DANBURY, Conn. —
The scouts were scattered all along the edges of the Immaculate High baseball field here on Wednesday afternoon. They represented teams from as far away as the west coast.
The scouts had converged on Connecticut's northwestern city to watch Thomas Milone
, a centerfielder for Masuk (Monroe, Conn.)
"Yeah, I'm aware," Milone said about the crowd he attracted, "but it doesn't affect me. I just focus on the game. It's all right."
Masuk coach Ralph Franco
said that the scouts have become a fixture at games this season. He believes it has helped the rest of the team handle pressure.
"On Friday, about every Major League team is going to be at our place, which is not the first time," Franco said after his team's 8-0 win over Immaculate. "A couple of weeks ago, we had every team as well.
"There were six to eight teams (here today). We're going back to Masuk, and he's going to hit again (for them)."
Milone, a senior, is one of the state's elite players. He was ranked No. 59 on MaxPreps Preseason Top 100 National Baseball Seniors List
, one spot ahead of Roger Clemens' son, pitcher/first baseman Kacy Clemens of Houston Memorial. He's already committed to play baseball at the University of Connecticut, where another former Masuk great, Jeff Hourigan, is a Jim Penders assistant coach and recruiting coordinator.
"I love the coaching staff," Milone said of UConn. "I love everything about that place. It's a comfortable place. It's in Connecticut. It has great academics. I just feel comfortable there. It's where I wanted to go."
Milone would've likely gotten a football scholarship if he chose to continue playing that sport. He was a 2012 Connecticut State High School Coaches Association All-State selection. He was also named the Hearst Connecticut Newspapers Super 33 football MVP last fall.
"I love baseball," Milone said. "I really do like football. I think it's really fun, but just playing baseball, I don't know (how to explain it). It's just natural to me. I love it."
Milone said he had inquiries from college football coaches. Those coaches might have sighed when he told them his mind was set on baseball.
Milone played receiver last fall and had 46 catches for 1,148 yards receiving and 14 touchdowns.
It gets better. Milone ran 61 times for 1,037 yards and a team-high 19 touchdowns. He scored four times on special teams, too.
Put simply, Milone scored once out of every three times he touched the ball on offense. His athleticism on the football field is what helps make him attractive to baseball scouts.
"Football, I like doing it. I like hanging out with my friends, but if I wasn't hanging out with my friends, I don't know if I'd enjoy it."
Milone has already produced some pretty good numbers on the baseball diamond this season for the Panthers (4-2). The left-handed hitter is batting over .400 with nine runs and two home runs.
"He's the single-best player I've coached, and I've been coaching for 20 years," Franco said. "He's not only the best I've coached, but he's the best I've seen on the field."
Said Mike Cardillo of the Connecticut Post in MaxPreps' Top 100 Baseball Seniors feature: "The old five-tool player adage was created for guys like Milone. He does everything. When you watch him in center field running down a ball in the gap — gliding is a more accurate term — you can easily see why he was one of the best high school football players in Connecticut, too."
Franco recently made Milone a lead-off hitter in hopes it would prevent teams from intentionally walking him. And if they did, then Milone could put his speed to use. He runs the 40-yard dash in 4.3 seconds, and he hasn't been caught on his six stealing attempts this season.
"Forget about his ability — it's just his character," Franco said. "I've known the family for about 10-to-12 years now. He's just one of those kids you won't forget as a baseball player, or the type of character he has. He's so good with the other kids on the team. He's so good with the teachers in the classroom. It just carries over. He's so competitive in the classroom. He just wants to earn As."
Franco, a math teacher, has had Milone as a student.
"It's funny because I don't remember this," Franco said, "I guess I said to him last year that, ‘I don't think you can get an A in my class.' "He didn't get an A last year, but he got three As this year."Ned
Griffen has covered high school, college and professional sports in the
Northeast since 1992. A 2003 New England Associated
Press News Executives award winner, he may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him @MetalNED