By Mike Kays
Phoenix Sports Editor
Tony Horn was encouraged.
The Muskogee High junior was picked up by the D-Bat Mustangs prospect team out of Tulsa to take part in the WWBA 16-under National Championship tournament held last week in Marietta, Ga.
In front of college scouts, Horn made two appearances, striking out eight in throwing 6 1/3 innings of two-hit ball in his start, then closed the seventh without a run in another for the D-Bat squad, which went 6-1 but came up short in a bid to advance as one of 32 teams in the 281 in pool play on a runs allowed tiebreaker.
“The strikeouts were my highlight,” Horn said. “Twenty of 25 first pitches were strikes and I filled up the zone and let the defense do its thing.”
Horn’s fastball was being clocked in the mid 80s.
He hasn’t slowed down any since healing from a groin injury that hampered him in the spring season at MHS. He left Georgia and joined another travel team, the Oklahoma City Stars for a tournament in Stillwater. He’ll end up putting in 50-60 games of work this summer, but he says it’s paying off.
“I’m hitting about .580 overall,” he said. “I’ve got miles on my fastball and I’ve been constant in the strike zone.”
Horn isn’t the first in his family to try the showcase route. His older brother Antonio, who went on to play at Bacone, played with a Chicago White Sox Area Code developmental team back in 2008.
Jeremy Griffin, Horn’s coach at Muskogee, recommended him for the D-backs.
“That’s a good organization with a lot of quality guys who are coaching with them,” he said. “It’s good for Tony to get some exposure and play against some good quality talent from around the country.”
Horn is one of about six pitchers who will battle for time this next season where Griffin, in his second year after coming over from Jenks where he serve as an assistant coach, will welcome back six starters.
“He’s had good velocity which was a goal this summer along with strengthening the core and his lower body and develop his off-speed and breaking pitches,” Griffin said.
“I’ve got several that have been good for us and we’ll see how they continue to develop through the rest of the summer and into the fall. We’ve told them you get what you earn and I know we’ve got several who want to be that guy.”
Griffin is encouraged by his team’s off-season work. The Roughers had their best win total in three seasons this past spring, going 14-21. They are in Summer Pride after a series of games earlier this summer. Some, like Horn, are playing at various other posts.
“We’re still building a family here, a team,” he said. “I love the kids we got, I love the work ethic they have. We used our games to look at a number of people in different spots. We just continue to build and have the opportunity to develop a great program.”
Horn has sensed it.
“Everyone is listening, soaking in a lot of the info the coaches have given us,” he said. “We’re making a lot of adjustments at the plate. Our defense is starting to be a little more solid. Overall I think we’ve progressed really far.”