LAS VEGAS -
The rest of the starters for the Bishop Gorman (Las Vegas)
baseball team had already been substituted in the bottom of the fourth of what would eventually be a 19-2 win, but Joey Gallo
, who led off the inning, got another at-bat when the Gaels' reserves batted around.
Gallo, the No. 8 player in the MaxPreps Baseball 2012 Top 100 rankings
, flapped his left elbow in a not-quite-Joe Morgan sort of way and stared at a down-the-middle fastball served up by a soft-tossing 5-foot-9, 160-pound junior relief pitcher.
Just before Gallo uncoiled and flashed the sweet left-handed swing that is expected to make him a first-round pick in the Major League Baseball First Year Player Draft in June, the 75 or so fans and scouts in attendance realized there was a reason why they sat through a crisp, early spring afternoon, and they were about to see why.
Gallo, the kid who hit a ball nearly 450 feet in August at Petco Park in San Diego, was going to punish that baseball.
A split second later, Gallo followed through and ...
He fouled it straight back. Just missed.
Gallo eventually stung a two-strike, run-scoring single up the middle and finished the day 2-for-2 with two RBIs, three runs scored and two stolen bases on the back end of double steals. Not a bad day.
"I want to prove not only can I hit the ball over the fence, but I can hit the ball in the gap, I can hit the ball up the middle and I can adjust to off-speed," Gallo said. "That's what scouts want to see."
But he also missed a handful of pitches across his four plate appearances that typically sail out of Cashman Field and end up in the outfield of the nearby softball complex when Gallo is locked in like he was last summer.
"He's pressing trying to impress everyone," Gaels second-year coach Nick Day said. "He'll settle down."
After a monster junior season that saw him hit .471 with 25 home runs and 76 RBIs, and an impressive summer with USA Baseball, the 6-5 Gallo is in line to become the third player in as many years from Las Vegas to be drafted in the first round, joining Bryce Harper (2010) and Jake Hager (2011).
That's a healthy dose of pressure for most players. But the affable Gallo, who said he tries to model his attitude after New York Yankees captain Derek Jeter, has plenty of help dealing with the spotlight. In addition to Day, who was drafted out of Green Valley (Henderson, Nev.) in the 15th round, the Gaels coaching staff includes former first-round pick Chad Hermansen (10th overall by the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1995) and former major league outfielder Chris Latham, an 11th-round selection in 1991.
"It's a tremendous help," Gallo said. "After every game I talk to one of our coaches. They help keep my attitude right. All those guys, this is what they've been doing their whole life. I can ask them about anything going on in my head and they know what I'm talking about because they've been through it."
Day said he struggled early in his senior season before finishing strong. He was projected as a top-round pick but went to Stanford instead when no team would meet his signing bonus demand.
"At the time you don't think you're pressing, but I look back on it now," said Day, who finished his college career at Brigham Young and played briefly in the minors. "I try to give him good advice. The best advice I can give him is the more you relax and forget about the scouts, the better you'll be.
"That's still hard for a kid to do. It's hard not to try to hit home runs when there's 50 guys in the stands. He'll shorten up and relax."
Gallo plays third base for the Gaels and projects at one of the corner infield positions, or possibly right field, at the next level. He also has touched 97 mph as a pitcher, but it's his bat that figures to be his best tool.
"He's pretty athletic and, obviously, he's got some power," said an area scout, who was in attendance at one of Gallo's recent games and asked not to be identified.
Day said Gallo reminds him of someone from his college days.
"He's from the other side, but Troy Glaus," Day said of the former UCLA standout, who went on to hit 320 home runs in a 13-year major league career. "I played against Troy, and Joey's size and the leverage in his swing, plus he runs pretty well for his size."
Gallo, who is hitting .455 with one home run and six RBIs this season, signed a letter of intent with LSU and said he is leaning toward attending college but will wait until after the draft to make a decision.
"It's a once in a lifetime opportunity," Gallo said. "I'm just trying to embrace it. I love it."
Gallo's main focus is helping top-ranked Gorman (8-0) go undefeated this season and capture its first national championship. The Gaels' biggest obstacle to that goal comes this week at the inaugural National High School Invitational
at the USA Baseball National Training Complex in Cary, N.C. The Gaels open Wednesday against Mater Dei (Santa Ana, Calif.) and will meet either Gulliver Prep (Miami) or Carroll (Corpus Christi, Texas) on Thursday.
"It's a huge deal," Gallo said. "We're definitely focused on that. We know if we go 4-0 there we can take the national championship."
Day is excited to see how the six-time Class 4A Nevada state champions stack up against some of the country's best teams and players, although he is trying not to make the tournament into a make-or-break for his team.
"I think a lot of people are looking to that tournament to determine postseason rankings and all that," Day said. "It helps, but I don't think it's the only factor. You could run into a (Harvard-Westlake standout) Max Fried or a guy like that and you might go 2-2 or 3-1, but people see what kind of team you have. This is a chance to play in an awesome environment, and win or lose, we'll be better for it."