Henninger junior pitcher Jeff Belge says he loves pitching on the big stage, something he's done throughout his career. This past season, he went toe-to-toe with former Baldwinsville pitcher Scott Blewett, who was drafted by the Kansas City Royals in June.
With roughly 50 scouts in attendance to watch Blewett, Belge, sporting a 6'4'' frame, touched 90 mph with his fastball, turning some heads himself. So, in turn, Belge is the lone Central New York representative at the East Coast Pro Showcase this week, four days of the best baseball players in the country competing against each other at NBT Bank Stadium.
Friday, Belge started for the "Phillies" squad, and did not disappoint the home crowd. He pitched three innings, striking out five hitters and did not allow a hit. He walked two, and one runner reached on a passed ball. All in all, a great outing for Belge, as his fastball hovered around 90 mph, and kept the hitters off balance with his off-speed pitches as well.
"As a scout, I do the northeast, you come into Syracuse you see a 6-4, 6-5 left handed pitcher who touches 92 miles an hour, you take notes,and you make sure you're gonna follow him," Alex Agostino, a Philles scout who coached Belge in the tournament, says.
What makes his performance at this level even more impressive is that Belge wasn't sure if this would be possible when he was a kid, as he nearly lost sight in both of his eyes in a scary accident when he was 9 years old.
"My cousin and I were down on our lake and we were skipping rocks, he went to skip one and it flew back out of his hands, I was behind him and it hit me in my right eye, and ever since then I've been pretty much blind in my right eye," Belge says.
While there were some frightening moments in the hospital after that, he's recovered by playing some of the best baseball in Central New York, and has proven himself against the best on the East Coast. He admits the road to recovery was not easy, as he faces challenges every day with his limited vision. But, he says he's not going to buy into any self-pity, and will continue to work hard to achieve his goals.
"It's always been a dream of mine to be on the big stage, I just never though it would be like that growing up," Belge says.
His stock as a professional prospect is rising. Coincidentally, Blewett pitched in the same showcase last year, and saw his stock rise as well after his performance. Belge, a 16-year-old, is one of the youngest players at the showcase, and won't be eligible for the draft until 2016.
Scouts say they look forward to following him, while Central New Yorkers will get to see him pitch for the Syracuse East team in the spring.