Troy — Nick Plummer was taking batting practice on a beautiful spring day at Warrior Field last week with country music blaring in the background.
Plummer, a 5-foot-11, 190-pound senior center fielder for Birmingham Brother Rice, has developed into a five-tool player and is a potential first-round pick in the Major League Baseball draft scheduled for June 8-10.
Plummer, a left-handed-hitting leadoff hitter, drilled one pitch over the D Las Vegas sign beyond right-center field at the $2 million field, then lined the next pitch to left-center field and the next on a line to right.
"I've had him for four years and he has a combination of speed and power and is a very disciplined hitter," coach Bob Riker said. "He's not going to get frustrated and expand the strike zone. He'll just walk and then steal second and third. He has power from the left side and I think that enamors the scouts. He's a five-tool guy, plays like Ken Griffey Jr. I'm not saying he's Ken Griffey Jr., but he can do a lot of things well and that's why he's projected as a first-round pick, and that just doesn't happen usually for high school outfielders.
"He gets a lot of attention from the scouts. They're there when he gets out of his car, sometimes as many as thirty of them, and they don't leave until he gets back in his car at the end of the game."
Plummer possibly could be the best to ever play for Riker, who's been coach since 1998, and that's saying a lot considering that DJ LeMahieu played for the Warriors before becoming a second-round draft pick of the Cubs in 2009 after leading LSU to the national championship. LeMahieu was a Gold Glove second baseman for the Colorado Rockies last year and was second in the National League in hitting this season at .463 going into Sunday's games.
And, don't forget Doug Pickens, who went on to help Michigan win consecutive Big Ten championships in 2006 and '07, and Matt Conway, who led the Warriors to the Division 1 state title in 2008 before an outstanding career at Wake Forest.
Plummer is set to play at Kentucky, but more than likely will never play a game for the Wildcats if he's picked in the first round with a possible million-dollar contract. He is ranked No. 13 for the upcoming draft by MLB.com, right behind LSU junior shortstop Alex Bregman and in front of Richland (Texas) High outfielder Trenton Clark.
"I'm just taking it game by game right now with the draft coming up in June," Plummer said, prior to a Catholic League doubleheader with Warren De La Salle Wednesday before more than a dozen MLB scouts. "I'm already signed at Kentucky and that's a nice backup plan, but hopefully the draft goes the way that it should so I can start a pro career. I just want to get with a good organization and make baseball my job.
"I feel that's where my talent's at, first round, and I'll put my talent up against anyone else."
Plummer hit .553 with a slugging percentage of 1.128 his junior year and opened his senior year with a .500 average (18-of-36) with two home runs and 22 runs scored for the 11-3 Warriors.
"I've had a lot of fun here during my four years here," said Plummer. "My freshman year, I was a good hitter and pretty good player and just developed over the years."
When asked his role model in baseball, he replied: "My favorite player is Ken Griffey Jr. I liked how he played the game. He played hard, played it with a swagger he had. He was a five-tool guy and that's what I'm still working for."
Plummer gained valuable experience playing summers for the Cleveland-based Midwest Pelicans, hitting with wooden bats. He also took part in the East Coast Pro Showcase in Staten Island, N.Y., and the Area Code Games in Orange County, California. He went 7-for-13 in New York, then hit a home run in his first at-bat in Orange County. He also played in the Under Armour All-America Game at Wrigley Field.
"I had to try out for the East Coast Pro and Area Code Games and made those teams," Plummer said. "The best players from around the nation played and we had games during the weekend, playing in front of scouts. Playing at Wrigley Field in the Under Armour game was sweet. I was real busy, only home maybe two weeks last summer."
Field for a king
Plummer and his teammates are playing at a 3-year-old field that cost approximately $2 million to build.
The field, located next to the Oakland/Troy Airport, has artificial turf on the infield, grass in the outfield and a fence covered with advertisements.
"It's going to be even better next year because June 1st we're putting in 200 stadium seats, a concession stand, a two-story pressbox, a locker room, bathrooms, indoor hitting facility and another diamond," Riker said. "We had a couple real special guys ask Kal (assistant coach Brian Kalczynski) and I what we wanted since we always played away except the five league games that we have to play at home, which we played at a city park with no fence ....
"They came to us, wanted to remain anonymous, just help out. I wanted to have a place where the kids wanted to hang out, even when we're not practicing or playing, and next year that will really come to fruition because we'll have a locker room, an indoor hitting facility with a weight room. We'll have three cages inside. That's what I've always envision, guys being able to train all year if they want to do that."
Expect to find Saline in East Lansing in mid-June playing for the Division 1 state baseball championship.
Saline has been close, losing state-title games in 2008, '09 and '10, then falling in the state semifinals in 2012.
This could be Scott Theisen's best team with a handful of Division 1 players and a dynamite pitching staff.
"We've been so close so many times and they'd like to get it done this year," Theisen said. "We have a lot of guys who can swing the bat and we have good pitching and good fielding. The thing is not only do you have to play well (in postseason), you have to have some luck, too. One bad inning could cost you."
Saline's staff is led by senior right-hander Ricky Karcher (Michigan), senior left-hander Brendan Nearing (Cincinnati) and senior right-hander Brett Nearing (Grand Valley).
The pitching would even be more intimidating if Kentucky-bound John Smith were available, but the left-hander had Tommy John surgery in September and is playing first base.
Theisen thinks sophomore right-hander Sean O'Keefe will be a big asset during the stretch drive, as well.
Saline also has an outstanding catcher in Trent Theisen (Ball State), Scott's son, and shortstop in junior Thomas Miller (Oakland).
"Trent handles the pitchers well," Theisen said. "He's athletic, blocks the plate well and throws very well."
It's easy to imagine Ann Arbor Skyline football won't go winless again in the fall.
Six-foot-five quarterback Joe Bob Walker — who helped end Wayne Memorial's 46-game losing streak, then contributed a 507-yard, six-touchdown effort in a 55-14 win over Dearborn Edsel Ford — is now at Skyline, after passing through Farmington Hills Harrison.
When contacted, legendary Harrison coach John Herrington said: "I came in and (Walker) was gone. He went through our weight program, but now he's enrolled at Ann Arbor Skyline. He's not a polished quarterback, but he's a big, strong kid."
Walker and his family had moved from California prior to his junior year at Wayne. Now, he is at his third school.
The same could be said for another player at Skyline this fall, USC-bound Daelin Hayes, a 6-3, 230-pound five-star linebacker who will be a senior.
Hayes left Orchard Lake St. Mary's prior to his junior year for California, then moved back to the metro area midway through the season to enroll at Detroit Cass Tech before moving on to Skyline.
Kareem re-opens search
Herrington did mention that Harrison's four-star defensive end, Khalid Kareem, withdrew his commitment to Michigan State and will enter his senior season still looking.
"Coaches from Miami of Florida are coming in to see him Tuesday, then Oregon's coming in Thursday," Herrington said.
Kareem has 30 offers, including one from national champion Ohio State, and others from Alabama, Michigan, Notre Dame and, of course, the Spartans.
By the numbers
5 -- Division 1 commitments Saline has on its baseball roster, including Michigan-bound pitcher Ricky Karcher
2 -- Power Five conference teams — Miami and Oregon — planning to visit four-star defensive end Khalid Kareem of Farmington Hills Harrison this week
3 -- Home runs Chelsea senior Lauren Hirth hit last week, leading to 10 RBIs