Trea Turner and Brett Austin were bound to go early in last year's major league draft, and they did, with Turner landing in the first round and Austin in the fourth. But as the hype around N.C. State’s top position players grew, Wolfpack coach Elliott Avent started to notice something. In the team cages at night, Avent found Turner and Austin learning from a true freshman.
As the son of a former major leaguer, Preston Palmeiro had plenty to share. This weekend, he’s back close to where he learned the game.
Palmeiro, the Wolfpack’s starting first baseman, graduated from Heritage High School in Colleyville, Texas, a northeast suburb of Fort Worth, where N.C. State will play Stony Brook at 3:30 p.m. Friday in the NCAA Regional at TCU’s Lupton Stadium.
In attendance will be Palmeiro’s dad, Rafael Palmeiro, who played 20 seasons in the pros, most notably with the Texas Rangers and Baltimore Orioles. As Rafael spent two stints with both clubs, the family settled in Colleyville, which is in the same county as the Rangers' ballpark in Arlington.
“I spent a little time in Baltimore when my dad was playing there, but this is home,” Preston said Thursday after NC State’s morning practice at Lupton.
So unlike the rest of the his teammates -- only one other is from Texas -- Fort Worth is familiar to him. In fact, if the timing were different, Preston could have ended up at TCU, the top seed in the regional.
As a high school recruit, he visited the campus several times. But the Horned Frogs were set at first base. Eventual draft pick Kevin Cron was anchoring the position, and TCU coach Jim Schlossnagle had to invest his limited scholarship resources elsewhere.
“One of the issue in college baseball, especially private schools, is that you can’t recruit your wants. You can only recruit your needs,” Schlossnagle said. “Sometimes, there will be a guy right down the street that you would really like to have in your program. But if you already have a player at that specific position, you can’t.”
Avent, meanwhile, had an opening and saw an opportunity.
“You don’t just recruit great players,” Avent said. “You have to have a place for great players to play.”
Signing Palmeiro has paid off. After 39 appearances last year, he has started every game this season, and he's hitting .316 with seven homers and a team-high 48 RBIs. And he still receives regular advice from his dad.
“He helps me with the little things that most people can’t realize,” Preston said. “That’s one of the things he does that’s so great. I learned everything about baseball from him.”
N.C. State finished practice around lunch time Thursday, leaving the team with the rest of the afternoon to relax and explore Fort Worth. Their first tourist goal? The city’s western-themed Stockyards just north of the team’s downtown hotel.
“(Leading hitter) Logan (Ratledge) wants a pair of boots,” Avent joked. “He wants to be a rodeo rider. That’s his next career.”
RHP Curt Britt will start for N.C. State on Friday. Britt enters with a 2.34 ERA in 50 innings. ... Stony Brook catcher Cole Peragine is the lone remaining player from the Seawolves’ 2012 College World Series team. Peragine has started 222 consecutive games in his career, switching from shortstop to catcher. He’s hit .302 this year with a .451 on-base percentage. ... Stony Brook beat NC State 6-2 in the 2010 NCAA Regionals. ... LHP Daniel Zamora will start for Stony Brook on Friday. Zamora, a sophomore, is 7-3 with a 3.03 ERA and 76 strikeouts in 74 1/3 innings. ... Jack Parenty leads Stony Brook with 46 RBIs, a .359 batting average and a .525 slugging percentage.