Coulter in All-America Game on Saturday

Union baseball star in Wrigley Field game, national TV

By Paul Valencia, Columbian high school sports reporter

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Clint Coulter is not a major league baseball player — yet, anyway — but he is getting a major-league feel for the game this summer.

Coulter, a senior-to-be at Union High School, will be on national television Saturday morning, playing in the 2011 Under Armour All-America Game at Wrigley Field in Chicago. First pitch is scheduled for 11:05 a.m. on the MLB Network (Comcast digital cable Channel 419).

“It’s a really nice city. I had never been here before,” said Coulter, via phone, Friday evening before he and the rest of the all-stars went to watch the Chicago White Sox host the Kansas City Royals. “It’s clean. It’s nice. Our hotel is right outside Lake Michigan. It’s pretty sweet.”

Pretty sweet could also describe his performances this summer with various teams, at prestigious events.

Coulter, a catcher, played locally this summer for the Vancouver Cardinals but also was a member of the Bobby Valentine All-American team, which traveled by bus from Connecticut, to Georgia, then to California on a 48-day odyssey — stopping at several colleges along the way to give prospective student-athletes a chance to see facilities at the bigger programs.

Coulter came home a few times, but he estimates he was with the team for 30 days total.

“I could probably count on my two hands how many times I slept in my own bed this summer,” Coulter said.

Last week, Coulter shined at the Area Code Games in Long Beach, Calif., an eight-team event featuring approximately 240 of the top players in the nation. He was voted MVP in two of the five games — all victories.

“That was awesome. Half the team, I already knew. I was playing with players I had already played with,” Coulter said. “We had chemistry.”

In the first game, he went 2 for 4 with a triple and a double and drove in two runs, earning the Nick Swisher American Muscle MVP.

Later in the week, he went 3 for 3 in a game and twice earned an extra base with his aggressive baserunning. Tournament organizers awarded him with the Dustin Pedroia “Muddy Chicken Award” for grittiest player of the game.

“I like to play on the edge of disaster every once in a while,” he told ESPN Rise.

From Long Beach, he hopped a flight to Chicago, where he and the rest of the Under Armour All-Americans have been treated like star athletes.

“We were fitted for so many things. I think about 10 shirts, pants, shorts, three bats. It’s just crazy,” Coulter said. “We have our own baseball cards. We had an autograph session.”

The players went to a Cubs game Wednesday night, then trained Thursday with Cal Ripken Jr. On Friday, it was another day of practice before going to the White Sox game.

Coulter said he was told he will be the designated hitter to start the All-American game, then move to catcher for the final four innings. He also learned he will be competing in the home run derby.

Saturday’s game in Chicago is just one of three major-league venues for Coulter as he wraps up his summer of baseball. He will return to the Northwest to compete in the Mariners Cup at Safeco Field, then fly to New York to participate in a similar event with the Yankees.

He does not anticipate much time off when he comes home to prepare for one more year of high school.

“When I get back, I’m going to get back in the weight room again,” said Coulter, listed at 6-3, 200 pounds. “I want to get stronger and faster.”

Whatever he has been doing has been working for him. Coulter said he is surprised at how well he has held up with this baseball-every-day stretch.

“I’ve been on the go, and it’s been great. I’ve been healthy,” Coulter said. “Usually, you’d think by now my arm would be tired. I don’t know if I’m in better shape, but my arm’s not tired. I’m throwing great. It’s been fun.”

After school starts, Coulter is planning to schedule his official visits at prospective colleges. He wants to sign in November. Next June, after his final baseball season with the Titans, he is expected to be selected in Major League Baseball’s first-year player draft. That is when he will have to decide between turning professional right away or attending college.

Officials from the Under Armour All-American Game said 88 of the 103 draft eligible players who competed in the game went on to be drafted. Coulter is one of 36 players to make it to this game from a pool of more than 400,000 high school baseball players.