Phillies, has yet to reach out to Enright.
“There are a lot of people who will coach all their life and never have someone who brings the attention that Nic does,” Steward coach Bruce Secrest said.
Boxers or briefs?
There are a few places every young baseball player wants to play before he graduates high school. One of them is Jupiter, Fla., which hosts the Perfect Game world championships each October. The travel teams that compete there are elite, so scouts flock to the games to view the next wave of young talent.
It was there, pitching for the Evoshield Canes, that Enright had perhaps the most important game of his career. He pitched a complete game, allowing two hits, no runs and no walks. He struck out 14, reaching a velocity of 92 miles per hour. And he did it in front of 30 or 35 scouts, their bosses and maybe even a scouting director or two.
“That game kind of put me on the radar,” Enright said.
It was his best performance on the grandest stage. His dad calls that “luck and opportunity.”
The next morning, Enright woke up and turned on his phone. In his email were messages from four major-league teams: the Indians, White Sox, Astros and Diamondbacks. They had sent him questionnaires.
So when the tournament ended, Enright used the 14-hour drive back to Richmond to fill them out. The questions were simple, asking for height, weight and medical history.
One form even asked how much money it would take to draft him. Two months ago, Enright wasn’t even a prospect in the draft. Now he was supposed to know how much money he wanted? He left that question blank.
As the fall went on, he was flooded with more inquiries from major-league teams, including personality tests. Some questions come out of left field.
Boxers or briefs? Salty snacks or sweet? Do you try to take a peak at your Christmas gifts before Christmas?
Before a major-league team drafts an 18-year-old and pays him hundreds of thousands of dollars, it tries to get to know him. It wants to know how it is spending its money and if it is buying the next Johnny Manziel.
Most teams have their own forms they ask recruits to fill out. Some forms come on paper, others online. A few teams use a standardized test, called the Troutwin Athletic Profile, or TAP test.
So for 45 minutes or so, three to four times a week, for a month and a half during the winter, Enright answered questions about his likes, dislikes and idiosyncrasies.
“It can get a little mind-numbing and tedious at times,” Enright said.
Still, other teams gave him brain teasers. The Royals asked him to map out his week, starting with the days he pitches and the training and conditioning regimen he undertakes during his rest days.
“All the teams are all doing their homework,” Enright said. “They all do it their different ways, but they’re all getting the same results.”
Long bus rides? Cheap hotels?
After the forms have been filled out, the scouts asked for an invitation to Enright’s home. They visited after dinner and stayed from 90 minutes to four hours. Some are efficient with their time, while others linger. One scout from the Los Angeles Dodgers didn’t leave until 10 p.m.
“We thought we’d have to offer him a pillow and a blanket and ask him if he wanted to stay on the couch,” Enright said.
From December to February, 18 came in and out of the Enrights’ home in western Henrico County.
The meetings follow a similiar script: First the scout tells you about his franchise’s farm system, where the clubs are located, and where they’ll send you if you’re drafted. Once the scout is done talking about his team, he begins asking questions. The scout wants to know how likely is it that Enright will go pro if offered?
So he asks, what are your feelings on minor-league baseball? How do you feel about fast food? Long bus rides? Cheap hotels? All the perks of minor-league baseball.
But the scout also wants to know how much money will it take for Enright to sign. This part of the discussion is a poker game. Neither side wants to show his cards first.
If Enright gives a number too high, he’ll price himself out of the market and he won’t get drafted at all. If he gives a number too low, he’ll sell himself at a discounted rate. So during those discussions, Enright never gave an exact number.
Not until recently did he share a figure with scouts. He has declined to make the number public. Last season, third-round draft picks generally earned signing bonuses of $500,000 to $750,000. Fifth-rounders received from $280,000 to $370,000.
On Tuesday, Enright expects his phone to ring with a representative of a major-league team on the other end of the line. The team will make him an offer, and he has to accept or decline on the spot.
If he accepts the offer, he’ll be on a plane in less than two weeks, bound for Arizona or Florida where he’ll begin his career as a professional pitcher at his team’s spring training facility. In a matter of days, childhood will be over, and adulthood will begin.
If he declines, he’ll go to Virginia Tech, the school to which he committed before his junior year.
While the scouts try to learn about the recruit, there’s some knowledge to be learned about the scout. This is the job undertaken by Enright’s mother, Betty.
Betty is the keeper of the book. She has a black three-ring binder 2 to 3 inches thick that contains every form her son has filled out and notes on every scout who has walked through their front door.
She’s a librarian at Steward, so the book is a detailed list of the recruitment process, starting with the first email sent by a major-league scout last June.
“I’m into record-keeping,” Betty said.
While the scout asks questions about Enright, Betty asks questions about the scout. How did you get into the game? Where do you live? She also Googles the name of the scout before he arrives.
“You find out all this neat stuff about the person you’re talking to,” Betty said. “They were all just fascinating.”
The older scouts tell stories about their days playing in the majors, about facing greats such as Nolan Ryan or Curt Schilling.
While the scout talks, Betty writes. She makes notes on where the farm teams are located, where the players live (some teams provide dorms for the players), and how they eat (some teams provide food).
Hard manual labor
This time last year, Enright wasn’t a serious candidate for the major-league draft. He spent his summer working for his dad, Doug, a brick and stone contractor, Tuesday through Wednesday and playing travel ball for Richmond Baseball Academy on the weekends.
When he wasn’t pitching, he was sprinting, jogging long distances, throwing bullpen sessions and long toss and lifting weights. The job was physically draining, too. He worked as a laborer, carrying wheelbarrows of mortar, shoveling it in the pan, carrying loads of bricks and piling them up, picking up the trash and taking it out.
“It’s hard manual labor from 7 a.m. to 3:30,” Enright said. “I figured out real quick you can’t put too much in that wheelbarrow or it will tip over and spill all over you. When you get mortar caked on your leg, it does not come off well.”
All the while, he grew to 6-foot-3 and kept adding muscle. With his added strength came a jump in velocity. A year ago, his fastball ranged from 86 to 88 mph, solid numbers, but not enough to make him a high-level draft pick. Then his fast ball reached 89, then 92 in the fall. That velocity went with a curve that is considered elite for a high school pitcher.
“A year ago, he didn’t see himself where he is right now,” Secrest said. “When he did (all that), it kind of opened up the floodgates.”
Enright was in Chapel Hill, N.C. pitching for the Canes when he learned just how far he had come. When the day was over, he asked his pitching coach what the radar gun displayed.
Nonchalantly, the coach replied “92.” Enright was stunned. Before that day, his fastball had never been clocked higher than 89.
To Enright, the other pitchers on his team who threw 92-mph fastballs were gods. Now he was one of them. - http://www.richmond.com/sports/high-school/article_51c07f9d-1378-5fa2-ada6-9b9d884a7bbb.html
Based on size, stuff and projectability, Enright is a top Draft talent. Whether or not he's signable away from his Virginia Tech commitment remains to be seen. At 6-foot-3, 205 pounds, Enright has an ideal pitcher's frame, with room to add strength as he matures. That should allow him to add some velocity to a fastball that typically sits in the 89-91 mph range, but has touched a bit higher in the past, particularly in a dominant 14-strikeout performance at Perfect Game's WWBA World Championship last fall. He also can spin a solid average curve that can miss bats at times. He doesn't use a changeup much, but has shown some feel for it. Enright does a decent job of repeating his delivery and throwing strikes from a good downhill plane. It's believed Enright will be a tough sign away from Virginia Tech, perhaps having to go in the top few rounds. Based on his upside, he very well might be worth the risk.