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Tampa Jesuit's Lance McCullers Jr. leads All-USA baseball team

All-USA Player of the Year is son of former Major Leaguer of same name

7:05 PM, Jun. 27, 2012 EDT

Lance McCullers Jr, our All USA Today baseball Player of the Year, of Jesuit High school in Tampa. / Chip J Litherland, For USA Today

This year's All-USA baseball players don't have to look too far down the road to what may someday be a professional baseball career.  Six of the 10 players on the 2012 All-USA baseball team, though they were in high school just a month ago, are already getting paid as professional players.

Player of the Year Lance McCullers Jr., the son of a former Major League player  of the same name, has signed with the Houston Astros. The other five first-teamers who have signed: Byron Buxton, Minnesota Twins; Courtney Hawkins, Chicago White Sox; Gavin Cecchini, New York Mets; Joey Gallo, Texas Rangers; and Wyatt Mathisen, Pittsburgh Pirates.

The other four also have the talent for a pro career. Rob Kaminsky, who threw three no-hitters for St. Joseph (Montvale, N.J.), will be a senior in high shool. James Kaprelian and Ty Moore, two sterling pitchers from Southern California, were drafted but are staying home to play for UCLA while Taylor Hawkins of Carl Albert (Midwest City, Okla.), who was drafted by the Tampa Bay Rays, will instead play for perennial baseball power Oklahoma.

MORE: All-USA Second Team
PHOTOS: All-USA Photo Gallery
VIDEO: Lance McCullers Jr.

2012 All-USA baseball team

Lance McCullers Jr. - Player of the Year
SS-RHP, Jesuit,Tampa
Height, weight: 6-1, 190

College/draft: Committed to Florida/No. 41 by Houston Astros (signed)

Stats, the story: Led team to state 5A semifinals. Was 13-0 with 140 strikeouts and two earned runs allowed in 77.1 innings and a 0.18 ERA. Hit .280 with two home runs and 21 RBI, stealing 10 bases in 10 attempts. His father, Lance, Sr., pitched for four Major League teams over seven seasons.

First team: The Forest Hills A’s.

Baseball start: My dad never forced the game on me. He retired 16 months before I was born. The biggest thing he gave to me is the mental aspect of the game, how to handle yourself on the field and respond to adversity.

Walk-up song: Stuntin’ Like My Daddy by Birdman and Lil’ Wayne.

Favorite teacher: Mr. (Austin) Freeman for British Literature. I liked the way he interacts with the kids. He has a good relationship with us. He can relate what we’re going through. He has a unique teaching style that keeps the kids intrigued.

Season highlight: Giving up only two earned runs and also pitching my team back to the state final four.

People don’t know: I’m pretty good at golf.

Out pitch: My slider.

One pitch back: The curve ball that I bounced off the plate to allow my first earned run of the season (in a 9-2 defeat of Robinson (Tampa). I was upset.

Recent read: Quiet Strength: The Principles, Practices, & Priorities of a Winning Life by Tony Dungy

Favorite dumb movie: Superbad.

Other sport: Basketball. I’m not bad at basketball, but I don’t shoot that well.

Nick Day - Coach of the Year
Bishop Gorman, Las Vegas

Stats, the story: Led team to a 40-3 record and its seventh consecutive state 4A title, the past two under Day. As a player, led Green Valley (Henderson, Nev.), to four consecutive titles and was named his state’s Gatorade Player of the Year in 1996. He played for Stanford and BYU and as an outfielder in the San Diego Padres’ farm system.

Coaching advice: Enjoy the game. Sometimes you get so wrapped up in practicing and getting better and working harder.

Walk-up song: I used to incorporate songs that had my last name, like the Smashing Pumpkins’ Today. In pro ball, I walked up to the Day-O chant (from Banana Boat). I never used my walk-up song to get pumped up. I just had fun with it.

Favorite teacher: My English teacher, Mr. (Scott) Ginger at Green Valley. English was not my favorite subject, but he was a great teacher. I also liked Mr. (Scott) Panik for physics

Season highlight: Winning state. We weren’t playing our best baseball and we had some close games, so it was thrilling to get through it.

