Rising Unionville (PA) High School senior Peter Hissey, who gave a full commitment to play baseball at the University of Virginia earlier in the summer, recently participated in the USA International Baseball Invitational at Joe Becker Stadium in Joplin, Missouri. Hissey, one of a handful of players selected to play for the Premier All-Stars – a team consisting of nationally-renowned players from 13 different states – finished the week 6-for-13 (.461), adding five runs scored and two RBIs in four games. Batting second in the lineup, he was one of the few offensive bright spots for a club that struggled to score runs against several of the elite amateur pitchers from across the globe.
In the four team tournament – which also included the Canadian National Team, the Chinese National team and Team USA – the Premier All-Stars finished the week with a 1-3 record. The team's only victory came in dominant fashion, as they thumped Canada in a slugfest. Losses to China (two) and the United States, however, cast a small negative light on the experience. Regardless of the disappointing record, Hissey and his teammates still held their own against the world's best youth competition while showcasing their abilities in front of hundreds of agents and scouts.
In Premier's 12-3 win over Canada, Hissey led the offense with two hits and two runs scored. The night before, in a 3-0 loss to Team USA, the speedy 17-year-old managed to break up a combined no-hitter with a nifty drag bunt down the left field line. In the loss, a trio of Team USA pitchers – Nick Maronde, Tim Melville and Ryan Weber – combined for a complete game, one-hit shutout and 20 punchouts. Weber, considered one of the best right-handed pitchers in the high school draft class of '08, toyed with Premier hitters, striking out six of nine batters. Showing off a devastating slider and big-league caliber command, the rising senior out of Clearwater Central Catholic High School in Clearwater, FL, was absolutely dominant.
"Weber was nasty," Hissey said. "He's probably the best pitcher who I have ever faced in my entire life."
The Premier All-Star pitching staff – led by Shawn Armstrong, who committed to East Carolina, and UCLA recruit Tyler Chatwood – was nearly as impressive throughout the weekend. A few defensive lapses in key situations and a failure to get that timely-hit with runners in scoring position, however, led to the losses against China, which were each winnable games, Hissey says.
"I wish our record would've been a little bit better during the tournament, but it was an honor just to be there," said Hissey after the Premier All-Stars' loss to China on Sunday. "We had excellent pitching and an amazing amount of talent offensively. Playing against and with some of the best players in the world, from three different countries, at this venue – in front of so many scouts – was quite a thrill. I'm truly blessed to have had the opportunity to come to Joplin."
After a strong season for Unionville High in the spring, Hissey gained national exposure while playing for the All-Star Baseball Academy Elite Team. All-Star Baseball Academy Elite, made up of the top players in the Greater Philadelphia area, participated in numerous prestigious showcases and tournaments – including a 4-2 showing at the Perfect Game USA/World Wood Bat Championship in Marietta, Georgia in July. Throughout the summer, the left-handed first baseman and outfielder blossomed as a prospect in front of many professional scouts and college recruiting coordinators. His strong performance on the field in the early-summer led to numerous phone calls from Division I schools on July 1 – the first day that college coaches can contact rising seniors via telephone. Thus, an invitation to play for the Premier All-Stars in August soon followed.
Hissey also dazzled scouts with his showing at the Carpenter Cup, an annual tournament consisting of teams made up of the very best players from Delaware, New Jersey and Pennsylvania, in June. With a .500 batting average for the week and several outstanding plays in center field – including an assist in the ninth inning of the tournament finals, which forced the game to go into extra innings – he helped guide his team to the 2007 Carpenter Cup Championship.
"That was the highlight of my baseball career so far," Hissey said. "Throwing out a runner at the plate, who would've been the winning run, was an awesome feeling. I was on top of the world after that."
A three-year varsity starter already, Hissey ended his junior season with a .559 batting average, one home run (a grand slam) 24 RBIs and 20 stolen bases. As a sophomore, he batted .548 with one home run (also a grand slam) while chipping in 15 RBIs. Still, though, he wants more out of his final prep season.
"Sure, my biggest goal next season is to help guide my team to a strong showing at the Pennsylvania State Tournament. It would be nice to compete for a championship and then carry the winning over to Virginia. I have four goals for next year: to be selected in June's draft, increase my weight up to 200 pounds by constantly lifting weights (he currently weighs 180), improve my arm strength and win a state championship."
