published Wednesday, August 28th, 2013

Perfect Game springboard for McCallie's Tyler Payne?

While his McCallie football teammates were toiling in two-a-days, Tyler Payne was living it up in San Diego, Calif.

It wasn't a vacation, though. The junior was there to participate in Perfect Game All-American baseball games.

"The weather was a lot better than it has been here -- 70s and breezy and sunny all the time. No overcast at all," he said.

Payne was among fewer than 100 class of 2015 players nationwide to be invited. His team, one of five, posted a 3-0-1 record. He went 1-for-5 while playing mostly at shortstop, his primary position, but also some at second base and third.

"The games were five innings and all 15 players batted, so you might only get one or two at-bats per game," said Payne, who plays some at running back and receiver on the Blue Tornado football team.

Payne likely earned his national invitation after performing well at a regional earlier in the summer at Fort Myers, Fla.

"I think he showed at Fort Myers that he's a legitimate [NCAA] Division I prospect," said Greg Payne, his father and his coach at McCallie. "The year before he hadn't grown, but in the offseason he put on 15-20 pounds."

From his first showcase at East Cobb as a rising sophomore to this one, Tyler's grade went from 8.5 to 9 on a scale of 1-10, and his 60 time dropped from 6.97 to 6.72.

"His throws from shortstop had gotten stronger," Coach Payne said. "Baseball is a lot of projection, and if Tyler was bigger (he's 5-foot-9, 160), he'd probably be a 9.5 easily."

Tyler's lack of hitting in San Diego didn't seem to bother his dad.

"He hadn't seen live pitching in almost a month, and out there he was hitting against guys that were throwing 86-88 [mph] and some in the low 90s," Greg said. "It showed, but his hit came on the second day of games, so he was getting his batting eye back. He had a good [batting practice] round, but there's a big difference in that and guys throwing 88-90."

Tyler had no doubt that the trip was worth the effort.

"It's probably one of the best experiences I've had, playing against some of the best talent in the country and also getting to go see seniors play that I had played with and against," he said.

The Paynes anxiously are awaiting Sept. 1, when college baseball programs can begin communicating -- at least by mail -- officially with juniors.

"The showcase opens a lot more doors," Tyler said. "It gave me a lot more exposure to college scouts that might not have seen me if I had just stayed on the East Coast, and it also gives a profile for major league scouts to see."

Last summer he attended camps at Tennessee and Division II Lee University, and he has scheduled unofficial visits to Lee and Duke next month. It's likely that a number of Division I programs will have correspondence in the mail.

Contact Ward Gossett at wgossett@timesfreepress.com or 423-886-4765. Follow him at twitter/wardgossett.

about Ward Gossett...

Ward Gossett is an assistant sports editor and writer for the Times Free Press. Ward has a long history in Chattanooga journalism. He actually wrote a bylined story for the Chattanooga News-Free Press as a third-grader. He Began working part-time there in 1968 and was hired full time in 1970. Ward now covers high school athletics, primarily football, wrestling and baseball and University of Tennessee at Chattanooga wrestling. Over a 40-year career, he has covered ...

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