Grant Holmes steps on the mound, adjusts his hat over his long, curly hair and toes the rubber. Holding the ball in his glove he extends both hands over and behind his head before returning his glove in front of his face with just his eyes peering over the top of his mitt.
His windup starts with a small step back and his hands drop to his belt before coming back up to shoulder height. He turns slightly, showing the batter his back before he delivers to the plate. It’s likely the last thing most batter see before Holmes unleashes his fastball, which has been clocked as high as 97 MPH.
Holmes throws smoke but he’s not a one trick pony and touts a big, loping curveball, change-up and a slider with some bite. It’s this arsenal that has Holmes rated as the No. 6 prospect in the country according to Perfect Game and the top-rated player in Florida’s 2014 recruiting class.
A senior at Conway High School, Holmes grew up just over two hours away from perennial power South Carolina. Despite growing up in the Gamecock’s backyard, Holmes will sign with Kevin O’Sullivan’s Gators today.
“The coaching staff at UF is great,” Holmes said. “I really like Sully and everything the baseball team does.”
Baseball recruiting is unique. Unlike in football, signing a letter of intent doesn’t necessarily seal a players fate. Every high school baseball player is eligible for the MLB Amateur Draft. As one of the highest rated high school prospects in the country this year, Holmes is likely on his way to being a high first round pick this year.
The fact that he will have a hefty contract and a chance to realize his dreams are not lost on him but Holmes chooses to focus on more short-term goals now, like leading his team to a state championship, which would be the first state championship for Holmes.
“You know I still have a whole season to play before then,” Holmes said of having to make a decision to go pro or go to school. “And when that time comes we will see, but until then I’m a Gator!”
Even though it isn’t probable that Holmes does, in fact, wind up in Gainesville, it isn’t impossible. There is precedent for high draft picks to choose school. Karsten Whitson famously turned down a $2.1 million pile of cash after the San Diego Padres selected him with the No. 9 overall pick in the 2010 draft.
Holmes is the cherry on top of another outstanding recruiting class for O’Sullivan. O’Sullivan has to juggle signing the best kids available each season while keeping the fact that they might never make it to campus every season.
“The draft is something that is going to be there every year — it is what it is,” O’Sullivan said last year. “If you have good players in your program, they’re going to get drafted. If you recruit good players, there’s a chance you could lose them. It’s as simple as that. It’s an inexact science.”
Holmes has a long way to go before he will be faced with a decision to fulfill his dreams of being a professional baseball player or putting off those dreams for a chance to play for O’Sullivan and the Gators. For now, Holmes is just excited for his senior season and happy to be a Gator.
“I’m ready to play and I’m ready to win a World Series.”
Holmes signed his letter of intent in a ceremony at his high school at 10 a.m. Friday morning.