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Sunday, August 9, 2009
Updated: August 10, 8:10 AM ET
Baseball is Perkins' pick

By Ronnie Flores

LONG BEACH, Calif. -- Area Code Texas Rangers outfielder Kendrick Perkins, a 6-foot-2, 215-pound bulldozer from La Porte (Texas), recently made a verbal commitment to the Texas A&M baseball coaching staff and will forgo his senior year of football.

Kendrick Perkins
Kendrick Perkins won't play football this fall.

"This [baseball] is where my heart is," Perkins said. "There are all these opportunities opening up. I like baseball because it's more relaxing, more of a mental game. At any moment, you don't know what is going to happen."

Perkins was a star on the gridiron for the Bulldogs as a junior. For an 8-5 team, he rushed for 1,842 yards and 25 touchdowns. Like his namesake and East Texas neighbor, Boston Celtics center Kendrick Perkins (no relation), Perkins' size impressed scouts. As a running back, Scouts Inc. grades him with a 75 and three stars.

Scouts Inc. also rated him one of the best Class 5A backs in Texas last season and a true I tailback prospect with size and power. He had a reported eight Division I scholarship offers in football.

Perkins gave a verbal commitment to the Texas A&M baseball coaching staff approximately a month before making the decision to give up football.

"I was hoping [La Porte head] football coach Jeff Lareau and his assistants would talk him out of it," his father, Kevin Perkins, said. "But it was his decision, I stayed out of it. From a parent standpoint, [the Area Code process] has been scary, you can't really enjoy it. We've just been so focused on doing the right thing. I'm pretty sure it's been a little stressful on him."

Perkins' dad was a quarterback at Dickinson (Texas), playing behind Andre Ware, who went on to win the Heisman Trophy in 1989 while playing for the University of Houston.

Perkins admitted the Area Code experience, from getting the invitation, learning about what it was, and not knowing what to expect during his family's first trip to California, has been daunting yet exciting.

"I'm not going to lie, I was surprised by all the calls I was getting," Perkins said. "My father read the invite and told me it was a real serious matter. I've been blown away by the experience. There are a lot of people out here."

Perkins is banking on his ever-improving status as a legitimate prospect in next year's MLB first-year player draft. There's precedent for Area Code participants: in the 2009 draft, 10 Area Code alumni were first-round selections. Including the college players, 14 of this year's first-rounders played in Long Beach at some point in their careers.

Area Code Baseball

The 2009 Area Code Baseball Games take place Aug. 5-10 at Blair Field in Long Beach, Calif. Area Code index

Scouts Inc.'s Keith Law will provide day-by-day analysis at the Area Code Games. Check out his reports on the MLB Draft Blog (Insider).

For Area Code updates, follow us on Twitter and check out the ESPN RISE Baseball index and Baseball Blog.

During the Rangers' second game on Thursday, a 9-7 victory over the Nationals, Perkins caught a bad break. On the game's final play, he strained his quad trying to leg out a single on a ball hit to second base. On Friday, he said it was still sore, but Perkins hopes to play in the Texas Rangers' final game on Monday.

"What I'd want people to know is the kid has passion for the game," Kevin remarked. "He'll definitely leave it on the field for them."

Multi-sport stars at Area Code

More than 220 players are competing at Blair Field this week. Here are some dual-sport standouts. (All players listed are Class of 2010 prospects unless noted):

Alex Balog (Archbishop Mitty / San Jose, Calif.) 6-5, 210, 1B/Water Polo: Balog played water polo for the State School of the Year and was an all-CIF Central Coast Div. I selection in 2008.

Archie Bradley (Broken Arrow / Muskogee, Okla.) 6-4, 210, P/QB: This 2011 prospect is a highly regarded quarterback who started his prep career at Muskogee High, but made the move over to Broken Arrow after his mother accepted a vice principal job at the school. On the mound, right-hander Bradley has thrown between 92-96 mph this week. Bradley attended Area Code last year with the Chicago White Sox.

Anthony Bryant (Connally / Pflugerville, Texas) 6-3, 215, OF/WR: At a regional Area Code tryout this past June, Bryant posted a 6.44-second 60-yard time, the fastest of the camp.