Favorite dumb movie: The Three Amigos

People don’t know that I: Play the guitar. I used to play in a couple of different bands. I played in live shows at the The Palms and other places in town.

First team All-USA

Byron Buxton
OF-RHP, Appling County, Baxley, Ga.
Height, weight: 6-2, 190

College/draft: Signed with Georgia/No. 2 by Minnesota Twins (signed)

Stats, the story: Buxton led Appling County to the state 2A title. He hit .513 with 36 stolen bases and was 10-0 with 136 strikeouts as a pitcher, including 18 strikeouts in the state title game. Was the quarterback, cornerback and punter for Appling County’s football team.

Favorite teacher: Probably coach Jim Avera, my gym teacher and my football coach. He was a very laid-back person.

First team: The Tigers in T-ball

Baseball start: My dad played baseball and football growing up and he wanted me to play baseball. He would hit me balls and still does. There isn’t a lot to do in Baxley. You have to go about 45 minutes to go to the movies or go bowling.

People don’t know: I am not such a talkative person.

Longest home run: At Hart County (Hartwell) my junior year. It cleared the fence (in right-center) and there was a softball field about 100 feet behind it. It hit the third base dugout of the softball field.

Role models: The Upton brothers (B.J is an outfielder the Tampa Bay Rays and Justin is an outfielder with the Arizona Diamondbacks).

Courtney Hawkins
OF-RHP, Carroll, Corpus Christi, Texas
Height, weight: 6-3, 220

College/Draft: Signed with Texas/No. 13 by Chicago White Sox (signed)

Stats, the story: Led team to state 5A semifinal. Hit .437 with 11 homers, 39 RBI and 17 stolen bases. Was 5-2 with 0.96 ERA in 36 innings with 47 strikeouts. Did an impromptu back flip when he was drafted by the White Sox.

First team: Astros in T-Ball

Baseball start: My dad played professional softball and my brother (Tim, now a football player at Texas State) played baseball when he was younger, so I had to play.

Favorite teacher: Mr. (Jose) Velasquez, my physics teacher. He always gave you chances to work out the problems and he would always help you figure things out.

Season highlight: Making it back to the state tournament.

People don’t know: I had to work hard for what I’ve got.

The flip: I just started doing that this year. I was at a senior pep rally and I was dunking on a basketball goal and the gymastic coach asked if I’d ever done a back flip. Thirty minutes later, I was doing a back flip. After the draft, my agent and (White Sox general manager Ken) Williams told me that will be my last one for a while.

Out pitch: My arm came back this year. Sometimes my out pitch was the fastball, sometimes it was the change and sometimes it was the curve ball.

Recent read: Beyond Belief by Josh Hamilton.

Favorite dumb movie: 21 Jump Street or The Waterboy.

Gavin Cecchini
INF, Barbe, Lake Charles, La.
Height, weight: 6-0, 180

College, draft: Mississippi/12th overall, by New York Mets (signed)

Stats, the story: Hit .413 with 31 stolen bases, 32 RBI and seven homers in 104 at-bats for Barbe, which won the state 5A championship. Led Team USA with .469 batting average, 12 runs scored and nine stolen bases in Pan Am Tournament in Cartagena, Columbia last summer. Brother Garin, is a third baseman with the Boston Red Sox’s Greenville (S.C.) Drive of the Class A South Atlantic League.

Walk-up song: Wired to the T by Dorrough. It’s really fast rap.

Favorite teacher: Mr. (Jim) Benglis. He taught World History. He was a good all-around teacher.

Recent read: Beyond Belief by Josh Hamilton.

Favorite dumb movie: Dumb and Dumber

Other sport: Football. I stopped playing after my eighth grade year to concentrate on baseball.

First team: I think it was the Braves for T-Ball.

High school highlight: Winning the state championship this year.

Compared to Garin: We have two totally different bodies. He’s built like a corner man and I’m built like a shortstop. Plus, I’m faster.

