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Hartsell selected to play in Perfect Game All-American Classic at Petco Park

07/31/2017, 11:30am PDT
By Richard Dunn

There was no technology on site to measure hitters’ exit velocity or spray charts or stopwatches to time runners from home to first base and in the 60-yard dash.

There were no professional or college baseball scouts that day, only parents who filled the stands about 20 percent on this warm summer afternoon at Mission Viejo High, where Preston Hartsell batted in the lead-off spot for Corona del Mar to open the summer campaign.

The left-handed slugger promptly blasted a home run over the wall in right field. It seemed almost unfair to opponents that a high school team could have a player like Hartsell, who can single handedly change game outcomes with a variety of skills in his tool box.

With his outfield cannon for an arm, blinding speed on the bases and big-time power at the plate, Hartsell is one of Orange County’s most talked-about prospects eligible for the 2018 first-year player Major League Baseball draft, because he’s a five-tool player (hit, hit for power, glove, arm and speed) and has become highly visible on the public circuit and in pro scouts’ eyes.

Last week, the Sea King center fielder was named to participate in the 15th Annual Perfect Game All-American Classic Sunday, Aug. 13 at Petco Park in San Diego, a national high school all-star game televised live, and with special features on each player, by the MLB Network.

“This has been his biggest goal for many years, to play in the Perfect Game All-American Classic,” said his mother, Theresa, who often travels with Preston to baseball events, including Perfect Game tournaments and showcases on the east coast.

Between workout sets Sunday at the Newport-Mesa YMCA, Hartsell said he has participated in 15 different Perfect Game events since his first one in a tournament with Team Phenom while in the eighth grade during Memorial Day weekend.

Perfect Game is billed as the nation’s top amateur baseball scouting information service for colleges and professional organizations, and the crème de la crème for Perfect Game is hosting its annual All-American Classic. The game features the top incoming seniors from across the country, and most of the participants are players projected to be drafted in the high rounds next year.

Preston’s father, Mark, who has also traveled a lot with him for baseball tournaments and showcases, said he would prefer not to think too much about Preston possibly getting drafted next June.

The 6-foot, 195-pound Hartsell currently plays for Florida-based FTB Tucci 55, and checking the scores from recent tournaments, it appears that FTB Tucci 55 has little competition in the world of travel ball, in which Hartsell is setting new standards with his bi-coastal arrangement. The Newport Coast resident traveled to Moreno Valley for Team Phenom games, practices and workouts in his earlier years, and if you understand Southland traffic and the 91 Freeway going east, you realize the tough haul.

Hartsell, who also throws left, has been verbally committed to USC since his freshman year, and like any top-tier ballplayer his aspirations go beyond playing in college. For someone on his path, what makes the Perfect Game All-American Classic so special is that, prior to the 2017 draft, 180 of the players have gone on to become first-round draft picks since the event’s inception in 2003. Nine players have been the No. 1 overall selection, including Royce Lewis this year.

In addition, 134 players that have participated in the event have played in the majors, including many of the game’s biggest stars, like Kris Bryant, Bryce Harper, Corey Seager, Carlos Correa, Madison Bumgarner, Buster Posey and Andrew McCutchen.

The two 25-man rosters for this year’s Classic were revealed July 10 during a selection show streamed live on MLB.com as part of Major League Baseball’s All-Star Game Fan Fest in Miami. On Twitter, Hartsell said he was “honored to be named a Perfect Game All-American and (to have) a chance to compete with the best.”

While in San Diego, the players will participate in a series of baseball related activities, in addition to a visit to Rady Children’s Hospital, a lunch with Honorary Chairman Trevor Hoffman on a beach alongside the Pacific Ocean, as well as the event’s annual awards dinner banquet Aug. 12.

Meanwhile, next spring should be interesting around CdM with Hartsell, JT Schwartz and Chazz Martinez all garnering their share of attention.

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