Michael Conforto (Redmond / Woodinville, Wash.) 6-0, 190, OF/DB/WR: Conforto's mom is Tracie Ruiz-Conforto, a three-time Olympic medalist in synchronized swimming (two gold in 1984, silver in 1988). His dad, also Michael, is a former Penn State linebacker. In 2004, Conforto's Redmond team made it to quarterfinals at the Little League World Series.

Charles Jones (Boonville, Mo.) 6-3, 230, OF/QB/S: Jones plays baseball, football and basketball for the Boonville Pirates and was an all-state team outfielder selection.

Forrest Koumas (Lugoff, S.C./Elgin) 5-11, 190, 3B/P/QB: His Oakland Athletics teammates cite his toughness and mental approach to the game.

Zach Lee (McKinney, Texas) 6-4, 190, P/QB: A highly regarded football player, Lee missed a Nike Football Training Camp after he was hit in the head by a baseball the day before the event. Scouts Inc. rates Lee as the 10th-best quarterback in his class. Scouts Inc.'s lead baseball analyst, Keith Law, said Lee would go fairly high in next year's MLB first-year player draft if it were clear he intended to play pro baseball. "He has a great body, sat at 87 to 89 on Wednesday with a good changeup, and showed an aggressive approach and a pretty good delivery," Law said.

Ty Linton (Matthews, N.C./Charlotte Christian) 6-3, 210, OF/LB: This two-sport standout, who is playing for the Oakland Athletics, helped his school capture North Carolina Independent Schools Athletic Association 3-A state titles in both baseball and football. As a linebacker, he recorded nine sacks and nearly 100 tackles. He shows a quick bat here, but has limited reps against high-level pitching so his batting should improve as the week wears on. He has given a verbal to North Carolina for football and may play safety at the next level.

Matt Lipka (McKinney, Texas) 6-1, 192, SS/WR: He hauled in 50 receptions good for 938 yards and 13 TDs from LSU-bound quarterback Zach Lee, his Texas Rangers Area Code teammate. Law said his good glove and accurate arm are reminiscent of Orlando Hudson. "Lipka is a plus-plus runner -- he ran a 6.3 60-yard-dash at the Texas scouts' [SPARQ] workout earlier in the week -- with a very easy swing that's geared for hard contact but perhaps not much power given his somewhat flat swing plane," Law said.

Nick Merullo (Daniel Hand/Madison, Conn.) 6-0, 210, C/INF/QB: Merullo threw seven touchdowns in a 49-40 victory for Hand High this past season. His father, Matt Merullo, played six years at catcher in the big leagues and is an area scout for the Arizona Diamondbacks as well coach for his son's New York Yankees Area Code club. Nick's grandfather, Boots Merullo, played in the Pittsburgh Pirates organization. His great-grandfather, Lennie, was a shortstop for the Chicago Cubs.

Tyler Shreve (Redlands East Valley/Highland, Calif.) 6-4, 215, P/QB: After a standout sophomore season for the Wildcats on the gridiron, Shreve was a ball boy as the 2008 Elite 11 quarterback camp. He didn't have as big a junior year, but is still a highly regarded signal-caller.

Colby Suggs (Sulphur Springs, Texas) 6-0, 230, P/OL: A University of Arkansas commit as a baseball player, Suggs played center on the Wildcats' state championship football team. The all-district football player has displayed a tight slider here and attacks the strike zone.

Kenny Travis (Edison/Fresno, Calif.) 6-0, 155, OF/WR/DB: Travis, who plays for the Milwaukee Brewers Gray here, is the latest in the long line of baseball-football standouts for the Tigers.

Isaiah Turner (Stockdale/Bakersfield, Calif.) 6-0, 217, OF/LB: The staff of the Milwaukee Brewers Gray club fondly refers to Turner as "El Caballo" because he's as strong as a horse. On the gridiron, Turner was a hard-hitting linebacker for a 8-3 club and racked up more than six tackles per game. He's a power hitter for the Milwaukee Brewers Gray club.

Ronnie Flores is a senior editor of ESPN RISE. If you're an ESPN Insider, check out Keith Law's analysis here. For more information, check out the ESPN RISE baseball blog. For Area Code updates, follow us on Twitter. For more information on the Area Code Games, click here.