Peyton Ryder said he was "overwhelmed" to receive an invitation to play in the Baseball Factory's 2014 Under Armour All-America Preseason Rookie Tournament, set for Jan. 17-19 in Auburndale, Fla.
The reaction is understandable, because the tournament has served as a showcase for future stars during its 15-year run. The Baseball Factory website lists alumni David Wright (New York Mets), Eric Hosmer (Kansas City Royals) and B.J. Upton (Atlanta Braves) as having earned Preseason All-America designation because of their on-field performance in the event.
That's great, says Ryder, a 14-year-old eighth-grader at Thomas Easton Middle School in Hampton, but what gets his adrenaline going is the opportunity to match skills against 30 of the best players in the high school classes of 2017 and '18.
"This is very exciting because I didn't think I'd be in the top 30 in the country," Ryder said. "My goal is to go down and show that I'm one of the best athletes there."
Among those who give Ryder a solid shot of doing that are Drew Baldwin, the Baseball Factory's Player Development Director, and Allen Elledge, his coach on the Hitters Warehouse's 14-and-under prospects team and the coach at Smithfield High this past season.
"We like him as a catcher and outfielder because he has some of the top numbers for his age," Baldwin said of Ryder, who runs a 7.69 60-yard dash. "He has a good knowledge of the game and good physical tools."
Elledge said those tools include very good arm strength, power, running speed and core strength.
The Baseball Factory's scouting report on Ryder reads: "Peyton has firm hands, playable feet, and he centers the ball well. He tracks well, has good direction to his target and he throws with accuracy and carry to second base.
"Offensively, Peyton has an athletic set-up, good balance and his swing is level. He swings in good rhythm, he can work the ball gap to gap, and he uses some lower (half)."
Elledge said, "His ceiling is unlimited because he's such a good athlete. He could be a Division I player if he stays on the track he's on now because he's very coachable."
Baldwin said Ryder and the other 30 or so invitees will get plenty of instruction in Florida, along with multiple workouts and recruiting assistance. It's all designed to put top young players on the path to the upper levels of the game, although there is one thing that might keep Ryder from traveling down it.
At 5-foot-8, 175 pounds he's already starting at linebacker for the junior varsity football team at Phoebus, where he is among the leading tacklers.
"He has a good future outlook for baseball, but he's good enough in football that we'll have to see if that becomes a factor," Elledge said.
O'Brien can be reached by phone at 757-247-4963Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun