Nov. 12, 2008
ATLANTA – Two prep All-Americans highlight a list of seven high school standouts that have already signed National Letters of Intent to play baseball at Georgia Tech beginning next fall, head coach Danny Hall announced this week.
Luke Bard, a Baseball America three-star recruit and one of the top baseball stars in North Carolina, joins Buck Farmer, the No. 5 prospect in Georgia and a top-30 national recruit, Tucker Barnhart, the top player in Indiana, Ben McKinney, a Louisville Slugger honorable mention All-American, Clay Dalton, one of the top 50 recruits from USA Baseball’s Tournament of the Stars, Crawford Simmons, a 2008 Team Georgia member, and Brandon Thomas, an all-region outfielder from Pace Academy. Barnhart, McKinney and Simmons signed their letters of intent Wednesday, Thomas inked his Thursday, and Dalton signed with Tech Friday morning.
The recruiting class, assembled under the direction of assistant coach/recruiting coordinator Bryan Prince along with Hall and pitching coach Tom Kinkelaar, includes three players that are rated among the top-10 prospects from their respective states and a total of five pitchers, a catcher and an outfielder.
A more detailed look at Georgia Tech’s signees:
LUKE BARD (RHP, R/R, 6-2, 182, Charlotte, NC/Charlotte Christian)
Bard, a three-star recruit by Baseball America’s Prospects Plus, is rated the No. 13 baseball recruit in the state of North Carolina and among the top 250 in the nation, according to Perfect Game Crosschecker. He was a member of the South Charlotte Panthers team that went 25-9 last summer and finished as the runner-up at the 2007 WWBA National Championship. A two-star athlete at Charlotte Christian, Bard was tabbed first-team all-state in baseball last spring, going 9-2 with a 1.95 ERA while holding opponents to a .195 average. Also a talented outfielder, Bard hit .336 as a junior while helping his high school team to a runner-up finish at the state championships. As the quarterback of the football team, Bard has helped his Charlotte Christian squad to the No. 3 seed in the 2008 state championships. He comes from an athletic family, as his father played in the Dodgers and Orioles organizations while his brother Daniel was a former standout at North Carolina and currently plays in the Boston Red Sox organization.
Hall on Bard: “When you look at our two out-of-state pitchers, the more familiar name is that of Luke Bard, whose brother Daniel was a standout pitcher at North Carolina. With Luke, we are getting a great athlete and a guy with a huge upside as a pitcher. He’s also a high school quarterback, which I like because it tells me that he is very competitive. He is coming from great genes – his dad played some professional baseball, his brother was an All-American first round pick at North Carolina and his middle brother is pitching at Richmond right now – and we feel like we were very lucky to get Luke. He’s a great student and a guy that I think has a tremendous upside in college baseball.”
TUCKER BARNHART (C, B/R, 5-10, 170, Brownsburg, Ind./Brownsburg)
The top player in Indiana, according to PG Crosschecker, Barnhart is rated the No. 5 catcher in the nation and No. 84 high school prospect. A four-star recruit by Baseball America’s Prospects Plus, Barnhart was named a 2008 Louisville Slugger High School All-American after being tabbed honorable mention All-America by Collegiate Baseball in 2007. The same year, Barnhart was the only junior listed on Baseball America’s “Best Tools” list for the East Coast Showcase, being named the Best Defensive Catcher at the event. As a sophomore, the switch-hitting Barnhart hit .417 with 10 HR, 9 doubles and 39 RBI while posting a stellar .986 fielding percentage behind the plate. A two-time honorable mention all-state honoree, Barnhart helped his Brownsburg High School team to a 22-5 record in 2008 and has played summer baseball with the Indiana Bulls.
Hall on Barnhart: “Tucker Barnhart, to me, is one of the best position players in the country. His primary position is catcher, but he can also play third and second base. A good tribute to him would be when a guy named Dave Alexander, who used to be the baseball coach at Purdue, told me this summer that he thought Tucker was probably a better infielder than he was a catcher, and we think that he is one of the best catchers in the country. He is just a very, very good baseball player and we are excited to have him.”
CLAY DALTON (RHP/1B, R/R, 6-3, 185, Kennesaw, Ga./North Cobb)
Dalton is rated the No. 29 recruit in Georgia and among the top 350 in the nation, according to PG Crosschecker. A member of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s All-Northwest Georgia team in 2008, Dalton helped guide his North Cobb High School squad to a 23-12 record and a state semifinals appearance in 2008. A 2008 All-Cobb County selection by the AJC and Marietta Daily Journal, Dalton posted a 10-2 record with 89 strikeouts and a 2.14 ERA his junior season and was an alternate for the USA Baseball 18U National Team Trials. He participated in the 16th Annual USA Baseball Tournament of the Stars presented by Major League Baseball as a member of the USA Stars team in 2008 and was listed among the top 50 prospects competing in the event.
Hall on Dalton: “Clay Dalton is a guy that is kind of a little bit under the radar, which is fine by us. He is from North Cobb High School, which has also produced another pitcher of ours (Sean Devine). Coach Kinkelaar really liked him from the beginning, and we were able to receive a commitment from him extremely early in the recruiting process which was great for us. He’s an outstanding pitcher and combines with our other Georgia guys to give us a solid in-state base.”
GEORGE “BUCK” FARMER (RHP, L/R, 6-4, 220, Conyers, Ga./Rockdale Co.)
