Sam Hunt is in 8th grade. While this fact is by itself unremarkable, as there are many other 8th graders playing baseball, I want you to keep that piece of information in the back of your mind as you read on.
Last week Sam became the starting catcher for the Saint Louis Park Orioles varsity baseball team. This fact is a bit more remarkable. I played high school baseball at Saint Louis Park and at that time it had been in the neighborhood of 20 years since even a freshman had played varsity. This was in the late 80’s. I freely admit that I do not have all of the rosters at my disposal but I am pretty sure there has not been an 8th grader playing varsity since I left. That means it has been at least 40-50 years since an 8th grader has started a varsity baseball game for SLP. Sam has now started 3.
How is he doing? I asked head coach Brian Kelly.
“Super comfortable, hitting a lot of hard ground balls. Elevated one yesterday and it would have one hopped the fence if it wasn’t caught.”
As a catcher, “Sam has looked really good behind the plate.”
Turns out this is just the tip of the iceberg for Sam. This winter Sam competed in the 13U International Power Showcase. This event is held in Miami Marlins Park and hosts some of the best young talent in the world. The home run derby portion of the event consists of two rounds: the preliminary round and the championship round. The top two home run totals plus the person with the longest home run in the prelims move on to the finals. Sam ended up with both the highest total (17) and the longest home run (406 ft.) and easily secured a spot in the championship round. There he showed well hitting 8 more home runs and another 406 foot blast but fell to the reigning champion Gio Cueto. The home run line for the 13 year old division is set around 300 feet which is a pretty healthy poke for that age, but Sam managed to hit 9 of his home runs over the actual big league fence. Sam is in 8th grade.
I asked Sam what was the coolest thing about the experience.
“It was all so cool, but I guess walking up to a major league plate. Then having a ball come in and then seeing it go out over a big league fence. That was cool.”
The next day is reserved for games. Sam was asked to play in the 15U division instead of his own age group.
“I hit a ball really deep to center but the other team had the fastest ranked kid in the country for the 2020 class playing centerfield and he tracked it down. It was really fun playing against that level of competition.”
The player who hits the longest home run is awarded a replica of Babe Ruth’s bat.
“That was really cool too. This thing is huge, it weighs like 50 ounces. Babe Ruth’s granddaughter actually presented it to me.”
Sam also recently tried out for the Baseball USA 15U regional team. As you might expect by now, he made it. The regional teams play in a week long tournament in Raleigh North Carolina in August. Sam will be joining the Midwest team as a catcher. During the tournament the coaches evaluate the players and pick the roster for Team USA. Sam is in 8th grade, but it wouldn’t surprise me if he makes it. Good luck Sam!