SIKESTON - It's not too often that a Division I program comes calling to the Southeast region of Missouri for an athlete.
Which is why the University of Missouri baseball team may have found a diamond in the rough in Sikeston Bulldog infielder Adam Garrett, who signed a letter of intent to attend Mizzou on Thursday.
"How many kids have come out of Sikeston High School and have gotten a chance to play at the University of Missouri?" asked Sikeston head baseball coach Kevin Self. "The last one I remember was Justin Towe (1992) -- there's been a lot of good players come through Sikeston's program and not get that opportunity. I think (Garrett is) deserving of it. He's got a lot of things he brings to the table that Mizzou is looking for."
Garrett, who helped lead the Sikeston Bulldogs to a second place finish in the Class 3A state playoffs last season, fit the profile of what the Tiger coaching staff was looking for -- a slick-fielding, switch-hitting infielder with good speed.
Last season as a junior, he batted .364 with 36 runs scored and 16 runs batted in. He was the perfect leadoff man, finishing second on the team behind all-stater Kent Chappell with a .595 on-base percentage.
As the shortstop, Garrett made just five errors in 108 chances. The Tigers will look for Garrett to contribute at either shortstop or second base.
But even with a successful year, major universities like Missouri rarely are interested in prospects in the Southeast region.
Garrett says it all started with standout performances at the Mizzou camps.
"My sophomore and junior year I went to winter camps there and last year I got voted MVP at the camp," said Garrett. "That's when they started sending me letters. And when I went to the Showcase this summer, they came and watched me at that."
The 2001 Junior Talent Showcase this summer, in which Garrett was among 18 chosen, may have put his stock over the top for Mizzou.
Getting selected is an honor itself, but Garrett batted. .467 with two RBIs, seven runs scored, two stolen bases and had an on-base percentage of .500. He led the team in runs and hits and was perfect in the field, committing zero errors.
But even Garrett himself was skeptical of a large school like Mizzou being very interested in him. Standing 5-foot-8 and weighing 140 pounds, he doesn't have a prototypical Division-I body.
"I was very surprised that a big school like Missouri would be that interested in me, especially with my size," said Garrett. "They were the biggest school that was interested in me. But I'm very excited. They have a great school and tremendous facilities. They have all new weight lifting equipment, all new indoor facilities to bat in and a new field. They're one of the best schools in Missouri, if not the best. It's a really big school and they play in the Big 12."
Garrett isn't just a standout on the baseball diamond, he's also a star on the soccer field for the Bulldogs.
In leading Sikeston to its best record ever, Garrett set nearly every record in the book.
"This was my best year in soccer, by far," said Garrett. "I thought we did really well. I like to stay in shape (by playing soccer), and I've always played it. It's really exciting (to break the school records). I couldn't have done it without my team."
He broke school records in goals in a season (30), career (87), game (5) and total points (189). He was named Southeast Region Player of the Year this season.
He was honorable mention all-state last year.
"Other than being a great player, he's a great kid," said Sikeston soccer coach Derrick Long. "He's a hard worker in everything he did. He's a got a lot of natural ability and a lot of athletisicm. He's a complete all-around player."
If baseball wasn't Garrett's main interest, Long thinks that he could have played soccer in college also.
"I think he could've played Division-I soccer," said Long. "He would've had to go to a school that needed some scoring and schools always need that. With his speed alone, colleges would've took chances on him. With that kind of speed, they would've been silly not to."
Garrett had his speed tested in the 60-yard dash by Mizzou over the summer where he reportedly ran a 6.60.
"He was the fastest kid in their camp the last couple of years in the winter time running the 60," said Self. "They knew he could run, they knew what kind of hands he had and they knew he could hit. The biggest thing is his defensive ability. Those are things that Mizzou has been looking for. Their first three hitters were all switch hitters and they were fast. They're all table setters. They like those guys that can run, that can get on base and give the big guys a chance to drive somebody in."
Garrett said signing early will give him a chance to enjoy his senior year at Sikeston without having to burden himself with the long, dragged out recruiting process.
"I love it because now I don't have to worry about impressing scouts," said Garrett. "If we went to a summer legion game, everybody is nervous when scouts are there. And now I won't have to worry about that. I can just relax now, it takes a lot of pressure off me."
Now comes the question of playing time. How much and when will Garrett get any?
"It's hard to come right out of high school and get initial playing time as a freshman," said Self. "I think they're looking at him probably at second base initially, and if he gets bigger and stronger, he may play some short. But I think he's going to get a lot of opportunities to play there."