Lincoln senior infielder Nick Zammarelli, shown in action during Friday afternoonâ€™s game against St. Raphael at Vets Park, has attracted his share of Major League scouts to his high school games. PHOTO BY ERNEST A. BROWN
A little of this, a little of that â€¦
A different type of circus has come to the intersection of George Washington Highway and Old River Road, the characteristics of this particular traveling company unlike the sights and sounds appearing beneath your garden-variety big top.
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Sorry to disappoint the youngsters, but you wonâ€™t find any elephants, flying acrobats or lion tamers here.
This finite brand of circus behavior tends to roam in large packs. Some afternoons, you can see the cavalcade march directly past Lincoln High School and the townâ€™s library. The procession will come to a halt at Chet Nichols Field, where the herd splinters off to find room behind the chain-link fence.
The tools of the trade help to distinguish this band of curious onlookers, or perhaps they are surveyors equipped with notepads and stopwatches with a few radar guns mixed in for good measure. Best to leave nothing to chance, after all.
â€śTheyâ€ť are scouts from Major League Baseball clubs, and â€śtheyâ€ť have come to acquire a first-person account of Lincoln senior Nick Zammarelli. The attention the 18-year-old has received has been by the bushel and lends credence to the idea that he will hear his name called during the annual MLB first-year player draft, set for June 6-8.
Just how highly regarded is Zammarelli, who last fall signed a letter of national intent to play at North Carolinaâ€™s Elon University? Five teams dispatched representatives to Lincolnâ€™s non-league contest against Mount St. Charles. In the Lionsâ€™ Division I opener against Bishop Hendricken, 10 scouts dropped anchor 90 minutes before first pitch to watch Zammarelli take batting practice with an additional 10 arriving at game time.
All told, Zammarelli is on the radar of 16 clubs, a high sum that rekindles the memories of the pre-draft buildup that once grabbed hold of Rocco Baldelli and Jay Rainville.
The seeds for Zammarelliâ€™s showcase spring were planted on the travel baseball circuit last summer, each stop yielding more and more reaction from prospective talent evaluators. In the wintertime, he worked out at indoor venues in Syracuse and Canton, Mass. for Tampa Bay and the New York Yankees, respectively.
Never in his wildest dreams did Zammarelli think that he would become the apple of so many eyes, though he probably has MLB Northeast Scouting Supervisor Pat Shortt to thank for that. In a nutshell, Shorttâ€™s job is to spread the word about a noteworthy talent to all 30 teams.
Games for the Lincoln Lions have taken on a showcase-esque tenor with regional scouts expressing enough confidence in Zammarelliâ€™s ability that national cross checkers are now starting to come around. Four teams â€“ Tampa Bay, Toronto, Seattle and the Chicago Cubs â€“ have sent people to the Zammarelli household to acquire a sense of what this potential draftee is like away from the diamond.
â€śI wouldnâ€™t have been surprised if there were one or two scouts, but I didnâ€™t think I would have this much interest,â€ť Zammarelli remarked. â€śEverything happened so quickly.â€ť
Itâ€™s clear that the scouts mean business. During games, they will observe Zammarelli from the standpoint of how he interacts with his Lincoln coaches and teammates. Both groups have also been subjected to inquiries from scouts.
â€śMaturity with scouts is a big thing because thereâ€™s always a risk of drafting a high-school athlete and not having him be ready.â€ť said Zammarelli. â€śThey want to make sure everything is right.â€ť
After games, Zammarelli will take batting practice for those scouts who make it a point to stick around, ditching the aluminum in favor of a wooden bat. Undoubtedly, the observers are drawn to the left-handerâ€™s plate coverage and strike-zone recognition. As far as feedback, the scouts wonâ€™t tip their hand in terms of projecting the round he figures to hear his name called.
â€śThey tell me I have a nice, natural lefty swing,â€ť Zammarelli relayed. â€śWith these guys, itâ€™s all about where they see me in three or four years. I guess the outlook is pretty good and why they keep coming back.â€ť
Several organizations have extended pre-draft invitations for Zammarelli to come work out at major-league stadiums. Given that heâ€™s got plenty of high school-related matters that still need tending to, the 12th grader finds himself in a delicate position where he may have to bypass said opportunities. Final decisions wonâ€™t be made until consulting the same scouts who have been tracking his every move for close to a month now.
â€śWeâ€™ve just started our season, plus I have graduation coming up,â€ť Zammarelli pointed out.
Ultimately, Zammarelli will have a big choice to make, one revolving around whether to bypass college in order to get a jumpstart on his pro career. As for right now, this poised and mature teenager is enjoying the scrutiny and acclaim, understanding that like the circus, what heâ€™s experiencing is fleeting. Eventually, the scouts will pack up and leave town.
A few recruiting tidbits to pass along:
â€“ North Smithfield senior linebacker Ryan Masnyk will continue his football career at Division II Assumption College. The Greyhounds announced Masnyk as part of their incoming freshmen class following the programâ€™s spring football game that took place earlier this month.
â€“ Cumberland senior pitcher Dylan Boisclair has committed to Millersville University, a Division II school located in Central Pennsylvania. The starting center from Cumberlandâ€™s Division II-winning boysâ€™ basketball squad, the 6-foot-5 Boisclair is seen as someone who will only get better in the coming years, this according to Millersville head coach Jon Shehan.
â€“ Shea senior pitcher Bryan Quinlan has committed to Johnson & Wales University, where he will join two players with Pawtucket roots in Brad McParlin (Tolman graduate) and Ty Karalis (St. Raphael graduate). Both McParlin and Karalis are currently first-year players with the Wildcats.
â€“ Dean College menâ€™s basketball head coach Rich Fazzi confirmed that his newest recruit, St. Raphael point guard Charles Correa, will focus on hoops and hoops alone at the Franklin, Mass. school. Correa also made waves as a football contributor at SRA.