Don’t have to travel far to see a prospect

Stepping down from coaching after last season has left me with a lot more time to cover players ranging from 8th graders moved up to the JV squad to the major leagues, with every stop in between including Junior College, D1, D2, D3, Independent and Minor Leagues.  So far over 2,700 players have been photographed from all over the country.  One simple pleasure in all of this baseball is covering the local leagues including Genesee, Livingston, and Monroe County on days off from pro teams.  Last night was not only a chance to see two very good teams, but to see Chris “Cito” Culver of Irondequoit who came into the season ranked as one of the top 100 prospects in the nation among high school players according to Baseball America.  

Now, photographing a player and trying to evaluate them at the same time can be difficult.  While looking through the viewfinder you miss all the key points because that’s what you’re trying to capture, you hope your shutter is closed at those points in time.  In an old sports photographers saying, “if you saw the play – you missed the shot”.  However, it is very simple to notice when a player sticks out, especially at the amateur level where they’re a step above the rest.  As a photographer you have to pick up your speed a bit as well, know his reactions are quicker, etc.  So take the below as is, a photographers limited view through one game.  

Let’s lead off with talent.  Arriving for infield/outfield the first thing that jumped out was Culver’s hands – fast, quick exchange, with the foot work to back it up.  His arm strength has never been a question as he pitches in the low 90’s – though he won’t see the mound past high school, it’s always a good option for a player to have in his back pocket.  From the left side he has good bat speed and the back hip explodes through that gives him power to all fields, at least in this game where he got a triple to left before pulling a home run out a few innings later.  When speaking on just talent it’s obvious why he received a 10/10 rating from Perfect Game.  

However, baseball is a game of more than just talent.  This is a game where everyone who is lucky enough to work, be it as a player, coach, team staff, umpire, writer, photographer, etc., will tell you the speeches in Bull Durham about respect for the game are no joke.  With Culver it was blatant to see what type of player he is, and a week after being sorely disappointed with a player who signed a major league contract and how he carried himself, it was refreshing to have the faith that is baseball reinstalled by a local player.  Culver carried himself in every situation just like any coach wants, be it a big home run, an error, a bad bounce or just simply having some fun in the dugout he passed every test with flying colors.  

Culver has signed a letter of intent with Maryland but given his skill and make up I question if he’ll ever put the uniform on as teams may want to get him in the organization quick.  At this time, Culver reminds me of a more athletic Pedro Alvarez, but obviously not as polished as the former 1st rounder was coming out of Vanderbilt – that could change over a few years of college ball.  His swing from the left is very similar and offers power, he could hang in the middle infield but given he will more than likely bulk up a bit a move to third or the OF is not out of question.  My prediction is not bold, he’ll be taken in the top 10 rounds, with my random guess saying the 7th. 

Along with other Section 5 galleries!

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Culver throwing to first during infield practice.

CAID 51010-237(Janes).JPGAttempting to turn a double play. 

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Hitting a triple to right.

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Home run to right field.

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