Globe South Sports

Road trip toughens Wiseman’s resume

Rhett Wiseman may have to choose between pro and college baseball. Rhett Wiseman may have to choose between pro and college baseball.
By Jake Seiner
Globe Correspondent / August 7, 2011

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Rhett Wiseman knows a thing or two about being tough.

It’s not that the 17-year-old comes from impoverished beginnings. He doesn’t. His father, Michael Wiseman, saw to that with a successful career as a biohazard specialist. And it’s not that he’s been cursed with a string of horrendous luck. Nothing like that.

Rhett Wiseman knows about mental toughness through baseball, though it may be an odd notion that Wiseman would need exorbitant mental fortitude to reach the lofty aspirations he has for his baseball career.

The Buckingham, Browne, and Nichols center fielder has had a spot on the Vanderbilt University baseball team waiting for him since he was a sophomore. The Marshfield native is also a potential first-round pick in the 2012 Major League Baseball first-year player draft, meaning millions of dollars may sway him away from Vanderbilt’s Nashville campus before he arrives.

The promise of that future is a good starting point for his motivation. Wiseman also knows it’s often not enough. He’s seen it first hand, as players just as talented as he is crumbled under the demands of a grueling summer schedule of showcase tournaments - Wiseman estimates his itinerary will take him through 15 cities to play about 50 games by summer’s end.

“Everyone on the road has about the same talent, for the most part,’’ Wiseman said. “You get to a certain level where everyone’s really talented, but what separates guys is their mental approach.

“You find out which guys are mentally strong. On the road, it’s really easy to give up and give in if you have a bad game. Two or three bad games in a row, and some guys will be out the rest of the summer. Suddenly two or three bad games turn into 20 bad games in a row.’’

Wiseman is a part of a rare group of young athletes selected by baseball scouts who make a judgment on which players merit their attention.

“Once you’re on that radar, you’re there,’’ Michael Wiseman said.

Wiseman’s parents suspected Rhett had the talent to play among an illustrious crowd. His parents have helped college and professional scouts see him play since before he reached high school.

At 13, Wiseman represented the United States in an international tournament in the Dominican Republic, and he has traveled every summer since to play ball. This summer, Wiseman has slept in his own bed four times, and been on the road every other night.

In the last two weeks, he’s played a showcase tournament in Flemington, N.J., worked out for pro scouts at Campanelli Stadium in Brockton, played another showcase in Lakeland, Fla., and left for the Area Code Games in Long Beach, Calif.

He’ll finish at that tournament Wednesday, then drive to San Diego to represent the East Coast in the Perfect Game All American Classic at Petco Park, home of the San Diego Padres.

The 22-day trip is the last for Wiseman this summer. It caps a gantlet of workouts with professional scouts, practices with professional coaches, and games against the best high school competition in the United States.

“It’s been just incredible,’’ Wiseman said. “This is the first time I’ve been on the road like this. I haven’t been home much, but I’ve been taking advantage of this every day.

“It’s absolutely wild. You don’t really get to experience or see the players on the other side of the country when you’re in high school. When you get down to Florida or California, you see different types of players from around the country. It’s eye-opening. You get to see how good you really are.’’

The industry has also gotten to see how good he is. Baseball America recently described Wiseman’s tools as flashing first-round ability - namely his lightning-quick bat and foot speed. The left-handed hitting Wiseman batted .447 with 11 home runs and 29 stolen bases for BB&N in the spring, and his time of 6.59 seconds in the 60-yard dash make him an elite runner.

In winter, Wiseman works with former Boston Red Sox minor-leaguer Paul Rappoli on his swing at the RBI Academy in Foxborough. It’s not uncommon for Rappoli’s former teammate - an ESPN analyst named Nomar Garciaparra - to show up and work out with Wiseman.

This summer Wiseman has been exposed to more professional coaches than he can count, and his game has benefited. He spent time practicing with the Cape Cod League’s Cotuit Cavaliers, working alongside friend and current Vanderbilt player Mike Yastrzemski - grandson of Red Sox Hall of Famer Carl Yastrzemski.

The summer adventure has come at a price, though. Wiseman hasn’t seen his friends from home in months. He’s been apart from his mother, Stephanie Kemp, and 12-year-old sister, Cierra Wiseman, nearly all summer.

It’s a tall task for Wiseman to perform day in and day out under the eyes of scouts who will determine his future. Wiseman said he’s lucky to have his parents’ support, particularly having his dad on the road with him. He’s seen players who haven’t been so fortunate. He’s seen the effect that can have.

“You have to be mentally strong to go on and get after it,’’ Wiseman said. “Guys who don’t do that, who don’t play as well out on the road, those are the guys who don’t live up to their potential. It’s a mental thing. The mentally strong guys, those are the guys who can play well no matter where they are.’’