When his teammates connect for big hits, the ping is almost defeaning. When New Castle (Ind.) High star Trey Ball drives a ball deep, the resulting sound is more of a dull crack or even a thud. At initial glance, that might make one think that Ball is a second-tier prep baseball prospect.
The reality couldn’t be further from the truth, and that thud explains why. Ball is the latest prep baseball star to transition to the wood bats used in Major League Baseball of his own accord, making the switch before his school or conference mandated any change in bat construction. Perhaps as a result, he was the third prep player taken during the first round of the 2013 MLB first year draft, going number 7 overall to the storied Boston Red Sox.
The reason for Ball’s bat switch is simple: The senior wanted to prove he could hit like a pro. According to the Muncie Star-Press, after trying out wood bats on the all-star showcase circuit in Summer 2012, Ball became so comfortable with the traditional offensive weaponry that he approached his coach unilaterally and asked if he could hit with a wood bat during his final prep season.
His coach acquiesced, and Ball has more than earned that faith, leading New Castle with five home runs in the school’s first 18 games, tying his total from the 28-game 2012 campaign.
Keep in mind: This isn't a high school player using a wood bat because he is competing in a wood bat league. No, this is a top national prospect competing with a wood bat while everyone else walks up to plate with an aluminum stick. This is a teen with the presence of mind to potentially curtail his own power now to pay off later, all without giving up on his commitment to his teammates, as some others have in pursuit of wood competition. That's an impressive amount of maturity for an 18-year-old from Indiana.
According to the Star-Press, Ball suffered just one broken bat during his senior year, mitigating some of the concern raised about splintering bats harming high school players.
"It didn't break off. It didn't splinter," New Castle coach Brad King told the Star-Press. "But he cracked one, and I want to say the next time up, he used this black one he's using now, and he hit a home run with it. I said, 'Well, you should've been using that one the whole time.' "
Where Ball goes from here remains uncertain. The 6-foot-6 senior signed to play at the University of Texas, but was selected in the first round by the Boston Red Sox with the team's top pick, No. 7 overall. There's little question that Ball's use of a wood bat in action during his senior year played into scouts' assessment of his talent and ability to transition directly to professional baseball.
No matter what comes next, Ball has made his mark, proving that one need not cave to the status quo to produce remarkable results in prep baseball.