Dr. Phillips’ Brandon Fields and Windermere High’s Carson Montgomery were among the 80 players selected to participate in the Prospect Development Pipeline league this summer.
Waking up at 6 a.m. as a high-school student is daunting, but on the morning of July 25, 2018, it wasn’t early enough.
That week, during his stay at Northwestern University in Chicago, Brandon Fields’ schedule was like that of a big leaguer.
He woke up, ate breakfast and then got in some practice at 8 a.m. before getting in a few workouts. But there was one thing that made that day even more special — a trip to Wrigley Field to participate in batting practice in the cages.
“Walking through the tunnels — where the players walk through — it was like, ‘Wow, this is what it feels like to be a big leaguer,’” Fields said. “Everything was big league from the time we got to the stadium. It was a kid’s dream; it was surreal; I’ve always dreamt of playing in a big-league stadium.”
That week was a part of his time training with USA Baseball, but it wasn’t the last. The Dr. Phillips outfielder — and University of South Carolina commit — was one of 80 high-school students from around the country selected to participate in the Prospect Development Pipeline league this summer at IMG Academy in Bradenton.
With the high quality baseball offered in the West Orange area, Fields wasn’t the only local player selected. Windermere High pitcher and FSU commit Carson Montgomery also was chosen for the newly designed league.
For those unfamiliar with the PDP, it’s a joint effort between MLB and USA Baseball to do exactly as the name implies: Develop young high-school players and get them ready for the big leagues.
It’s a league that — from mid-June through early-July — will offer some of the top baseball players in the country a chance to show what they can do under the guidance of future MLB Hall of Famers such as Derek Jeter and current Hall of Famers Chipper Jones and Barry Larkin. It’s the chance of a lifetime.
“I’m pretty excited — I may get some butterflies talking to those guys,” Montgomery said. “They’ve been through a lot, and they definitely know the game better than I do, and I’m looking forward to gaining some knowledge just through them. I get to spend three weeks with them — in the clubhouse, in the room, on the field — so really I can learn some life lessons and baseball lessons.”
Fields found out about his selection in an email from Matt Blood, former director of baseball at USA Baseball, just before the regular season started for Dr. Phillips.
“First off, it was an honor, and I’m thankful,” Fields said. “It’s a great opportunity for me to play in the PDP — it’s a high level of competition to be able to play with the top 80 kids in America.”
The process of being selected to the team was a bit different for Fields and Montgomery.
In Montgomery’s case, he had done some playing with USA Baseball in the past, but it was his recent play on the mound that really intrigued USA Baseball scouts. They invited him to that same week of training that Fields went to last year, but Montgomery wasn’t able to make it.
Like Fields, Montgomery also will get a taste of what it’s like to be a big league player this upcoming summer. And although baseball will be a focal point of the summer camp, there’s also learning the lifestyle of a big leaguer off the field — learning how to do simple things such as cook and take care of one’s self.
“A lot of kids get drafted out of high school, and they don’t know anything about living on their own,” Montgomery said. “Some kids get overwhelmed going into Major League Baseball. … So I think this is kind of a model for that.
“That’s definitely been a concern for my parents also, if I were to able be in that situation — they want to know that I’m in good hands and that I’m mature enough to take care of myself,” he said. “It will definitely mature me and give me a little bit of a feel for what that’s like.”