The first of three Combine weeks are in the books in Nashville, with the 2023 New Balance Baseball Future Stars Series Underclass Combine for 2025 Draft-eligible players having been completed at beautiful and historic Shelby Park.
A roster of nearly 150 players were in attendance on eight different teams looking to advance to the next level, which, in this case, is the Underclass Elite event, set to be played at the first time in Fenway Park on September 29-30.
Not only were those players looking to get an opportunity to play in the home of the Red Sox, however, they were also looking to further their development, and there was no shortage of opportunities for that given the way the staff was able to structure the three day event.
Players underwent athletic testing on the first day and then went through a bevy of on field tests for an FSS scouting staff that has decades upon decades of experience with big league clubs, with multiple World Series rings on the field at any given time. After defensive testing, offensive testing and live BP were done for the day, players also were able to have some of their more advance data secured by Pelotero, who was on hand with multiple stations, including during one round of BP, where players swung bats at their preferred weights with sensors built into the knobs.
Later in the day came positional development sessions, where players went from station to station on both fields and learned from the best player development staff in the business, gaining knowledge both in listening to them speak as well as doing a multitude of drills at each stop in an effort to accelerate their paths to the next levels.
After that? Games. Well, more than that, really. While most looked forward to Tuesday for some legitimate on-field competition between the eight teams in attendance — each group played two games each in a lengthy, but educational day both for the players and staff — there was more than just seven innings between the white lines planned. While players also had another day of BP where they could showcase themselves at the plate, they also got to experience infield/outfield drills before each game.
Wednesday’s format was a bit more unique, with many players departing to play with their respective travel teams during the Music City Classic, which was also being held in Nashville at the same time. As such, the remaining players were largely given a development day, which entailed some live at-bats, PFP and other drills, as well as some individual instruction with a smaller group that players really seemed to take to.
“One thing that’s consistent is the staff is always great,” said Matt Gileno, who hit the only home run of the event on Tuesday. “The pro experience that you have with 15 guys who are former scouts, big leaguers, it’s second to none. And they show they care, which is really all that matters.”
As for the next steps, the selection process is underway for Boston, with development and scouting staff filing reports and meeting to see who will be moving along, a difficult task given what a talented and deep group this was as a whole. As players took photos in each of the Underclass Elite jerseys when they walked into the facility for the first day, and a large canvas display of FSS alum Mick Abel throwing with Fenway Park as the backdrop was visible all event long, and it’s fair to say that there was some extra motivation for those in attendance to do their best to stand out.
“If you can’t get motivated to play at Fenway Park, you might want to check your pulse,” said FSS CEO Jeremy Booth in an interview posted on the FSS YouTube channel.
Although the selection process is in the very early stages, there were certainly some standouts. Alongside Gileno, who credited FSS staff for helping him make the adjustment needed to hit that home run after a difficult first game for him, several arms in particular popped, including Canadian talent Josiah Romeo, who was up to 91 MPH with his fastball, and LSU commit Marshall Louque, who dazzled at times in his outing with an advanced feel to pitch.
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