Every year, one of the most fun aspects of the buildup to the Major League Baseball Draft is seeing which players make that “meteoric rise” up the board into the first round.
Helium guys, sleepers, call them what you want.
Still somewhat under the radar to many, Henry Bolte will likely be on all those lists over the next few months.
The funny thing is, for those who’ve watched him with the New Balance Baseball Future Stars Series over the past year, you already know he should already be near the top of any draft board anyway.
Considered the 43rd-best player available in the upcoming 2022 MLB Draft by Prospects Live and 47th by Baseball America, the California-based outfielder has already climbed up those lists after a big summer — he starred at both the National Combine in Lake Charles, Louisiana and at the Main Event at Citi Field, among other amateur events — and will be one of many high school seniors with a difficult decision to make, as Bolte has a big commitment to The University of Texas ahead of him as well.
As is the case for many of those players, with it being this early in the process, what may lie ahead a few months from now still feels far away, even with seemingly endless rankings and mock drafts leading to plenty of questions.
“I’ve been thinking about it more and more, but it’s still a little ways away,” Bolte told FutureStarsSeries.com in a lengthy Zoom conversation.
“So, I just take it as it comes and try to stay in the present…It’s not really a main focus. It’s cool to see that stuff, but the rankings and all that has never been important to me. I think it’s a cool thing to look at, but it really doesn’t hold a lot of water. I’m focused on winning as many games as I can in high school with the season we’ve got coming up, and then whatever happens down the road will happen. I think just staying in the moment and focused on that stuff is really what’s been important to me. I have two great options, and I recognize that either way I go, I’m winning in whichever situation, and that’s a huge thing that I think about. That keeps me in a good mindset to not try to worry too much about it.”
It is not, Bolte says, a difficult mindset to have.
“I try to just to keep it a where I’m at now with my high school team, and that’s kind of what I’ve got going on and my main focus is winning at the high school level now,” he said. “I think that’s been big. You get text messages and people sending you stuff, but I’m kind of just pushing that to the side a little bit. It’s cool, but that’s the main thing I’ve tried to do with that.”
On the flip side, for an 18-year-old, it’s a lot to think about such an early age, but Bolte has shown a level of maturity far beyond his years in approaching handling all of it.
“There’s times where it’s built up a little bit, and I don’t know if it was stressful, but I didn’t understand that it was going to be that hectic or that there would be that much going on,” he said. “I think it’s cool to think about. It’s been a dream of mine since I was a kid to be in a situation like this, and I’m extremely fortunate for it. So, I’m enjoying it. It’s a great time in my life, and I think trying to appreciate all the time I have now in the moment is pretty important.”
A very legitimate possibility as a first-round pick this year, that commitment to the Longhorns is an appealing one as well, and one that can very much so come to fruition depending on how everything plays out.
“I think it’s unbelievable, and I’m super fortunate to have that as an option,” Bolte said. “I think that, on the college side, there isn’t another situation I’d want to be in. I’ve had a great connection with the coaches since the first time I came in contact with them. I went out there to visit, and it was awesome. Everything’s been awesome, it was fun watching them last year, and I look forward to it this year. I think what they have going on there with that environment and their team is super special, and Austin’s just a great place, so it’s something to be super excited about. Whichever way I go, I’m winning, and that’s an awesome thing.”
The recruitment process as a whole was a very unique one for Bolte and most players over the past two years or so, with COVID restrictions putting significant limitations on what colleges could and couldn’t do.
“It was a little weird with COVID and the dead period rules, so coaches couldn’t come out and see me, so it was a lot of staying in contact through text messages, phone calls, sending video,” Bolte said. “You guys and what you guys do is super helpful for me, being able to get out and have some good competition and get evaluated, it was a great help. Having good people in my corner around baseball, having people like what you guys do and you guys helping me out with that, it was a huge help for that process. It made it simpler and easier for me to handle, and I think that was a great thing for me.
“It was also thinking about where I wanted to go to school. The big thing I thought about was where I’d go without baseball, because not everything you’re doing is baseball. So, having a good environment to be just happy around was something I wanted to think about, so I took some time to figure that out. When that great opportunity at Texas came around, I couldn’t pass that up.”
Bolte was first seen by Future Stars Series VP of Player Personnel Gordon Blakeley at a NorCal scout day, followed by FSS president and CEO Jeremy Booth, who made it a point to see what, at the time, was still a relatively unknown commodity the very next day.
“Nobody knew who he was despite what you’re seeing today,” Booth recalled.
“He went to two regionals and a scout day plus the nationals and continued his progress each time. It’s exciting for us to watch someone take the Longhorns of their life and steer it toward realization of their ability. He’s not one to stay on top of for me, he’s one to watch and stay in contact with from time to time. That’s what these guys need really, the understanding when to reach them and when to let them experience it on their own. He’s got instincts and really reminds me of Zac Veen in that regard. Huge heart, huge potential, a never say die quality that burns to be the best he can be. He’s FSS through and through, and as the saying goes, he’s FSS for life.”
