Pint's progression: Coach knew righty was special after first toss
Draft's No. 2 overall prospect will attend LSU or sign pro contract
By Robert Falkoff
Special to MLB.com |
OVERLAND PARK, Kan. -- Silence fills the hallways of St. Thomas Aquinas High School on a Tuesday morning following Memorial Day weekend. A school year has ended and the students of the Aquinas Class of 2016 have moved on to pursue their dreams.
For Riley Pint, one of those graduates, those dreams revolve largely around baseball. The 6-foot-4 right-hander will either head to LSU this fall and pitch for the Tigers while pursuing his degree or sign to play pro ball following this week's Major League Draft, in which he is projected to be a high first-round selection.
Either way, Pint is thrilled about the future. Leaning forward in his chair inside the Saints' athletic office just three days after leading St. Thomas Aquinas to the Kansas 5A state title, Pint reflected on the journey which provided such golden opportunities.
"I never take any day for granted," Pint said. "It's a dream come true just to be in this position. To be able to play pro baseball or college baseball at a place like LSU ... these are dreams I've had since I was a little kid."
Pint, who throws a fastball that has touched 102 mph, is ranked No. 2 on MLBPipeline's Draft prospect list. He declined an invitation to attend the Draft, preferring to stay home and watch the proceedings with family and friends.
It shouldn't take long for Pint to hear his name called Thursday.
"I knew after watching him throw for the first time as a freshman he was pretty special," St. Thomas Aquinas baseball coach Lorne Parks said. "He was probably 88-92 miles per hour and it seemed like he picked up three to four miles per hour every offseason. As a senior, even in the late innings, he was 98 to 100 [mph]."
Radar guns began popping up everywhere as scouts increasingly migrated to watch Pint pitch to overmatched high school hitters. His arsenal includes a four-seam and a two-seam fastball, a circle change, a knuckle curve and a traditional curveball.
Pint has never tried to force the issue with regards to velocity. His focus has always been the numbers on the scoreboard, not the numbers on the radar gun.
And Pint's numbers this year were impressive. The 18-year-old struck out 87 hitters in 49 innings and finished the year with a 0.57 ERA and a 7-1 record.
"I just try to do whatever it takes to get the hitter out," Pint said. "I don't dwell on how hard I throw. I feel like if you are pitching well, the velocity will come naturally from that."
Pint isn't the only high school pitcher from Overland Park -- a south suburb of Kansas City -- who is projected to be taken early in the Draft. Left-hander Joey Wentz, from nearby Shawnee Mission East, has also drawn attention from Major League scouts. Pint and Wentz have known each other since second grade.
"Growing up, we either played against each other or with each other in baseball," Pint said of Wentz. "So we're really good friends. It's kind of fun just to be in the same position and trying to figure it all out together."
Pint is a natural athlete who can do much more than throw with triple-digit velocity. He hit .579 for the Saints this year and struck out just three times in 76 at-bats. When he wasn't pitching, Pint played second base and wowed Parks with soft hands and fielding instincts.
"Riley was an outstanding baseball player for us, not just an outstanding pitcher," Parks said.
One way or the other, Pint expects to decide on a course of action shortly after the Draft. He'll sit down with his family, hear what everyone has to say and decide what to do from there.
"I feel like it will be a fairly quick decision either way," Pint said.
In the meantime, Pint will continue to work out and savor the second state championship of his high school career.
"We won one my sophomore year, but I felt like that was the team for the seniors that year," he said. "The seniors this year really wanted to get back there and win it. That was our goal for the entire season, and we were able to put our own stamp on this state title."
Robert Falkoff is a contributor to MLB.com based in Kansas City. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.