By Terry Cregar
GREENVILLE — At 6-foot, 3-inches tall, Nick Mershon seems to be a natural for the basketball court. But, it’s the baseball diamond where the rising St. Joseph’s High School senior excels, and a growing list of top-notch universities and some Major League Baseball scouts are watching.
Last month the Boston Red Sox invited Mershon to major league tryout camp in New Jersey. The 17-year-old shortstop was among 60 top prospects from east of the Mississippi River invited back to try out for the final 20-player team that will compete in a weekend baseball tournament later this summer in California.
In addition, the Arizona Diamondbacks have invited Mershon to the East Coast Pro Showcase to be held July 30 through Aug. 4 in Wilmington, N.C., to be evaluated by scouts from major league teams.
“It’ll be tough,” Mershon said of the June 24 camp. “They’re all good. Hopefully, we’ll make the team and be playing in August.”
Mershon has been playing baseball for as long as he can remember. His father, Brian, played minor league baseball for a year in the Cincinnati Reds organization in Sarasota, Fla., during the late 1980s. Mershon helped coach his son’s team from the time Nick first entered recreational ball at age 6, until he entered middle school.
Nick said he models his game after another shortstop, Cal Ripken Jr., now retired from the Baltimore Orioles.
“He came out every day and got the job done,” Mershon said.
Mershon also plays forward on the school’s basketball team. It’s a sport he uses to keep in shape for baseball.
The Mershon family moved to Greenville from the Chicago suburbs in 1994. Mershon enrolled at St. Joseph’s in his sophomore year after having been home-schooled.
Because South Carolina doesn’t have home-school athletic leagues at the high school level, Nick spent his freshman year playing summer American Legion ball.
St. Joseph’s was a better fit. The Mershons are members of St. Mary Parish in Greenville, and Nick said his Catholic faith plays a central role in his on-the-field performance. He will occasionally be called on to pitch for the team, and before the start of those games he draws a cross in the dirt on the back of the pitcher’s mound and says a short prayer.
“I draw a cross, say a prayer and throw as hard as I can,” he said.
His coach, Steve Grant, said Mershon has “a cannon for an arm,” speed on the bases and a desire to improve.
“He works very, very hard,” Grant said. “That’s to his credit.”
The team, in only its third season, won 18 games this year and made it to the lower state championship where they lost to the team that eventually won the state championship.
“That was an accomplishment,” Grant said.
He has received letters and inquiries about Nick from several colleges and universities, including Notre Dame, Furman, Clemson, USC, Duke, Miami, Nebraska, Illinois, Purdue and Northwestern.
This summer’s exposure at the major league camps will only bring more interest, Grant said.
In fact, he added, there’s a good possibility that Nick will be drafted by a major league team after his senior year at St. Joseph’s, which means he’ll have to decide whether to take that offer or go to college.
It’s still early, but Mershon said Furman and Clemson are on his short list of schools, should he choose that route.