Another article on Devin Mesoraco:
Punxsy star has scouts flocking to BCB
By Philip Cmor, firstname.lastname@example.org
Major surgery is never a good thing. For Punxsutawney’s Devin Mesoraco, though, “Tommy John” rotator cuff surgery might have actually worked to his advantage in the long run.
Mesoraco was a promising multi-sport athlete for the Chucks when he sustained the injury while pitching in the playoffs at the end of his sophomore season. The operation that followed on Aug. 31, 2005 limited his athletic activities for the next 10 months to being a designated hitter in baseball.
That sport has turned out to be his calling, however, and the injury just might have made him focus even more on the diamond than he had been before. Now Mesoraco has baseball scouts flocking to Jefferson County in droves, and it looks like he’ll be picked in the first five rounds of the Major League Baseball draft in June.
It’s possible he could go as high as the first round.
“It’s pretty hectic,’’ Mesoraco, who has seen more than 20 scouts at some of his games, said, “but I’m still going out there and playing my game.’’
A large number of scouts are expected to be on hand today at Blair County Ballpark to watch Mesoraco and Punxsy take on 2005 tourney champion Hollidaysburg in the first round of the Dean Patterson Curve Classic. The game is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. as the fourth and final opening-round contest. The tournament will run through Sunday.
Hollidaysburg has its own prospect attracting scouts in third baseman Brett Weibley. But Golden Tiger coach Jon Szynal has a healthy respect when in comes to Mesoraco.
“We haven’t gotten him out in three years. We’ve beaten them twice, but we haven’t gotten him out,’’ Szynal said.
Szynal’s not alone. Despite being pitched around for much of this spring for the 4-3 Chucks, Mesoraco, a 6-foot-1, 200-pound catcher, is batting .550 in the leadoff spot with two home runs and nine runs scored. He’s been walked nine times.
That doesn’t even take into account Mesoraco’s defense.
“The most impressive thing is the distances he throws guys out by,’’ Punxsy coach Paul Hetrick said. “I can only remember one runner trying to steal on him this year, and he was thrown out by so much.’’
Mesoraco is already being compared to former major leaguer John Mizerock as the best baseball player Punxsutawney has produced. The attention he’s getting isn’t just in-state, either: Baseball America had Mesoraco on its preseason All-America third team this year — that list is based on polling of major league scouting directors.
Currently, Baseball America rates Mesoraco as the fourth-best high school catching prospect and the 10th-best catching prospect overall for this draft. Associate editor Alan Matthews brought up the name of the Altoona Curve’s Neil Walker when discussing Mesoraco’s tools and potential.
“He’s showed an ability to catch and throw that’s at least average. But, he’s not your typical catcher,’’ Matthew said. “He has quick twitch muscle movement and is very athletic. He has a chance at the pro level.
“You don’t find guys like him very often.’’
Mesoraco seems to have been born to play baseball. His father, Doug, was a catcher at IUP and coached the American Legion team in Punxsutawney.
“I’ve been playing as long as I can remember. My father would bring me to the field, and I’d be the batboy,’’ Mesoraco said.
Even then, Mesoraco was doing extraordinary things.
“I remember Devin being about 5 years old hanging around the team with a little glove,’’ said Curve Classic tournament coordinator and Curve director of communications Jason Dambach, a 1994 Punxsutawney grad who play Legion ball for Doug Mesoraco. “We would fire baseballs as high as we could throw and he would catch them. I remember being amazed at how coordinated he was at that age.’’
Now, no one is amazed.
“We just take it for granted,’’ Hetrick said.
Mesoraco said the interest in him really skyrocketed last summer. Fully recovered from his surgery, he went around the country to play in tournaments and showcases like the East Coast Professional Showcase and the Area Code Games.
He said there were 200-300 scouts at the East Coast Showcase.
“I think they like my athleticism,’’ Mesoraco said.
Mesoraco said no teams in particular seem to be showing a great deal more interest in him than any other, and, while he grew up a Pirate fan who likened his game to Jason Kendall, he has no preference on who takes him in the MLB Draft. He’s already committed to Virginia, though, so he will have a big decision this summer.
“Right now, I’m still planning on going to Virginia,’’ Mesoraco said. “I’ll just wait and see what happens in June.’’