A three-star recruit, according to Baseball America’s Prospects Plus, Farmer is the fifth-best high school prospect in Georgia, and rated the No. 27 prep recruit in the nation, according to PG Crosschecker. He was named the MVP of the WWBA National Championships in 2007 and led his East Cobb Yankees team to a 52-5-1 overall record and the 2008 Connie Mack World Series title. The MVP of the 2008 Connie Mack World Series enters his senior year at Rockdale County High School as the ace of the pitching staff after going 8-1 with 62 strikeouts and a 1.93 ERA in 58 innings for the EC Yankees over the summer. He hit .473 with 10 home runs while posting a 2.02 ERA with 63 strikeouts at Rockdale County last season, earning him Rockdale Citizen All-Area honors for the third-consecutive year. Farmer, who intends to study mechanical engineering at Georgia Tech, has also spent three seasons as a member of the Rockdale County HS swim team.
Hall on Farmer: “If you look at the in-state recruits, Buck Farmer is an outstanding pitching prospect and a great competitor. He has a chance to go very high in the draft next year because he is so talented. He pitched with the East Cobb Yankees and James Beavers this summer, and was the MVP of both the Perfect Game 18U National Tournament in East Cobb as well as the Connie Mack World Series. So we are getting a guy that is not only talented, but a pitcher that is extremely competitive and heads up this recruiting class.”
BEN McKINNEY (RHP/IF, R/R, 6-1, 170, Johnson City, Tenn./Science Hill)
McKinney, a 2008 honorable mention All-American, is rated the No. 7 player in the state of Tennessee and among the top 350 in the nation, according to PG Crosschecker. The 2008 All-Northeast Tennessee Baseball Player of the Year posted an 11-2 record as a junior at Science Hill High School and hit .515 with four HR, 12 doubles and 50 RBI for his Hilltoppers squad that finished 35-7 and came one game from reaching the state championships. McKinney was also named the Johnson City Press Player of the Year as a junior and a member of the 21st-annual Super 22 Team as both a hitter and pitcher by the publication. A first-team all-state honoree by the Tennessee Sportswriters Association in 2008, McKinney plays summer baseball for the East Cobb Baseball Program and helped guide the EC Yankees to a 52-5-1 overall record and the Connie Mack World Series title last summer.
Hall on McKinney: “Ben McKinney may be one of our two out-of-state players, but he actually pitched in-state all summer with the East Cobb Yankees program, under the direction of James Beavers. He did an outstanding job for East Cobb, and his team went deep into the state playoffs, so he has a great amount of baseball excellence to his name. If you look over the years at the players we have had from Tennessee, they have all been great players for us and I certainly expect Ben to follow in those footsteps. [Some of Tech’s most notable baseball players from Tennessee include Michael Fisher, a sixth round pick in the 2007 MLB Draft; Wes Hodges, a second round selection in the 2006 MLB Draft; Jeremy Slayden, an eighth round pick in the 2005 MLB Draft; Bryan Prince, a 10th round selection in the 2001 MLB Draft; and Jay Hood, a sixth round selection in the 1998 MLB Draft.]“
CRAWFORD SIMMONS (LHP, L/L, 6-1, 175, Statesboro, Ga./Statesboro)
Simmons, a member of the 2008 Team Georgia squad as a junior, was also tabbed to the Savannah Morning News’ Coastal Empires All-Stars team, encompassing the top baseball players from outside the greater Savannah area. He led his Statesboro High School squad to the second round of the state tournament in 2008 and was a member of the Georgia Dugout Club Showcase in 2007 and 2008. Listed as the No. 46 recruit in Georgia by PG Crosschecker, Simmons finished his junior season with an 8-2 record, striking out 108 batters and posting a sterling 0.70 ERA while allowing just 24 hits in 69.1 IP.
Hall on Simmons: “We always like left-handers, and we feel like Crawford Simmons is just an outstanding get for us from Statesboro High School. They had a good run in the state tournament last year and he was on Team Georgia this summer, which provided invaluable experience. Coach Kinkelaar and Coach Prince also had the chance to see him pitch quite a bit this summer, and we feel like he is going to be a quality left-handed guy. The interesting thing about him is that his dad played at Georgia Southern and is an assistant coach at his high school, and I think that any time you can get a coach’s son or the son of somebody that has played at an upper level then you are getting not only a quality baseball player, but a quality person as well.”
BRANDON THOMAS (OF, B/R, 6-3, 185, Atlanta, Ga./Pace Academy)
Thomas is one of four Georgia Tech baseball recruits from the East Cobb Baseball program to sign NLI’s at Georgia Tech in 2008. A member of the 2007 CABA State Champion East Cobb Braves team, Thomas was named second-team all-region in 2008 as a standout for the Pace Academy baseball program. The switch-hitting outfielder has participated in Perfect Game’s Top Prospect and National Showcases over the last year and will play for the reigning Connie Mack World Series champion East Cobb Yankees next summer.
Hall on Thomas: “Brandon is from Pace Academy, which is here close to home, and another school that we have recruited players from in the past. He is a very good, switch-hitting outfielder and a baseball player that has a tremendous upside. He is an excellent athlete, and our staff just thinks that the sky is the limit for him. Originally we hadn’t planned on recruiting an outfielder, but with Jeff Rowland being draft-eligible as a sophomore we felt that we needed to protect ourselves by going and finding an outfielder, and we feel as though we were very lucky to find one with the tools that Brandon possesses.”