Tullahoma (Tenn.) High pitching sensation Justus Sheffield conjured up a creative way to avoid a Tennessee high school athletic association rule that restricts players from participating in all-star competitions while classes are in session.
A Vanderbilt commit and likely top-round pick in next year's MLB draft, Sheffield avoided a Tennessee Secondary School Athletic Association provision that would have banned him from playing his final season for the Wildcats.
“It’s one big loophole that you can go through,” Tullahoma athletic director Jerry Mathis told The Tennesseean. “It’s really a rule we probably need to sit down and look at so that they’re permitted to play in it.”Sheffield learned of the method from future Commodores teammate Phil Pfeifer, who discovered the loophole as a Farragut (Tenn.) High rising senior in 2010, when former Science Hill (Johnson City, Tenn.) High star and current Toronto Blue Jays prospect Daniel Norris employed the strategy as a senior that summer, according to the report.
Norris avoided the same fate as former Smyrna (Tenn.) High and current Oakland Athletics right-hander Sonny Gray did in 2007. Likewise, Sheffield's older brother Jordan, who chose Vanderbilt over signing as a 13th-round draft choice of the Boston Red Sox, did not play in the 2012 Perfect Game All-American Classic as a result of the rule.
The younger Sheffield struck out two in a scoreless two-thirds of an inning in the East squad's losing effort in the 2013 edition of the all-star competition that invites roughly 50 of the nation's top prep baseball players to its annual event in San Diego each summer.
"I had a blast," Sheffield told the paper. "It was the greatest showcase I’ve ever been in. We got so much gear -- a new glove, cleats, a bat. I met players from all across the U.S."
For such a short outing, the real shame would have been Tullahoma losing Sheffield for his senior season, since he finished his junior year with a 10-2 record and a 1.28 ERA with 124 strikeouts in 71.1 innings, leading the Wildcats to a 35-10 season this past spring.
The TSSAA plans to address the issue in December, but Sheffield appears safe from any punishment by the state's prep athletics governing body. The scouts who follow him all spring might as well add another plus now in the intangibles column for creativity. - By Prep Rally