Regardless if weather permitted or not, the JV and varsity baseball Fighting Scots have been fine-tuning their game since the first week of December 2012.
The Scots have been going strong during the winter months in what has become a yearly tradition, practicing hitting drills, bunt coverages, pitching mechanics and overall fundamentals preparing for the season’s start in late February.
One such player that has benefited from Scotland’s annual winter practices is senior Hayden Buffkin, who will be thoroughly entrenched in both the Scots’ starting rotation and the middle of the batting order in 2013. In his junior season as a full-time member of the Fighting Scots, Buffkin earned All-Conference honors and caught fire down the stretch to help his team earn a 24-3 record and conference championship.
And continuing his pre-season schedule, Buffkin packed up a car along with his family (parents Charles and Patti, older sister Sandra) for a 70-hour cross country road trip the weekend of Feb. 18.
The destination? Tuscon, Arizona for the 2013 “Under Armour All-America Pre-Season Tournament,” a showcase event highlighting some of the top high school talent in the country, which gave Buffkin a platform to display both his talent and extend the growing reputation of Scotland baseball.
“It was an honor to be chosen for that event,” Buffkin said. “Florida was the furthest I’ve ever been in my life before this tournament, so it was a cool experience all-around.”
“Not only was it a great opportunity for Hayden to get some exposure, but it also speaks well for our program,” said Scotland varsity head coach Jamie Coleman. To date, just one other member of the Fighting Scots has been selected for the tournament, current South Carolina Gamecocks’ pitcher and former teammate of Buffkin, Curt Britt.
“It’s a confidence booster for Hayden, and it also continues our tradition of producing good players here in Scotland,” he said.
Each of the hundreds of players who were selected to participate in the tournament received invites based on their performance at a Baseball Factory event, or in Buffkin’s case, by earning the attention of a pro scout. The tournament featured 20 teams based on region, and Buffkin was selected as a member of the Carolina Blue squad.
Buffkin played in three games during his time in Tuscon: And in his first appearance with Carolina Blue, he found himself on the mound preparing to pitch against the ‘North’ squad, which featured several of the top players from states such as Minnesota, Illinois and Wisconsin.
“I was really, really nervous when I first got out there,” Buffkin said. “But after the first couple of batters, I started to shake it off and go back to my normal self.”
If nerves played a factor, Buffkin’s numbers during the four innings he pitched didn’t indicate it. According to tournament rules, pitchers had to face at least five batters per inning no matter if three outs were recorded or not. Squaring off against 20 batters, Buffkin allowed zero runs, two hits and two walks while fanning five of the batters he faced. Buffkin’s team would win 2-0.
During the course of his team’s three games, Buffkin split time between short stop and second base as well. But for Buffkin, it was his interactions with several scouts on-hand which proved to be his favorite experiences.
“The coolest part was getting to know all of these minor and major league scouts,” Buffkin said. Each year, the Under Armour All-America Pre-Season Tournament attracts scouts from nearly all of the 30 Major League Baseball teams.
“They gave me pointers on how to get better, and it was just really great to have that opportunity,” he said.
While he continues to see accolades and recognition for what he’s already accomplished with the Scots, Buffkin has one final year to continue making his mark. And with his recent stretch of stellar play comes expectations, and Coleman along with the rest of the Scotland coaching staff are looking to Buffkin to help continue the Scots’ conference dominance.
“He’s one of our top batters and pitchers and is a great athlete in general,” Coleman said. “With that said, we’re asking big things from him on the mound, in the field and at the plate.”