STILLWATER, Okla. - Perhaps the best way for a high school kid to prepare for college is to hear what it's like from someone who's already there.
That's the idea De Land High (De Land, Fla.) baseball coach Frank Martello had when he asked former player Luke Scott attend a team practice this spring. Scott, who graduated in 1997, is now a 6-foot-1, 210-pound junior outfielder and first baseman for Oklahoma State University (Stillwater, Okla.).
"If I've got a player coming back to visit us, we let them practice with us on the field and then sometimes we let them talk to the team about their experiences in high school or college," says Martello. "I usually let them go in whatever direction they want to go, but I make sure they touch base on how important grades are."
Scott had been part of the international baccalaureate program when he attended De Land High.
"He was super-intelligent and he could have gone anywhere academically," says Martello. "[Luke] talked a little about that and then he talked about weight training and how the guys he was playing with and against were so much bigger and stronger. He talked about how he needed to work hard to catch up with those guys. He stressed to my team the importance of strength training and taking care of your body."
Scott was an All-Region first team and All-State second team center fielder for De Land, batting .460 his junior season and .420 his senior year. He also won a state championship with his legion team in 1996.
"High school baseball was a blast, but I was just kind of raw in high school," says Scott. "I had speed and a good arm but my baseball instincts weren't real good. I was a dead pull hitter. I wouldn't work a count. I'd hack at the first good pitch I saw. Nowadays, in college, I'm a more disciplined hitter."
After graduating high school, Scott went to Indian River Community College in Fort Pierce, Fla., for two years. He set a new school record for career home runs (15) before transferring to Oklahoma State this year. Despite suffering a wrist injury halfway through the season, the slugger led the team in homers (12) and RBI (60) this season and helped the Cowboys to a 36-22 record. The 21-year-old says playing at the junior college level his first two years was the key to becoming successful at the Division I level. He says he'd give that advice to any high school player who's not quite ready for Division I baseball.
"You've got to work hard and you've got to make baseball your No. 1 priority," says Scott. "You've got to eat, sleep and breathe baseball. If you want to come in and play right away or you're not getting a good scholarship to a DI program, my advice is to go the junior college route. You'll see the same pitching at that level and you can work on everything. The pitching is basically the same as Single A pitching, so it can really help you prepare."
Besides the level of play, Scott says the biggest difference between high school and college ball is the atmosphere.
"You've got 13,000 fans cheering you on or cheering against you if you're on the road," says Scott. "It can be a pretty hostile environment. College baseball is unbelievable, and that's why I'm going to stay another year in college. Pro baseball is going to take care of itself whether I enter it this year or next year."
Martello says Scott was one of the best players to ever come out of De Land and appears to be even better now that he's bigger and stronger.
"We let him take batting practice the day he came back to talk to us," says Martello. "He must have hit four or five out on 10 swings. The guys were all impressed with that. I know this is probably biased, but I thought he had five tools coming out of high school and he's a lot better now than he was then. I think he's definitely got a future in baseball."