Watching the Mets’ first no-hitter in person: It was unbelievable. You don’t get to see that very often. It was the first in Mets history. The place was going crazy. I’ve seen a high school no-hitter last year or this year, that was the last.

James Kaprelian
RHP, Beckman (Irvine, Calif.)
Height, weight: 6-3, 190

College/Draft: Signed with UCLA/No. 1,211 by Chicago White Sox (unsigned)

Stats, the story: Was 12-2 this with a 0.84 ERA, three saves and five shutouts and two no-hitters. He had 112 strikeouts in 88 1/3 innings.

Biggest win: I would have to say during the quarterfinals. We were playing a very athletic baseball team (Los Altos). I was able to face some tough adversity and get the win with 10 strikeouts.

Walk-up song: Let ’Em Lay by DJ Suss.One and Maino.

Favorite teacher: Mr. (Darin) Hallstrom. I had him junior year for English. He’s taught me a lot and helped me build confidence, such as talking in front of other people. He’s helped with things in life. He really reaches out to all his students.

First team: The Giants for T-Ball

People don’t know: I can play the piano by ear.

Recent read: I Am Second (by Dave Sterett). It deals with a lot of athletes and celebrities and how their lives have been touched by God.

Baseball start: Baseball has always been a big part of my life. My dad has always been a baseball fanatic and my uncle’s brother is (former Major Leaguer) Jamie Quirk.

Biggest hit: I don’t hit much, but last year, I had three at-bats. They were all in one game because somebody was out a game. I went 1-for-3 with one home run. It was the ugliest swing I’ve ever taken.

Out pitch: Definitely my curve ball. I like to throw it hard with a twelve-six curve.

My favorite subject: AP psychology. I learned a lot in that class and it has been interesting as well.

Joey Gallo
INF, Bishop Gorman, Las Vegas
Height, weight: 6-5, 205

College/Draft: Signed with Louisiana State/No. 39 by Texas Rangers (signed)

Stats, the story: Led the Gaels to their seventh consecutive state title, hitting .509 with 21 home runs, 80 RBI and 66 runs scored. Broke his own state record for RBI in a season, set state career record with 65 homers. Hit four homers in a defeat of Clark (Las Vegas).

Baseball background: His father, Tony, pitched in the Montreal Expos organization.

First job: Catching for my dad’s pitching sessions.

Longest homer: The only one that I hit that has been measured was one that went 442 feet in San Diego for the Perfect Game All-American Game.

Favorite teacher: My PE teacher, Gino DiMaria. He’s really down to earth and he coaches baseball, so we can talk sports.

Walk-up song: Eight Second Ride by Jake Owen

Season hightlight: Winning our seventh straight championship.

First team: When I was three, I played on my six-year-old brother’s T-Ball team. I think it was the Reds.

Other sport: I like basketball because I’m tall. I’ll shoot around with Shabazz Muhammad (an All-USA basketball player who played for Bishop Gorman).

Recent read: I read Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game by Michael Lewis after watching the movie.

Hitting 21 homers with the new BBCOR bats: The key for me was not to worry about the new bats and just go out there and worry about hitting the ball.

Rob Kaminsky
LHP, St. Joseph (Montvale, N.J.)
Height, weight: 6-2, 185

College, draft: Undecided, junior

Stats, the story: Was 9-2 with three no-hitters, three one-hitters, 0.24 ERA and 104 strikeouts in 54 innings.

Out pitch: Probably my spike curve ball or high fastball

Favorite teacher: My English teacher Mr. (Augie) Hoffman. He’s a good guy. He played Div. I football at Boston College and with the New Orleans Saints. He has a lot of good stories.

Favorite no-no: The third one against Paramus. They’e usually good and they’re a rival. I was pretty dialed in. I said something to my coach that I felt I was throwing well after the second inning.

Season highlight: It was a disappointing season for us, losing to Don Bosco in the playoffs. If I had to pick a highlight, it was probably the Paramus game.

Walk-up song: Moment of Clarity by Jay-Z.

Favorite dumb movie: Superbad.

People don’t know: That I am a big basketball fan. I gave up basketball my freshman year.

