Jacksonville, FL - As everyone gets settled in for the new year, one thing remains the same with the Jacksoville Warriors. They do an outstanding job of finding, developing and exsposing local talent to college programs.
Every Warriors tryout and camp we've worked, the players get better and better and it's not by accident.
What is great to see, is the players that are getting better and better aren't just the older, more mature players. The 2017, 2018 and 2019 grads in the Warriors program are very advanced for their grad class. That is a direct result of the Warriors coaching staff teaching baseball and strength conditioning the right way. They teach the game of life the right way to players as well.
This past month the Warriors had their winter showcase with plenty of colleges and great players in attendance.
There were a lot of players that we've seen over the past couple of summers, but there were several that had made tremendous strides as players. Strides that made us take a step back and think, "the Warriors are doing something really right with their program." The players were, "all in" and proud to do things the Warrior way.
We'll have scouting reports on several of the Warriors top prospects on the site tomorrow.
There's no substitution for hard work and the Warriors players aren't afraid to work. What impresses our staff the most is when players work on their weaknesses. It's easy for any player to continue to work on their strengths. When players start turning their weaknesses into strengths, that's when major strides are made.
On a personal note, I have players, coaches and parents always asking for my opinion on what a particular player needs to work on.
Like the Jacksonville Warriors, I like to let players, coaches and parents know the truth about a player's ability and what they need to work on. Without honest feedback, a player will never have the chance to get everything they can out of their talent. They will never know what they need to work on to succeed.
I've never seen a player get better from someone telling them they are great over and over without telling them, "look, you do A,B, and C really well, but you need to work harder on X,Y, and Z." At the higher levels, whether it's college or professional, a player's weaknesses get exposed real quick. And if that player doesn't understand how to handle failure, his baseball career may be over.
I feel like the Warriors staff offers the kind of support for their players need individually, no matter if it's a top prospect or a player that may never play after high school.
Eric Hurley, who now runs the Warriors has been through plenty of battles as a professional player and can offer his players and staff advice that nobody else can. Eric's knowledge and passion for the game are second to none, along with the rest of his staff.
More importantly, from where I stand, the Warrior's coaches compassion for their players and ability to get the best out of each individual player is what makes the Warriors a special program. A program that will continue to develop the right type of players for every level of baseball.
We've (Prospect Wire) seen thousands and thousands of players over the past 10 years. From 1st round picks to 50th round picks and all in between. From small college players to the best D1 prospects in the country.
We'd like to talk about one player in particular that we believe has been a cornerstone for the Warriors program for the past several years. A player that does from what we've seen, everything the right way or the Warrior way both on and off the field and is a direct reflection of what the Warriors program stands for.
Keenan Bell, an OF/1B and 2016 grad from Episcopal High School in Jacksonville, Fl is as complete of a player as we've seen over the past couple of years. More importantly, he doesn't take his talent for granted.
At 6'3", 215lbs with left-handed power for days, Bell is one of the top 2016 prospects in the country. A University of Florida committ, Keenan is a student on and off the field taking as much pride in his GPA as his A-V-G.
As physically strong as Bell is, most scouts and coaches would expect him to hit the ball out of the park every at-bat. They would be wrong. He's a much more complete player than that.
Keenan has the ability to hit balls as hard and as far as anyone in his grad class. Don't get us wrong, we like watching Bell hit baseballs that carry and travel for days. What Bell can do that most players his size, strength, and age can't do is recognize the game situation he's in and adjust accordingly.
Let me explain, Keenan Bell is a "professional" hitter, so to speak.
We've seen him time and time again deliberately move runners over, sacraficing his own stats and accomplishments for the better of his team. We've seen him have an advanced approach at the plate, looking to pull or slap the ball the other way depending on the situation. We've seen him have patience, work the count when he knows the pitcher is tired and struggling, without his coaches telling him to do that. Bell is one of the best situational hitters we've seen in a long time.
When he needs to, Keenan can create leverage, loft, backspin and destroy baseballs that are probably still in orbit somewhere. We've seen him elevate baseballs that turn into sacrafice flys, and yes we've seen him do it enough to know he's elevating the ball on purpose.
Bell can play defense as well, he has a cannon for an arm that's very accurate as well. He covers a lot ground in the outfield, he gets great jumps and gets to baseballs that a lot of faster outfielders don't get to because they don't have Bell's instincts and first step.
Bottom line, he does everything extremely well and still works hard at getting better.
Personally, one of the few times I've ever seen Keenan fail was at our PW World Series this past July in Port St. Lucie. I wanted to see him fail to see how he reacted. Players need to learn how to fail, to get better and succeed. Like a Derrick Robinson did.
I believe it was in the semi-finals of the playoffs. A game that went into extra innings that the Warriors eventually won. Bell was having a great tournament, hitting, making plays, etc.
Keenan came up in a key situation either late in the game or in extra innings with the winning run on second or third base and failed to get the run in after a tough at-bat. He was visibly upset as he walked back to the dugout, feeling he had let his team down.
I sat up in the tower and watched Bell to see his reaction.
Either the next inning or the inning after that, the Warriors had another chance to win the game.
As I watched, I noticed that Keenan was basically standing in the entrance walkway of the dugout encouraging his teammate at the plate. The next pitch or two there was a base hit, the Warriors won and the first player flying out of the dugout to congratulate his teammate was Bell.
I thought to myself, that's a leader. That's a winner. That's a kid that is as far from an "I" guy as it gets. That's a real teammate. And that's what Keenan Bell is. That's who the Jacksonville Warriors are.