One of Myrtle’s best returning starters from last year’s baseball state runner-up had a unique opportunity to improve his game over the Christmas break, traveling to Arizona with Coast-to-Coast Athletics.
Justin Pickens was selected for the opportunity after participating in a tryout in Tupelo under the encouragement of his friend, Zak Jumper. Going against 20 others in the tryout, Pickens was selected to join an elite group at the San Diego Padres training facility in Peoria, AZ last week, where he was evaluated and had the chance to improve his game against some of the best in the nation.
“The tryout itself was very intense,” he said. “The trip was pretty fun. We didn’t have a lot of time to get out there and sightsee, but as far as the clinic and the chance to meet other people, it was really great.”
While he has not received much attention recruiting wise, the senior hopes this camp will give him the exposure he needs to play at the next level.
“I’ve received some interest in cross country, but none for baseball,” he explained. “Hopefully this will get my name out there and it will help with the recruiting process.”
Coast-to-Coast Athletics was formed in 1999 and gives athletes the opportunity to showcase their talents for college coaches and professional scouts. The Arizona camp Pickens attended is one of many held nationwide, with attendees participating in workshops and scrimmages. Pickens was also a member of the team that went undefeated in the round robin style tournament held during the camp.
Pickens batted .239 with 11 RBI for the 1A north half champions last season and will be one of only two seniors for the Hawks in 2011. Stepping up as a leader as well as helping with a young squad is what he is looking forward to this season.
“Hopefully we’ll have better games this year,” he explained. “We lost most of our main players this past year, and we have younger ones coming up. We’re looking forward to working hard, and maybe we’ll have another chance to go to state this year.”
Pickens’ trip was made possible thanks to the help of Riverside Traffic, Kevin Charles and his grandmother, and he encourages others to take advantage of similar opportunities they may have.
“If anyone gets the chance to go, they should,” he said. “It was a great experience, and hopefully this will help me accomplish my goal of playing at the next level.”