The Derr family headed from Tallahassee, Fla., for the airport in Orlando on Friday evening with 15-year-old Nick Derr asleep in the back seat.
The Geneva freshman had good reason to be conked.
A couple months before he’s due to play in his first high school baseball game, Derr on Friday gave a verbal commitment to play college baseball for national powerhouse Florida State. The verbal came on the heels of a two-day, comprehensive tour of the program and the university.
Derr attended a camp at Florida State in December and the mutual interest heated up so quickly that Friday’s pledge was almost unneeded, according to Nick’s father, Brian Derr, who said the family was “honored and very appreciative” of the unusual gesture of the Seminoles extending a scholarship offer to a high school freshman.
“I think it was a given that he was going to go to Florida State,” Brian Derr said. “It was an assumption there because he’s had many conversations with them. I think this was a culmination of shaking their hand, Nick officially shook their hand today, and it was official.”
Derr gives Geneva baseball a third player bound for a warm-weather, Division I baseball program, though senior pitchers Andy Honiotes (Miami) and Jordan Touro (South Alabama) will be wrapping up their Vikings career just as Derr, projected as a shortstop, is revving up this spring.
Here’s how you know Derr is an extraordinary athlete – he started at quarterback for the Vikings football team as a freshman, despite baseball clearly being his best sport. Derr was the Geneva football team’s QB most of the season after Daniel Santacaterina suffered a broken clavicle in the third game of the season against Batavia.
Derr played travel baseball last summer with 15U Elite Baseball Training Academy. He and St. Charles North sophomore pitcher Cory Wright, travel teammates and close friends, were both named to the all-tournament team at the prestigious Perfect Game 15U Baseball National Championships in July.
“He’s a special hitter,” Phil Wright, Cory’s dad and an assistant coach on the 15U Elite team, said of Derr. “It’s very exciting. It’s a lot to live up to. The poor kid now, as soon as he makes one out, people will be like ‘He’s not that good.’ I said, ‘He better be prepared, the whole world is coming at you now, get ready to deal with it.’ But I think football probably prepared him mentally for some of that.”
The Seminoles are led by 34-year coaching veteran Mike Martin, who has more than 1,700 career victories and 15 trips to the College World Series to his name. Brian Derr said the family is not worried about the venerable coach’s longevity, especially since his son, Mike Martin, Jr., is on his dad’s coaching staff.
The 5-foot-11, 162-pound Derr already has demonstrated great pop in his bat, and only now is reaching the age where he can do weight training. Brian Derr said his son plans to continue playing football for Geneva in addition to baseball.
Wright compared Derr’s scenario to former East Aurora basketball phenom Ryan Boatright – now at UConn – who made an early, high-profile college commitment and gradually lived up to the billing. Wright said he knew Derr was something special “ever since he was 8.”
“He’s going to hit with anybody in the country right now at his age, for sure,” Wright said. “It’s a great story. He’s worked very hard at it.”
Girls basketball pairings released: The IHSA released pairings Friday for the girls basketball postseason and, from a Tri-Cities perspective, much of the early action with come at the 4A St. Charles East Regional.
Batavia, Geneva and St. Charles East are all slotted in the 4A St. Charles East Regional, where the Vikings and Bulldogs are the regional’s favorites by seeding.
In the 21-team Bartlett Sectional, Geneva is seeded fourth, Batavia fifth and East 11th.
Considering how well East has played much of the season, you can argue that the Saints were under-seeded. East and Geneva, after all, went to overtime in both of their meetings, with each team winning once. The Saints, though, have struggled against some of the tougher teams they’ve played since Paige Jordan left the team, and that seems to be reflected in the seedings.
East must survive a Feb. 11 first-round game against Lake Park to advance to what would be a regional semifinal the next night against Batavia. The winner of that game likely would face Geneva in the regional final Feb. 14.
So odds are, it’ll be Batavia-Geneva or East-Geneva fighting for a regional championship Feb. 14. Either way, it’d be a Valentine’s Day matchup to love for local girls hoops fans.
• Jay Schwab is sports editor of the Kane County Chronicle. He can be reached at 630-845-5382 or firstname.lastname@example.org.