By STEVE KRAH
So many in the baseball world are eager to step between the white lines.
The COVID-19 pandemic has cut college seasons short and taken away high school slates.
As Indiana and other states move into various stages of emerging from quarantine, what about travel ball and getting exposure for players looking to play in college?
Assisted by Kenny Overbey and Jeff Brisman, Stout is supposed to take his squad to three events at Grand Park in Westfield, Ind., the Music City Classic in Nashville, the World Wood Bat Association National Championship in Georgia and the Marucci World Series in Louisiana.
“There are some kids you can tell they have it at a young age,” says Stout, who is anxious to show off the talents on a roster made up of athletes from multiple states.
That includes University of Kentucky commit Caden Dana, a right-handed pitcher/lefty-swinging third baseman from Montgomery, N.Y.
“(Dana) has tremendous feel on the mound,” says Stout.
Among the uncommitted on the 2022 Prospects are lefty-batting catcher/third baseman George Baker from Waldorf, Md., and 6-foot-5, 270-pound right-handed pitcher/first baseman Hunter Pudlo of Antioch, Ill.
“We have kids who will be committed at a high level,” says Stout. “The 16-year-old summer is most important summer for recruiting.”
While they can’t sign until the fall of their senior year, many players are expected to make a verbal commitment in the summer or fall.
“The 17-year-old season is still recruited,” says Stout. “But in this day and age scholarship money is pretty much gone at that point.
“We educate kids as much as possible and prepare them for the next step. You don’t want them to enjoy (the commitment) so long you don’t improve. (College) coaches have walked away from a kid (even after a commitment has been made).
“College coaches get paid to win.”
That’s why Stout stresses that a player should go where he is comfortable and he must produce once he gets there.
“It’s all about relationships and how you treat people,” says Stout. “Baseball is a small world. You never want to burn bridges You don’t lie about kids. It’s all about finding right fit for the kid.
“It is cool as an organization to commit to a high-level school. But we don’t want to kids to get on campus and transfer out. That doesn’t make us think we did our job.”
“My dad is passionate about what he does,” says Austin. “I’ve seen some cool moments.”
Austin saw his father weep when former Prospects player J.J. Bleday was selected in the first round of the 2019 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft out of Vanderbilt University by the Miami Marlins as a lefty-swinging outfielder.
Bleday, a 2019 Golden Spikes Award finalist, was going to visit with current Prospects via a Zoom video conference this weekend.
“It’s important for the kids to hear about different types of recruitments,” says Stout, who recently brought on lefty-batting shortstop Clay Dungan to share his story. Dungan played for the Prospects and was a sophomore at Yorktown (Ind.) High School when Stout was a senior then was a mainstay at Indiana State University. He was drafted in the ninth round by the Kansas City Royals in 2019.
Dungan was undersized coming out of high school.
“He committed as a roster spot guy,” says Stout. “He started 90 percent of the games for (Sycamores head coach) Mitch Hannahs.
“He’s earned it. It’s fun to watch.”
Stout grew up aroundC Muncie and began playing with the Prospects at 11. He played for Mike Larrabee at Yorktown, graduating in 2013, followed by Dennis Conley at Olney (Ill.) Central College (2014 and 2015), where he was a middle infielder, and Mike Kunigonis at Northern Illinois University (2016 and 2017), where he was mostly at designated hitter.
“(Conley) made a man of me,” says Stout. “He was a no-cutting-corners coach.
“He’s in the junior college Hall of Fame for a reason. That guy’s a legend.
Shane Stout and Kunigonis developed a relationship when the latter was a Virginia Tech assistant and saw Austin as a undersized kid.
The younger Stout grew in stature and talent and Kunigonis brought him to DeKalb, Ill., shortly after taking over the program there. Stout earned at Corporate Communication degree from NIU in 2017.
Besides his Prospects duties, Stout is an assistant at Yorktown on the staff of P.J. Fauquher.
It was only natural that Stout would go into player development after his playing days.
“I’ve been around it from a very young age,” says Stout. “I’ve always felt I could do this side of it. I love the beginning steps of baseball. I’ve had no motivation to be a college coach.
“There are some kids who wouldn’t go to college without baseball as a vehicle. I truly enjoy what I do. I’m a helping hand in grooming those kids who will some day be husbands and fathers.”
Austin Stout, a graduate of Yorktown (Ind.) High School and Northern Illinois University, is an assistant baseball coach at his alma mater and Director of Player Development for the Indiana Prospects travel baseball organization.