Moving from the Georgia beaches to the changing weather is no easy task. Things are a lot different down south than they are up in the Northern part of the East Coast.
For one, baseball is played all year round down in the south.
With such great weather, a baseball player can get those at bats that he might not be able to get up in the Northeast. The climate is a little bit tougher with winter coming early, sometimes, and staying late. The biggest challenge, though, could be the changing of scenery.
As Thomas Evans is finding out right now, moving from the 80 plus degree temps from Georgia to the changing weather of Buffalo isn’t that bad. In fact, Evans, who is a huge prospect playing for the WNY Prospects, likes the differences that Western New York has to offer.
“I have lived on the east coast my whole life but moving from the Georgia beaches to Western New York makes it a whole other perspective,” stated Evans – during a rare 80 degree October day. “It’s had it’s ups and downs that like any other time I had to move in my life. My whole family is from Buffalo, so I have been here before and know the area quite well. So that’s been great for me. Weather is definitely a lot cooler here and there was no snow in the part of Georgia I moved from. I like the school and everything so far, and met some really good people. Just the hardest part was probably that where I moved from I lived there the longest out of anywhere I have lived. I had matured the greatest there so that was definitely hard.”
To look at Evans, you wouldn’t think he is in high school. He is mature beyond his years and he is a big boy. Only 16 years of age, Evans stands more than 6-feet tall and more than 200 pounds. He is a legit specimen when looking at him.
The young man is a commanding figure on the diamond. You can see why college coaches are already drooling over this young man. When he takes batting practice people stop and watch. He could be the next big prospect to come out of Western New York.
And he could be the next big prospect that Western New York Prospects produce. When it comes to sending kids off to college, no one is doing it better than Jeff Helmbrecht and the Prospects. They have a really good track record of sending young men to Division I, II, III and Junior Colleges.
When the young men get to college, they just don’t sit on the bench – they succeed. Just last year, the Prospects had a couple young men drafted in the Major League Baseball draft. Evans could be the next in a long line of Prospect players ready to show he can play on the big stage.
When he came to WNY during the summer, Evans wanted to make sure he was able to play for a great showcase team. It just happened that he knew someone, who knew someone, who went to school with Helmbrecht.
“My uncle actually hooked me up when he found out we were moving to Buffalo. He found a team for me and my brothers. He had known coach Helmbrecht though, because they had gone to high school together at JFK high school,” stated Evans. “In the short period that I have been with coach H he has actually taught me quite a bit already. First day of practice he really made important hitting the ball the other way, since you naturally want to pull everything. If you can teach yourself to hit the other way it makes you a more complete hitter, and that is really what people want to see out of you. Coach H also has taught me just small mental things such as look for this when you’re here and there. Just a lot of good things in the short amount of time I’ve been with him.”
What Helmbrecht can’t teach is the raw power that Evan has been displaying during batting practice and fall ball. Some players can just hit the cover of the ball – and Evans is one of them. At 6’5, Evans has a bigger sweet spot and he sure knows how to take advantage of it.
But, it’s just not about the sweet spot, it’s about having the right mechanics, and Evans makes sure he works on those all the time – as well.
“Power comes from a good lower half when hitting,” stated Evans. “Being 6’5 a bigger guy I swing a heavier bat this creates a lot of momentum. That momentum you create with my lower half creates a lot of power.”
Evans, however, just doesn’t want to be known as a one-dimentional hitter. It’s true that chicks do love the long ball. But, to be considered a great hitter, and even better prospect, it means that a hitter needs to do the little things.
Hitting for power is one, so it being able to spread the ball over the field. With teams shifting all the time, the best hitters have gap to gap power. Evans wants to be one of those types of hitters.
“It means a lot more to me than just being good at hitting with power,” explained Evans. “I mean it’s a great tool to have, but I do not want to be a one dimensional hitter. I want to be able to hit it where it’s pitched inside, outside, and up the middle. I have to be able to take it each way. Being able to cover anywhere in the strike zone efficiently is a major thing I look and practice to do.”
Evans also puts in time being great defensively at first base. Being a big boy, Evans has to get down low to get those grounders and tough hops. It’s a little bit harder for the bigger guys playing around the bag then the smaller ones.
One of the best first baseman ever to the play the position was Don Mattingly. Donnie Baseball was able to hit for power, but also play a solid first base – which was evident in all the Gold Gloves he one during his career.
Evans works just as hard in the field as he does at the plate – and that type of work ethic has impressed his coaches.
“Well really I think of it as I put in all the work before the game. When it comes to game time you are going to reflect the work you put in leading up to your game,” stated Evans. “So if I knew I put in a good week of work going into the game I will carry a lot of confidence and just play my game to the best of my ability and I won’t think much of the guys watching me.”
Watching him is what people are doing. Evans hopes one day he has that chance to hit the game-winning homerun. You know which one. The one that every young baseball dreams off doing when they first pick up the bat.
Why else do you play the game you love so much?
“I love hitting, that’s my favorite part of the game,” stated Evans. “What’s better than two outs, tie game, and hitting a game-winning homerun. In my eyes nothing is better than that. Hitting a homerun is the greatest feeling in the world and a game-winning one would be awesome.”