No-hitter memory: You don’t even realize you’re throwing one half the time. I realize it in the late innings, when the rest of the players don’t talk to me in the dugout. You’re trying to put the team in a position to win. It’s definitely a good feeling.

Taylor Hawkins
INF, Carl Albert, Midwest City, Okla.
Height, weight: 5-11, 188

College/Draft: Signed with Oklahoma/392nd by Tampa Bay Rays (unsigned)

Stats, the story: Hit 28 homers with .391 average and 81 RBI, scored 56 runs while leading team to state 5A championship.

First job: I worked at a Little League ballpark, checking stickers and stamps.

Biggest homer: Last summer, playing with the Oklahoma Outlaws, we were down by three runs and had the bases loaded. They walked the guy ahead of me and I hit a walk-off grand slam.

Season highlight: Winning state. It helped having the experience of winning state in 2009.

Favorite dumb movie: Probably Dodgeball.

Favorite walk-up song: We’re not allowed to have one, so I’m not sure. Rascal Flatts is my favorite band.

First team: The Braves in T-Ball.

Superstitions: I keep a certain necklace and my dad’s colon cancer bracelet. He’s been cancer free since the end of my junior year.

Turning point: All throughout the season, we kept growing stronger as a team. I think we were closer as a team this year than in 2009, but both teams were really outstanding.

Favorite teacher: Probably coach Bill Case, my art teacher. He interacts with the kids really well and helps us out.

Favorite book: Beyond Belief by Josh Hamilton.

Hitting 28 homers with a BBCOR bat: “I think when the new bats came along. It made us focus a little more on hitting on the sweet spot. My most surprising homer came against Altus off a pitch that almost hit the dirt. I one-armed it to right-center field, so I didn’t think it would go out.”

Ty Moore
OF-RHP, Mater Dei (Santa Ana, Calif.)
Height, weight: 5-11, 185

College/Draft: Signed with UCLA/787th by Yankees (unsigned)

Stats, the story: Hit .406 with 23 RBI and 31 runs. Was 12-1 with a 0.83 ERA and 71 strikeouts in 67.1 innings pitched.

Baseball background: I’ve always been around baseball. My brother played and my dad (Roger) played at Cal State Dominguez Hills.

Favorite teacher: Ms. (Michelle) Elkerton at Mater Dei for English. She’s really into what she does. She doesn’t just feed you the material.

Out pitch: My slider.

Best position: In college, I’ll most likely be a corner outfielder.

People don’t know: I was born with birth defects in both ankles and wound up having two surgeries on the right and one on the left when I was in the seventh grade because I had extra bones in both feet.

High school highlight: Winning the National High School Invitational in North Carolina. We played a bunch of good teams.

Recent read: Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger

First team: The Montreal Expos in Little League T-Ball.

After baseball: I’d like to stay in the business of baseball.

Wyatt Mathisen
INF-RHP, Calallen, Corpus Christi, Texas
Height, weight: 6-1, 205

College/draft: Signed with Texas/69th by Pittsburgh Pirates (signed)

Stats, the story: Hit .433 with three home runs, 40 RBI, 38 runs and was 12-for-12 on steal attempts. As a pitcher, he was 7-2 with a 1.42 ERA and 70 strikeouts in 59 innings pitched.

First team: Yankees for T-Ball

Walk-up song: Good, Good Night by Roscoe Dash

Favorite teacher: Ms. Bridget Filla for English. She taught speech and was inspirational. She helped me out with everything.

One pitch back: My last at-bat in the regional semifinals. I grounded out to third with runners at second and third.

People don’t know: I love Mexican food.

Season highlight: Throwing a one-hitter in districts against Moody.

Longest home run: I hit one against San Antonio Reagan that was probably 100 feet past the left-field fence.

Favorite dumb movie: The Hangover.

Out pitch: My two-seam fastball

Recent read: The Tim Tebow book, Through My Eyes

Other sport: I played three years as a shooting guard in high school.

MORE: All-USA Second Team
PHOTOS: All-USA Photo Gallery
VIDEO: Lance McCullers Jr.



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