In many ways, Adam Plutko is the typical Southern California teenager, the kind that fits that stereotype:
an easy-going, laid-back sort who likes to go the beach.
Put the 6-foot-2 right-hander on the mound and he turns into a different animal. And you can just forget about Pictionary.
"We compete well in the family. We struggle to play board games sometimes here," said Plutko, a senior at Glendora High School. "That's because my sister, she's a little bit of a cheater."
Plutko's sister, Sara, is no slouch competitively as a Division I soccer player at the University of Oregon. The competitiveness in the Plutko family likely helped Adam's nature on the diamond as well as, according to him, anyway, his sense of fairness and sportsmanship.
"Absolutely not -- I play the game fair. Come on now," Pluko responded when asked if he skirted the rules of Pictionary as well. "She said I talked during it. I clearly didn't. I would never do such a thing. It's against the rules. But
she'll be happy to hear I called her a cheater again."
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The 18-year-old isn't getting noticed by scouts because of his ability to guess what someone else's doodles mean, though. He's been generating a lot of buzz for his artistry on the mound this spring. He's been up to 93 mph with his fastball, and he's showing a very good changeup. While his breaking stuff needs some work, scouts give him high marks for his delivery, arm action and projectability. All of that means a lot more people have been coming in to see what Plutko's about.
"There's definitely been more and more at every single one," Plutko said of the scouts in attendance at his starts. "I just go out and do my thing, and everything else will take care of itself."
Like so many players in that part of the country, Plutko truly arrived on the scene when he was selected to play in the Area Code Games two years ago. Before then, he was just a young pitcher in a sea of talented SoCal arms. As seminal an experience as the games were, Plutko didn't even know what the extremely competitive showcase was when he first got the invitation.
"I had no clue what the Area Codes was when I was selected," Plutko admitted. "I talked to the coach and asked, 'How much is it going to cost? I don't like to have to pay to play baseball.'
"He said, 'Do you know what Area Codes is?' He told me what it was, and once he started naming how many players go pro from it, it made the dream a little more real."
Plutko has worked hard to help that process as well, focusing on conditioning and strengthening his lower half. He's seen a difference this season in his stamina, being able to maintain his stuff deeper into starts and not feeling as gassed when his pitch counts get up. That will prepare him well, regardless of which direction he goes in, whether it's to the pro game or to pitch at UCLA for three years.
"The whole way, I've handled this whole process taking things as they come to me," Plutko said. I think everything will work out all right. My family has been great through this whole situation. They're always there for me. It's nice having them for me during this stressful time."
In many ways, Plutko has already shown he can handle certain pressures. Southern California has always been a hotbed for baseball talent, and this year is no different. Projectable right-handers in that part of the country practically grow on trees, so the fact that Plutko has stood out enough to warrant consideration in the first couple of rounds of the Draft means he's already ahead of the game.
"Sure, there's definitely pros and cons to living here," Plutko said. "There's a lot of talent where I live, so it's hard to get your name out there and hard to make sure people see you. But if you can make it through Southern California, you can make it anywhere in baseball."
Jonathan Mayo is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.