LLWS star Tai Peete growing his game at Trinity Christian
By Cory McCartney
EMERSON, Ga. — As the ball carried foul toward shallow left field, Tai Peete broke hard, the Trinity Christian third baseman with his back fully toward home plate.
As the Lions left fielder and shortstop converged on him, Peete made a basket catch, a grab the sophomore simply made look routine during Friday’s 7-2 loss to Pace Academy as part of the Minority Baseball Prospects High School Showdown.
Those skills have made Peete a top-50 player overall in the Class of 2023 in Prep Baseball Report’s rankings and the No. 5 player at his position, and they — and the hype that comes with his considerable talent — made Peete a known commodity before he ever took an at-bat in high school.
Tai Peete, Little League World Series star.
“When he first walks in the door, everybody knows who he is,” said Trinity Christian coach Blake Austin.
That’s what comes with Peete, who hit .409 and started all seven games on the mound as Peachtree City, Ga., marched to the United States championship before falling to eventual champ Hawaii in the 2018 LLWS. Be it at Trinity Christian, or as a member of the PBR Georgia squad during the 2020 Future Games, Peete’s talent stands out, but that’s all that he allows to let differentiate him from others.
“Me and my family usually talk about just doing our own thing,” Peete said. “But when we’re on the field … (I try and) smile every time, always have fun. I pick up my teammates.”
After striking out to open Friday’s game, Peete led off the third inning and made weak contact that dribbled toward past the Pace pitcher and toward the shortstop, who fielded the ball, but not as time as Peete showed off his speed in legging out an infield single.
He proved the spark plug, tying the game three batters later when Connor Boswell dropped a single in front of the center fielder.
That speed couldn’t bail Peete out as he grounded out to Vanderbilt-bound shortstop R.J. Austin in the fifth, but it played to his favor in Peete’s final at-bat when he led off the seventh with a sharp grounder headed between first and second base. Pace’s first baseman Michael Lynch made a play on the ball and as he flipped it to pitcher Noah Bennett, he dropped it as Peete was on board again.
On the young season, he’s now batting .444 with five RBI and four walks and carries a .615 on-base percentage.
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While he’s solidified himself among his class’ top third basemen, Peete says college coaches have suggested he work on his opposite-field hitting and he’s making a point to development as a pitcher. He’s already been clocked at 90-91 mph and that could him into a potential two-way option as he considers his place at the next level.
“He’s probably a big-league third baseman,” Austin said. “The arm talent’s good on the mound, if he ends up being 94-97, he’ll probably be a pitcher. He was 14, just turned 15. The kid’s got anything he wants to do in front of him. It’s kind of a unique thing: left-handed juice, 90-91 on the mound, plays third base, 6-foot-3. Pretty good-looking future there.”
Just a handful of games into his sophomore season, Peete has plenty of room to grow, in his game and physically. That’s a combination that makes for enticing possibilities for a player that in Georgia, trails only Mount Paran’s Cam Collier among all 2023 third basemen.
“I don’t think he’s even started to scratch the surface of his physicality,” said PBR Georgia scouting director Phil Kerber. “You look at him out there he looks like a baby deer and he is almost a year younger than everybody in his class, so physically he’s still got a lot more to add on to that frame. Given his present abilities and what you project that to look like, he’s going to have a power left-handed swing, a power arm on the mound.”
Overall among Georgia sophomores, Peete is one of the few who have yet to commit to a school, with Brookwood’s Dylan Lonergan (second), Houston County’s Drew Burress (eighth) and Blessed Trinity’s Justice Hayes the only other players in the top 10 without a program having earned their verbal commitment.
Peete is well aware of the rush to change that. On his Instagram account, his bio says “Committed to the University of….‼️‼️”
“I get that asked all the time,” Peete says, laughing at being asked whether he’s trolling anyone with that maneuver. “So … just have people waiting. It would be great to play with R.J. It would be cool to play with (teammate) Jayce (Blalock, a Georgia Tech commit).”
Peete says he does have a top five, but has yet to publicly disclose that.
“I usually just keep that together with me and my family, until we really narrow that down,” he said.
The kid that everyone knows is keeping everyone guessing.