Prep Baseball & Softball

This high school slugger has used his power to help sick children

Drake Westcott competing at the 11th annual PowerShowcase Home Run Derby in December at the Miami Marlins’ home stadium in Miami, Fla.
Drake Westcott competing at the 11th annual PowerShowcase Home Run Derby in December at the Miami Marlins’ home stadium in Miami, Fla.

Even on video, the ball sounds completely different leaving the bat of Edwardsville High freshman Drake Westcott.

A left-handed swinging power hitter, the 15-year-old Westcott stands 6-foot-3 and weighs 229 pounds. Playing for the 14-under Missouri Gators travel team last summer at a national championship game in Atlanta, Westcott hit a mammoth homer in a game that was broadcast on MLB.com.

“Oh, my God. That’s a bomb,” the announcer said on the video after watching Westcott attack a fastball and send it flying out of the park.

Westcott’s power hasn’t just been attracting college recruiters — he has one major Division I scholarship offers already, while Mississippi, Alabama, Indiana and Purdue have shown interest — but his home runs have also raised more than $5,000 for Cardinal Glennon Children’s Hospital.

He’s got an explosive bat, and it’s going to be a bat that plays well for average as well.

Edwardsville High baseball coach Tim Funkhouser on Drake Westcott

Westcott, who played for the St. Louis Pirates 15-under travel team last summer, was the lone Illinois representative at the 11th annual PowerShowcase Home Run Derby in late December. The event was held at Marlins Park, home of the major league Miami Marlins.

Part of the showcase invitation was finding a local charity and raising money for the organization through a “Homers for Help” initiative. With help from Edwardsville baseball coach Tim Funkhouser, Westcott put his efforts toward fundraising for “Isaac’s Ray of Hope” at SSM Health Cardinal Glennon Children’s Hospital in St. Louis.

Westcostt managed to raise $5,255 for the cause, later touring the hospital.

“You never really think about it until see what you have,” he said. “It made me appreciate everything I have and made me really grateful to give back.”

Competing with 27 players in his age group from around the U.S. and several other countries, including some already committed to Division I programs, Westcott advanced to the finals by hitting 16 home runs in the opening round.

Players got to keep hitting until making 20 “outs,” or balls that did not make it over the fence that was 375 feet to dead center and 310 feet down the foul lines.

Westcott was edged out 10-9 by a slugger from Texas, but left an impression.

“I really enjoyed it,” Westcott said. “It was pretty cool because I got to see how I stacked up against people from around the country and the world.”

Funkhouser was impressed by Westcott’s showcase showing, but marveled at the freshman’s fund-raising achievement.

“To get an invitation is a great accomplishment and the way he performed in it was a great achievement as well,” said Funkhouser. “That was a phenomenal part of it, he raised over $5,000 and made it a good life lesson as well as a fun experience, too.”

Westcott has also participated in several national-level showcases and events with Perfect Game USA, a company that scouts and helps provide exposure for some of the top players in the country.

“He’s bigger than your average freshman, and his bat plays well from that standpoint,” said Funkhouser. “I’ve seen him in open gyms and seen him take some swings and things like that. He’s got an explosive bat, and it’s going to be a bat that plays well for average as well.

“He’s got a passion for the game and he’s played against good competition his whole life, always playing up a bit or finding ways to challenge himself.”

Westcott had a growth spurt in junior high that helped push him to his current size, but he has some athletic DNA in his family as well.

“In fourth and fifth grade I was not super-tall, but then I started to grow a lot,” he said.

Westcott’s great uncle, Belleville Township High graduate Jay Westcott, played on the 1967 NIT championship Southern Illinois University Carbondale basketball team with future NBA star and Basketball Hall of Famer Walt Frazier. The team held its 50th reunion last weekend in Carbondale and Westcott’s uncle made the trip.

I really enjoyed it. It was pretty cool because I got to see how I stacked up against people from around the country and the world.

Drake Westcott on competing at the PowerShowcase Home Run Derby

Drake Westcott’s parents, Brad and Melissa Westcott, both grew up in the Belleville area and attended Belleville West. Brad Westcott played football and baseball and also wrestled for the Maroons.

The family moved from Belleville to the Edwardsville area in 2000.

Drake Westcott’s grandfather, Jim Westcott, served previously as the Belleville Police Department’s Chief of Detectives and reached the rank of police lieutenant.

“I played basketball when I was younger and soccer, too, but baseball’s always been my favorite,” Drake Westcott said. “It’s just something about the game, I like everything about it. There’s just something about baseball.”

While Westcott has attracted national attention, he still is making the adjustment to high school baseball at Edwardsville, one of the area’s top programs on an annual basis. Not many freshman see much varsity baseball time in the Southwestern Conference, but there are exceptions.

“He’ll have things to prove just like everybody else and I think he recognizes that,” Funkhouser said of Westcott, who plays first base and third base. “He’s got power. He hit a home run in seventh grade out of our JV field.”

Norm Sanders: 618-239-2454, @NormSanders

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