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Thursday, April 26 High School Sports

Staples’ Casparius the latest Wrecker who could hear his name called in MLB draft

WESTPORT — Not long after moving from Portland, Ore., to Westport, Mike Fanning started to hear the buzz surrounding the next big baseball prospect in town. His name was Ben Casparius, and he was talented enough to hold his own as a freshman on the varsity squad at Staples High School.

“You’d get to the varsity games and we’d hear, ‘Oh, Ben’s hitting .300 on varsity, Ben’s hitting home runs on varsity,’ ” recalled Fanning, who is now a senior at Staples, splitting time between first base and designated hitter. “You kind of hear about him and think, ‘Oh, he’s a big-time superstar.’ ”

The scouting reports were accurate. Casparius had all the tools and would one day be the player whom pro scouts would flock to games to see.

“He’s been with me four years,” Staples coach Jack McFarland said Friday. “He’s got 105 hits. The school record’s 110, so he’s probably going to break that. On the mound, he’s our horse. He’s our go-to guy when we need a win.”

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Wrecking Ball

Ben Casparius

Age: 18

School: Staples

Position: P/1B/SS/3B

Bats/Throws: R/R

Season stats: Hitting — .377 average, 5 home runs, 16 RBIs. Pitching — 2-1 record, 1.87 ERA; 37 strikeouts and only 12 hits allowed over 21.1 innings (Throws between 88-92 mph, topping out at 94. Repertoire includes four-seam fastball, two-seam fastball, slider, curveball, changeup).

Quotable: “His mechanics are flawless. He throws the ball with ease. He can drop any one of three pitches — it doesn’t matter what the count is. He can drop a 2-0 curveball in like that. His mechanics are just so fluid. You can notice when a kid’s going max effort and his mechanics aren’t great.” — Staples coach Jack McFarland

With the Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft inching closer, Casparius, now 18, has already heard from scouts from 25 of the 30 teams. It’s a good bet they’ve all seen the 6-foot-2, 208-pound senior play all over the diamond.

When Casparius isn’t pitching, he’s usually either at first base, shortstop or third base. There was a time last year when he even lobbied McFarland to move him behind the plate in an emergency situation.

“Ben’s a real good athlete,” McFarland said. “He could’ve been a quarterback here. He could’ve played a bunch of sports here.”

Though Casparius played basketball until his junior year, it was clear from the get-go that baseball would be his ticket to college. He signed with North Carolina as a two-way player, but whether he ends up there will depend largely on when he’s selected in next month’s draft.

Casparius could decline to sign with the team that selects him and head to UNC, but he wouldn’t be draft-eligible again until after his junior season. Of course, it would be a risk worth taking if he could boost his stock by stringing together a few productive seasons with one of the country’s most prominent programs.

“I definitely don’t want to miss college, but if the opportunity’s right — it’s something I want to do for the rest of my life,” he said.

As much as Casparius would like to know what his future holds, he will have to wait. After all, guessing where someone will get drafted is akin to predicting the weather three months in advance.

“It’s more 50-50,” Casparius said when asked whether he’s leaning toward going to college or turning pro, assuming he’s drafted. “It really does depend on who picks me, how (comfortable I am) after I get drafted and if the money’s there.”

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In the meantime, Casparius is focused on the things that only he can control. Though he’s being analyzed with a fine-toothed comb by scouts, he’s been “laser-focused,” according to McFarland.

“He knows he’s got to get on the mound in a certain time,” the coach said. “He’s got to watch the way he runs out of the dugout and the way he interacts with his family.”

With Staples (9-7, 8-4) in the thick of the FCIAC playoff race, Casparius had his most memorable performance in an 18-0 rout of Stamford on Wednesday. The right-hander struck out 13 and threw an 89-pitch no-hitter. He also homered twice and drove in five runs.

The last Wrecker to be drafted was left-handed pitcher David Speer, who was taken in the 27th round (818th overall) in 2014 by the Cleveland Indians out of Columbia University. Casparius is next in line.

“He’s in a no-lose situation,” McFarland said. “It’s not like he’s a kid who has nowhere to go … and needs the money. It’s none of that. He’s going to a great school. He’s going to have a great career there.

“The draft will be either here, it will be after his junior year or it will be after his senior year.”