Bryson Stott hits baseballs off a tee daily. It’s what big leaguers do, in order to keep their hitting skills intact.
But rather than teeing off in Single-A ball with the Philadelphia Phillies organization, the 22-year-old is hitting into a net in his Las Vegas backyard due to the coronavirus pandemic. He’s taken occasional trips to an isolated location with an old high school coach to field groundballs.
“But there are no handshakes; it’s a head nod to one another,” Stott said. “I do a lot of my other drills at home — the stuff that normally has a coach one foot away — before going out to field the grounders.”
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Stott, who was drafted 14th overall by the Phillies in 2019, said he’s doing the best he can to stay prepared in the event the baseball season begins.
“They (Phillies) send us workouts through an app that we can do with no weights or anything, a lot of conditioning,” he said. “I also spend extra time throwing groundballs off a wall to myself.”
The left-handed-hitting shortstop was given a $3.9 million signing bonus last summer then proved his worth with a sparkling debut when he hit .274 with an .816 OPS in 44 games with short-season Single-A Williamsport.
This had the potential to be a breakout season via Philadelphia’s minor-league system, and Stott was just finding his spring-training groove when the sports world was brought to a halt.
“There were roughly 50 prospects who went through a minicamp one month before spring training,” said Stott, who arrived in Clearwater, Fla. on Feb. 10. “I was there for a month and a week before all of it really got crazy, so a lot of us had gone through a little spring training. It wasn’t everything we do in actual spring training, but it was still the long days, still the everyday grind of the spring training. We were ready to go.”
No surprise, as Stott has never been short on work ethic and determination, a pair of attributes that have made him an asset with programs he’s been a part of along the way.
He earned regional player of the year honors his senior year at Desert Oasis High School, he was an All-American at UNLV, he played for the Wareham Gatemen of the Cape Cod Baseball League, and he was a member of United States’ collegiate national team.
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“His athletic ability pretty much doesn’t limit him to just being a one-position player,” volunteer UNLV assistant coach Greg Maddux said during an interview last summer prior to the draft. “He’s going to be able to change positions quite easy, which we know all players do. He can hit and I think being at shortstop will give clubs an opportunity to move him at a different position if they ever have to, so that’s definitely a bonus for him right there.”
But after his debut in Williamsport — where he did play second base twice and third base once — some have labeled Stott the Phillies’ shortstop of the future. Which is why he’s doing everything possible to stay in shape during the lockdown by maintaining his hitting skills, arm strength and top-notch fielding ability.
The only area of concern he has, which most players are likely dealing with, is live pitching. Stott said there is no replicating hitting against a 95 mile-per-hour fastball.
As much as he’d rather be in Lakewood, N.J. (Low-A) or Clearwater (High-A), he’s happy to be living with his tight-knit, sports-minded family during the shutdown, as they’ve all been supportive and motivational for one another. Stott’s father, Derek, was the starting quarterback at UNLV from 1989-91. His mother, Shana, graduated from the school and is a teacher in the Clark County School District. His sister, Breauna, is a sophomore on the UNLV cheer team that has won back-to-back national championships. And his brother, Brennen, played baseball when the two were growing up and occasionally soft tosses to Stott when he’s not hitting off a tee.
“Having family, having people to talk to — it’s like having two of my best friends in the same house (his brother and sister),” Stott said. “We’re playing games, we’re playing the Wii. It helps having that tight-knit group. It really passes the time, you’ll look down and it’ll be 1 o’clock then you’ll look down again and it’s 7 o’clock (and) we haven’t had dinner yet. Just having this family time is great.”
Stott receives calls or messages via text and email from the Phillies daily, as the team stays in touch with players with updates from the league and to hold them accountable.
“They do a great job by checking on us every day, seeing if we have any symptoms or how we’re feeling with the workouts,” Stott said. “We get calls all day and they just tell us to be by our phones and be ready for when we get that call to go back to Clearwater.”
Considering Stott’s character, he’ll be more than ready for the call.