Take a few seconds and watch Lima Locos catcher Andrew Dennis before a game.
It won’t take you long to figure out why the Pirates selected him in the 38th round of the recent Major League Baseball drift.
Dennis snaps off laser-like throws to second with seemingly little effort. His throws to second have been timed in 1.9 seconds.
“My arm has gotten me where I’ve wanted to go so far,” Dennis said. “My high school coaches believed in long toss. We long tossed a lot and I had the same partner every day, at practice or game, every time we were at the field. I guess that’s where my arm comes from.”
The 6-foot-3, 205-pounder from just outside Hunstville, Ala. (Owens Crossroads) hit .297 at Wallace State (Hanceville, Ala.) this spring. His defensive ability attracted major league and college scouts. He’s signed to attend the Alabama-Birmingham in the fall.
And while several Major League Baseball scouts contacted him and told him he was on their draft board, he didn’t know he had been drafted until he was warming up a Locos pitcher before the Saturday night game with Cincinnati on June 8.
”I was in the bullpen and coach Chad (Ehrnsberger) had his I-pad and got his team together and I thought he was bringing everyone together for a team meeting,” Dennis said. “Then he said, “I want to congratulate someone for being drafted.”
I said, “All right, one of my teammates got drafted. Then, he told me it was me and I had to sit there a minute and it was like, ‘Wow.’ I didn’t really expect it.’ ”
Being a late-round pick, the Pirates said he would be followed throughout the summer and they would go from there.
“They said they would be in touch,” Dennis said. “They told me to be patient, play, have fun and enjoy the summer. They said they have patience and they weren’t in a huge rush right now and you should be the same way. I said that’s fine.
“I’m taking it day by day. One day I’ll be here and the next day … But my plan coming up here was to play the summer and then go to school (UAB). I didn’t think I would be drafted high enough to go anyway. When they called, it was a huge honor and I was definitely humbled by it, but I’d like to finish it out here. I love it here so far.”
The Locos, off to a 4-5 start, are back home at 7 p.m. tonight to face the Dayton Docs in a Great Lakes Collegiate League game.
Dennis’ catching days date back to his nine-year-old team in his suburb of Huntsville, Ala.
“We had a tryout and they put everybody back there in gear and they said I was the best one (catcher),” Dennis said. “I’ve been catching ever since. They turned me loose. I loved it. I like being involved in every pitch.”
He briefly played junior varsity football as an eighth-grader, but once he reached high school he dropped football and concentrated on baseball.
In the fall of his senior year in high school Dennis suffered a broken foot. He was able to play his senior year, but scouts seemed to back off because of the injury.
“They kind of frowned on it. They kept in in the back of their heads,” he said. “I had five or six junior college offers so I took the one that seemed the best fit for me. Wallace was an hour and 15 minutes away.”
This summer Dennis said he wants to work on his blocking of balls behind the plate. And he admitted he can always work on hitting.
“If I start struggling, I’ll go watch hitting instruction videos on YouTube,” Dennis said. “The one I really like is the one with South Carolina’s old coach, Ray Tanner, and Josh Hamilton did one. They talk about the fundamentals of hitting. Every time I’m struggling I watch it, and next day or two, I find myself with a few hits.”
In the meantime, he’ll be loosening up his arm throughout the GLCL.