Bolte first made waves in the Future Stars Series at the National Tournaments with NorCal Baseball, a partner program with a rich history of sending players to D1 college programs and the big leagues. It was a perfect fit for Bolte, and also a great program to be with for exposure given the issues with dead periods in recruiting.
“I don’t know what I would be doing without Rob (Bruno) and the NorCal guys,” Bolte said. “They were unbelievable, and he helped me out so much. He’s extremely connected, and I’m extremely fortunate to have him there. He was helpful in connecting me with coaches and telling me how to operate in the process of recruiting. Just having someone that has those connections…he’s the one who put me in touch with almost everyone I talked to, and the Texas coaches, so I have him to thank for that. Being able to play with him and learn from him and all his coaches, it was unbelievable. I grew as a player and as a person the most, which I think is something that he focuses on as well.”
With both NorCal and the Future Stars Series having such a strong emphasis on player development, it’s no surprise that, since we last saw Bolte at the Main Event, he’s continued to make strides in that department, trying to get stronger and faster, as well as taking perhaps a bit more unconventional route to improve his flexibility by taking some yoga classes.
“I think doing mobility and yoga-type stuff and making sure that you can stay healthy, it’s more of a longevity thing,” he said. “Especially in pro baseball, you’re playing a lot of games — high school, it’s not as much, and college, it’s a little bit more — but being able to stay healthy and not risk injury and have a leg up on everyone else has been huge for me in addition to the weights, of course, because they all build on each other.”
It’s hard to imagine an even more improved Bolte given how strong of a summer he put together in 2021, an overall showing that has largely set the stage for the big decisions that lie ahead that will shape his future both inside the game and out.
“I think the summer, that whole time was huge for me, because it gave me a chance to get out of my area and play against some of the better competition that’s in the country,” he said. “That was a huge thing for me personally, to maybe validate how I can play, because I hadn’t played previously against some of the guys in Georgia, Florida, all over the place. I’d been more around here (in California) especially with COVID. I think going out to Louisiana with you guys and the other stuff I’ve done, the Main Event, it gave you a chance to get know them and play against them, but also see how you stack up against the best of the best in high school. I think that being able to perform against them and do that consistently helps people realize and take notice and take you a little more seriously, so I think it was huge.”
As an example, Bolte hit a memorable home run off of another very highly regarded likely 2022 MLB Draft pick in Cole Phillips, which helped give him the confidence that he did, in fact, measure up against the best in the country.
“It gives you a little bit of that validation, it gives you that boost in confidence to look back at what you have done and trust that you can do it,” he said. “If you’re struggling, you’re looking back on moments like that and the past things that you’ve done and realizing that, you know, you might struggle, but gain confidence from that sort of thing. That was huge. After that, it kind of took off for me. That week was good, I had a good week there. I think I was in Louisiana the week before for one of your tournaments, and that’s when it started picking up. I was playing well then, I played well at the National Combine, and it just carried on from there. It was building.”
Building to the Main Event, that is, where Bolte was likely the best offensive performer at the first day of the event, and wowed scouts both with consistent, impressive BP on each day, as well as a defensive gem in the outfield later in the event.
“That was an unbelievable experience, you guys set that up perfectly getting us access to the clubhouse and everything, you really treated us like we were playing professional baseball,” he said. “I think that’s something you can’t get anywhere else, and it’s an incredible experience if you have the chance to go for it and get in the process of the combines and get a shot at that, it would be unbelievable. It was huge for me. Three straight days of playing against some of the best kids in high school, I think it was unbelievable. The competition out there and the level of instruction you guys have, and the detail…instead of just throwing balls out there and letting us plays, you guys focus on getting us better, and I think that’s a huge thing that you guys have been able to do that’s a little bit different, and I love that about the event. It was a ton of fun, especially playing at Citi Field, that place was pretty sweet.”
So too was being able to continue his development in a high-level environment, surrounded by a staff with decades upon decades of experience at the highest levels.
“There’s obviously places where it’s a showcase and you go out and just do what you do, and that’s it, and they’re not helping you, and it’s more as guidance,” Bolte said. “I think that’s OK, but the coaching is huge. Being able to improve when you go to these things; when you spend time at a combine and you know they’re helping you out or you have your scout day and they’re helping you in the cage if you’re hitting or they’re helping you in the field. There’s a lot of things you can get help on and actually improve instead of just going out there, and that was awesome for me. Having that environment where people would help out, it made it more like an actual game too, where we’d compete and there was coaches that want us to win and would help us out. It was huge. I really liked that, and I think it’s something great that you guys are doing.”
It is now, once again, time to take those lessons and implement them in game situations, as Bolte embarks on his final high school season. His goals moving forward — even as the level of attention only increases — are relatively simple.
“Our team’s been pretty good, we’ve won in the past years, and the big thing I’ve thought about is that not everybody on my team gets to play after this year,” he said. “There’s seniors that won’t play again, so trying to make it the best year for them and trying to help them grow as a baseball player and as a person this last year is huge, just having everyone enjoy themselves. Then we’ll come down to the summer and see what happens after that, but that’s really what I’m focusing on now.”
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