Trea Turner and Brett Austin were bound to go high in the MLB draft, and they did, with Turner landing in the first round and Austin in the fourth. But as the hype around North Carolina State’s top position players grew last season, Wolfpack coach Elliott Avent started to notice something. In the batting cages at night, Avent often found Turner and Austin learning from a true freshman.
As the son of a former major leaguer, Preston Palmeiro had plenty to share. Now he’s back close to where first learned the game.
The Colleyville Heritage graduate has emerged as a star for N.C. State, the No. 2-seed in the NCAA Regional at TCU’s Lupton Stadium. The Wolfpack plays Stony Brook at 2:30 p.m. today. Palmeiro, the team’s starting first baseman and son of former Texas Ranger Rafael Palmeiro, is batting .316 with seven home runs and a team-high 48 RBIs.
“His work ethic has allowed him to be successful,” Avent said, “but he’s got his dad’s swing.”
The elder Palmeiro played 20 years in the majors, most notably for the Orioles and Rangers. As Rafael spent two stints with both clubs, his family settled in Colleyville, where Preston grew up.
“I spent a little time in Baltimore when my dad was playing there, but this is home,” Preston said Thursday after N.C. State’s morning practice at Lupton.
So unlike the rest of the his teammates — only one other is from Texas — Fort Worth isn’t unfamiliar to him. In fact, if the timing were different, Preston could have landed at TCU.
As a high school recruit, he visited the campus several times. But at the time, eventual draft pick Kevin Cron was anchoring the position, so TCU coach Jim Schlossnagle decided to invest his limited scholarship money elsewhere.
“One of the issues in college baseball, especially private schools, is that you can’t recruit your wants. You can only recruit your needs,” Schlossnagle said. “Sometimes, there will be a guy right down the street that you would really like to have in your program. But if you already have a player at that specific position, you can’t.”
Avent, meanwhile, had an opening.
“You don’t just recruit great players,” Avent said. “You have to have a place for great players to play.”
Palmeiro found the field in 39 games last year before playing all 55 this season. Rafael hasn’t seen every game in person, but he checks in regularly, either on television or through a live stream on the Internet.
“He helps me with the little things that most people can’t realize,” Preston said. “That’s one of the things he does that’s so great. I learned everything about baseball from him.”
N.C. State pitching
N.C. State brings one of the strongest pitching staffs in the country. The Wolfpack is ranked in the top 12 nationally in three categories: No. 1 in hits per nine innings (6.87), No. 2 in strikeouts per nine innings (9.4) and No. 12 in ERA (2.93).
Avent lauded new pitching coach Scott Foxhall.
“Foxhall came in and took over a staff that — inexperienced would have been a mild word to put that staff,” Avent said. “Cory Wilder, our Friday night starter, had nine innings of college baseball. Brian Brown, who’s been really, really good for us down the stretch, had never pitched in college baseball. And Curt Britt had transferred from South Carolina, where he had pitched some, but not one of their weekend guys.”
New Stony Brook
Stony Brook reached the College World Series in 2012. Only Seawolves were on that team: Catcher Cole Peragine and pitcher Nick Brass. Peragine, who played shortstop in 2012, has started all 222 games of his career. He’s hitting .302 with a team-high .451 on-base percentage.
Ryan Osborne, 817-390-7760