Perfect Game Player of the Year
Stewart, a 6-foot2, 195-pound 2022 middle-infielder from Miami and Lesko, a 6-foot-2, 170-pound 2022 right-hander from Buford, Ga., were named the Player of the Year and the Pitcher of the Year, respectively, at the Perfect Game Select Baseball Festival Awards Banquet Saturday night. The banquet was held at the Hyatt Regency Coconut Point Resort & Spa in Bonita Springs.
During one three-tournament stretch this summer, Stewart went 30-for-52 (.577) with14 doubles, a home run and 24 RBI. He was named the Most Valuable Player at the PG 14u WWBA Southeast Championship after going 14-for-19 (.789) with seven doubles, a home run and 12 RBI; his OPS at the event was an other-worldly 2.116.
“I felt like I could hit anyone; I was in a groove,” Stewart told PG Sunday morning from the playing field at jetBlue Park shortly after team photo sessions. “I put in a lot of hard work and a lot of hours so Ii just let it be. I let the pitcher come to me and I just tried peppering up the middle; I was lucky it worked out.”
Stewart, a freshman at Westminster Christian High School, has already performed at 18 PG events. Playing primarily with US Elite Baseball and Elite Squad Baseball, he’s already been named to eight PG all-tournament teams with three full summers and falls still ahead of him.
“I’ve always been taught that when the lights are on that’s when you’ve got to play your best,” Stewart said. “When the pressure is on I just like playing and I just like being there, and if it happens it happens. If it doesn’t, but it’s all right because at least you were in the game and you’re having fun.”
Lesko, a freshman at Buford (Ga.) High School, also enjoyed a torrid three-tournament stretch his summer in which he pitched 22 1/3 innings over eight appearances and allowed only one earned run (0.36 ERA) on five hits with 35 strikeouts.
He was named the Most Valuable Pitcher at the PG 14u BCS National Championship after pitching nine innings over three appearances without giving up a hit or a run while striking out 14; he struck-out 16 in 8 1/3 innings at the PG 14u WWBA National Championship.
Lesko compared his 13u summer in 2017 when the batters he faced were using the hitter-friendly Drop 5 bats to this summer when the batters were using harder bats and he felt like he was able to control the zone more.
“As the year went on, I got a better feel for the zone and I just learned the weaknesses of most hitters because it’s a long summer and you play the same teams over and over,” he said. “I just feel like that’s what helped me throughout the year.”
Lesko, who plays with the East Cobb Astros organization, has already been at 24 PG events and has earned 16 all-tournament nods; he has been a part of seven PG tournament championships teams.
“All the coaches at East Cobb, they’re always there to help you,” Lesko said. “They’re always there to help you … they push you, they give you the best information you can get to work on any aspect (of the game).”
Not surprisingly, perhaps, Stewart and Lesko each earned Top Prospect List recognition at the 14u PG National Showcase in early August. It’s an event that almost all of the prospects at this weekend’s PG Select Festival also attended.
“I had a great experience and I learned from the other players,” Stewart said. “I always learn from my peers. I take a little bit from everyone and apply it to my own game; I had a great time and I learned a lot.”
Added Lesko: “Playing against better competition, I think it pushes me just as good if not better than most of (the other players). You don’t want to look bad; you want to show them what you’ve got, compete and be better than them.”
Several other Select Fest participants were also recognized for their efforts both on and off the field at Saturday night’s Awards Banquet.
The evening kicked-off with the announcement that this year’s 44 Select Festival participants raised right around $33,000 for Golisano Children’s Hospital, the event’s beneficiary for the third straight year.
Cole Young (2022, Wexford, Pa.) from Team Erickson was the top overall fund-raiser, having collected just over $3,000 in donations. Aeden Finateri (2021, Watertown, Conn.) led the Team Gordon contingent by collecting just over $1,700.
Andruw Jones received the DiamondKast Offensive Player of the Year Award; Termarr Johnson (2022, Atlanta, Ga.) was the recipient of the Rawlings Defensive Player of the Year Award; and Ryan Clifford (2022, Raleigh, N.C.) earned the G-Form Unstoppable Player of the Year Award.
All 44 players left the banquet and started preparing for Sunday night’s nationally televised PG Select Baseball Festival all-star game knowing that they have now taken a first giant step on what promises to be a long journey.
“I feel like now I’ve set a standard and now I just have to keep working hard and making sure I don’t let up,” Stewart said, perhaps speaking for the whole group. “Hopefully I’ll make it when I’m 18 (years old) and will beat at Petco Park (for the PG All-American Classic). I just need to keep working hard, keep enjoying it and having fun.”