By Joseph Staszewski
Quentin Holmes is accustomed to going fast, but even he had no clue just how quickly the most important sprint of his career was going.
The Monsignor McClancy junior baseball star ran the 60-yard dash in 7.05 seconds at a Perfect Game showcase the summer before his freshman season. The average number stood on his profile page until last June at a similar event. Holmes blew that time away with a 6.39. It is a mark he believes may not even be the best he can do and one that is in the range of some of the top speeders in Major League baseball.
“I finally broke out of that 7.05 and I didn’t even think I could run a 6.39,” Holmes said. “It didn’t feel like I ran it either. I felt like I was running slower than that.”
As his time went down, his recruitment went up. Holmes, also a CHSAA city champion with an 11.02 in the 100 meters dash, began to see more schools from outside the Northeast take interest.
Mississippi State was the first major program from down South to do so and Holmes felt comfortable right from his first phone call with recruiting coordinator Greg Drye.
“When he was talking to me he sounded very enthusiastic,” Holmes said. “It sounded like he was smiling and I felt like they really wanted me there.”
Regular phones calls with Mississippi State assistant coach Nick Mingione and the center fielder’s visit to Starkville in late August made the feeling mutual. Holmes, who plays for the New York Steelheads travel program, verbally committed to the Bulldogs last week. The first-class nature of Mississippi State’s program provided him with the best tools to grow as a player and the best atmosphere to compete in while playing in the SEC.
“They showed me the technology they have to help out their hitters,” Holmes said. “They can see other pitchers they are probably going to face and they can visualize their swing and slow it down and compare it to other major leaguers’ swings.”
The Bulldogs are getting more than just a runner in Holmes, who just turned 16 in July, but one of the city’s best all-around players. He hit .350 with four home runs and 18 stolen bases last season to help the Crusaders reach the CHSAA Intersectional semifinals.
McClancy coach Nick Melito said Holmes has just scratched the surface of his abilities. He has always been a mentally mature player but now his body is following suit with age. Holmes could move from the leadoff spot to third with his power expected to blossom.
Still it is his speed that makes him a game-changing player on both sides of the ball. Holmes can beat out bunts, turn singles into doubles with a stolen base or score from first if need be. Just the thought of him running can affect an opposing team’s mind set.
“When he gets on the whole focus of the pitcher shifts to him,” Melito said. “Whoever is hitting behind him is going to get 90 to 95 percent fastballs to hit. Whether he goes or not the scenario changes for the pitchers.”
His range in center makes for the expectation that anything hit his way will be caught and allows the corner outfielders to shade to the lines. Holmes impacts the team with his attitude as well. It is especially important for a kid Melito said has a chance to be the best all-around player to ever come out of the school.
“He’s a guy that carries the bats,” Melito said. “He doesn’t act like he is good with his teammates. He is just one of the guys and that is really important.”
The second Holmes takes off for first or for a ball in the gap he becomes special, however. For Holmes Mississippi State was the perfect place to do those things next. He couldn’t help but envision it.
“I walked on to the field and I saw the stadium with all the seats that are there,” Holmes said. “They are full all the time so there are a lot of fans cheering me on.”