Tuesday, June 7, 2011

High school baseball star’s age being called into question

The Major League Baseball Draft is a chance for some of the game's best high school players to get noticed and possibly live out a dream of hearing their name called and playing the game on the highest level.

Williams Jerez is one of those can't-miss high school prospects that's getting a lot of attention from number of teams. At the moment, some analysts have him going in one of the first few rounds of this year's draft. The Grand Street (New York) High School player has been ripping the cover off the ball, batting .629 this year in New York City's PSAL, while also hitting 5 HRs and driving in 32 runs.

The 6-4, 190-pound Jerez is a little old for high school at the age of 19, but coming from a rough life in the Dominican Republic, many people didn't think much of it ... until now. As the New York Daily News reported in an investigative report, Jerez's age is now being called into question.

While a year or two doesn't make a whole lot of difference to most major league teams, the bigger issue here seems to be number of teams in the PSAL that have a problem with some of the rumored "older" players playing in the league.

Lafayetter (New York) High School's head coach Nick Chapman, whose team was run-ruled by Grand Street earlier this year, said Jerez's size and maturity certainly brings his age into question: "You have a guy that so obviously does not seem to fit with anyone else on the field," Chapman told the Daily News. "You look at him and he sticks out."

Chapman isn't the only coach who has problems with older players, particularly ones from the Dominican Republic that might have forged birth certificates. Madison (New York) High School head coach Vinny Calazza told the Daily News that he didn't schedule regular-season games against PSAL powerhouse George Washington because he didn't trust the age of the players on the team.

Despite the talk, Jerez said the questions don't bother him, and that he's doing whatever it takes to rise above the issue.

"The rumors don't bother me," Jerez Jr. told the Daily News. "I know my true age. When the coaches talk about me, all they're trying to do is distract me. There's always going to be people who are jealous when you're doing well. I just keep working hard and try not to think about it."

Despite his claims, Jerez isn't the first high schooler in the New York area to be questioned about his age. But with his draft stock rising, it's easy to see why the 19-year-old would be an easy target for coaches in the area. And with a large Dominican population in the New York area, it's safe to say he won't be the last NYC high schooler to deal with the rumors.

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