High School Sports

Mustangs' Griffin could play pro ball

LAKEWOOD RANCH - Jon Griffin remembers sitting in the stands watching Lakewood Ranch High play North Port in boys basketball last fall when he received a call from his dad.

This wasn't one of those pick-up-a-carton-of-milk-on-your-way-home calls. It was a call about a call, really, but it was one of the most memorable of Griffin's young life.

Earlier that evening, the New York Yankees dialed up the Griffin residence and asked for Jon. That's right, the New York Yankees, the ones with 26 World Series championships and the most famous of pinstripes.

That night, they became the first major league team to contact the Griffins - but far from the last. The Yankees asked Griffin to represent them in the Diamond Club, a Lakeland showcase of Florida prep players who are handpicked by major league scouts.

Since then, the Mustangs senior has received calls, letters and e-mails from representatives of each major league organization.

He's retained an advisor to help him navigate his future, and he's filled out countless questionnaires asking him everything from his favorite food to how much money it would take to acquire his services.

"I still get questionnaires from teams," said Griffin, who has also had a scouting bureau visit his house to administer an eye test. "They send me different ones all the time. When they ask me how much money I want, I don't want to answer that. If I say too much, they will blow me off. If I ask for too little, that's what they are going to give me. I just leave that blank."

One day Griffin is a high school kid enjoying a night out with his friends, the next he's a major league prospect who might have some major decisions.

And all of those teams who have called want him for one thing. Nope, not his bat, which led the Mustangs in hits (33), home runs (five) and RBIs (15) last season, playing primarily at first base.

They want him for the arm that pitched a total of three innings as a junior. It's the long right arm, connected to his 6-foot-6 frame that can do things scouts drool over and batters fear.

"I had people tell me (about a future in professional baseball) last year, but I didn't believe them," said Griffin, who has grown five inches since his freshman year. "They told me I might go D-I, but I didn't know I'd get all this. I try not to think about it."

While many professional prospects, such as former Mustang Lastings Milledge, can be seen coming while they are still in grade school, others are late bloomers. They grow into their body and their skills a little later in life.

A relative unknown until last season, Griffin, with a fastball that has been clocked at 94 mph, now stands to be the highest drafted player out of Lakewood Ranch since Milledge was a first-round pick by the New York Mets in 2003.

Griffin, who played summer ball under Colorado Rockies scout John Cedarburg, knows the guys with radar guns will be out for his games this year. They've been following him since he represented the Yankees. But the matter-of-fact Griffin believes they won't be a distraction.

He'll simply pull the brim of his Mustangs cap down a little further over his eyes. Then, he'll only be able to zone in on catcher and batter and block out the rest.

Lakewood Ranch coach Dave Moates said Griffin is a draft-and-follow prospect at the very least. But all it takes would be one scout to become enamored with Griffin and his potential. That could change everything.

"You get up there, and you are watching it and, yeah, it looks hard," said Justin Sauveur, who as a Southeast Seminole faced Griffin last year and is now his teammate. "Then you actually get up to the plate, and it's coming harder than you think. He's bringing it."

For now, Griffin insists his mind is only on this high school season, anyway. He was an eighth-grader when the Mustangs won a state title in 2003, but since he arrived on campus, Lakewood Ranch hasn't even won a district title.

In Griffin and Gus Schlosser, his good friend and fellow Manatee Community College signee, the Mustangs have a top-of-the-rotation, middle-of-the-order duo that has to be the envy of many. They help make this year's team one of the best in the area.

The boys worked out together almost every day since school started, and conversations they shared over long tosses or weightlifting sessions weren't about their respective draft status.

"I want a district title, and we'll go from there," said Griffin, whose Mustangs are off to a 6-0 start heading into into tonight's game against Venice. "We've never won districts . . . and we have a good shot this year."