Hissey is also an excellent student, sitting among the top of his graduating class at Unionville with a 4.4 cumulative GPA while earning a 1940 on his SATs. His tremendous work ethic, which translates from the baseball field to the classroom, is one of his biggest strengths as a student-athlete. And academics, one of the main factors that led to his decision to sign with Virginia, are extremely important to Hissey.
"The combination to play baseball in the ACC and get an education from one of the top schools in the entire county was something that I just couldn't pass up. It was my dream school, my first choice, and I can't wait to head down to Charlottesville to start my journey. I would love to play baseball professionally one day, but regardless of what happens, I know that I have the opportunity to be successful regardless of what I end up doing in life. With an education from UVA, the sky's the limit for me. I am strongly committed to achieving success academically and athletically during my time as a Cavalier. "
Perhaps just as impressive, Hissey is also one of the top shooting guards in the Philadelphia area. According to one talent evaluator, he could play guard for a "smaller, Mid-major" Division 1 college basketball program if he wanted to pursue that avenue.
However, there is only one sport that does it for Hissey, who comes from a tremendous baseball background; his father was a starting catcher at the College of William and Mary in the late-'70s. In addition, his older brother David, a senior at Emory University in Atlanta, is currently one of the top Division III players in the country. David, the oldest of four Hissey brothers, helped lead the Eagles to a second-place showing at the Division III College World Series in Appleton, Wisconsin this spring, and Pete considers him to be the biggest role model in his baseball career.
"I try to emulate the way that David plays. To scouts, until I can increase my gap-to-gap power, I profile as a leadoff hitter right now. And David is the prototypical leadoff hitter. He gets on base, steals bases and just makes things happen for Emory. He's always in the thick of things. I even considered Emory as a potential school, because of the great experience that Dave's had there. He's also got a great work ethic, which gives me something to emulate. David has helped me improve a lot as a baseball player and as a person."
Hissey was contacted by over 35 schools over the past year, and was recruited heavily by several top academic institutions and baseball programs – including, among others, Boston College, where he was offered a scholarship, Coastal Carolina University, Elon, the University of Louisville, Old Dominion, Penn State University, the University of Pennsylvania, the College of William and Mary and Winthrop.
According to Hissey, though, it was Virginia's first-class coaching staff that separated the budding ACC power from other schools.
"Coach O'Connor (Brian, the Cavaliers' young Head Coach), is a great guy who made me feel comfortable about my decision. You can tell that he not only recruits good baseball players, but good people as well. He was genuine, knowledgeable of the game, and has taken so many players to the next level, like Sean Doolittle (41st overall selection in June's draft) and Ryan Zimmerman (the starting third baseman for the Washington Nationals). But more importantly, he honestly cares about his players as people, not just as athletes."
Hissey's stellar offensive performance in Joplin appears to be having immediate benefits. On Monday, August 20, a day after the Invitational ended, he received a call from Matt Hyde, a senior scout for the New York Yankees. Hyde observed Hissey play in Missouri, and was impressed enough with his skill set to grant him a personal invitation for a private workout at Yankee Stadium on Wednesday.
"It's amazing," he said, speaking of the invitation for a private workout in the Bronx. "I got to play at Citizens Bank Park (the home of the Philadelphia Phillies) for the Carpenter Cup. It was amazing playing where the Phillies, my favorite team growing up as a kid, play. But to play at Yankee Stadium and roam the outfield where Joe DiMaggio and Mickey Mantle used to call home, it's unbeatable. I'm pumped."
Before the summer began, Hissey's name was commonly mentioned in any discussion about the best high school baseball players in the state of Pennsylvania in the class of 2008. Yet he continues to move up the radar as a high-level national prospect with every showcase and tournament that he attends. Already possessing several valuable tools – including the ability to consistently hit for a high batting average against top-level pitching, excellent speed (6.5 60-yard dash time) a great baseball mind, natural baseball instincts, outstanding range in the outfield and an unwavering work ethic – he should only continue to impress. If he can add weight to his constantly growing frame and improve his arm strength, look out. Expect for Hissey to have an excellent collegiate career with the Cavaliers – if not a professional organization out of high school.