Borchering among top draft prospects

Bobby Borchering's baseball training can be a tad unconventional.

Stop by his house and you might find him
hitting an axe against a tree, pounding concrete blocks with a sledgehammer or climbing a rope. There was also the time he ran down the street pulling a bike with his father on it.

Yeah, that one drew a few curious looks.

Borchering even designed a baseball-based experiment for a school science project. After
setting up strobe lights in a room in his house, he cut off all the lights aside from the flickering strobes and proceeded to hit Wiffle Balls. The goal was to be able to anticipate the paths of
curveballs, even if he couldn't see them.

"I kind of like being a little different," says Borchering. "I have this unique thing that
separates me."

Odd as they may seem, Borchering's drills are clearly working. The 6-foot-4, 200-pound
switch-hitting third baseman from Bishop Verot (Fort Myers, Fla.) has signed with Florida and is a potential early-round pick in June's MLB Draft.

Why does Borchering go to such lengths to achieve success when he could just take cuts in a batting cage and lift weights like most players? It comes down to two things: He's looking for any edge he can get, and he loves the game too much to ever think he's good enough.

"It's my life," says Borchering. "It's everything. I just love it so much."

His parents, Barry and Linda, have been there every step of the way to make sure he has
everything he needs to be successful in the sport. When Borchering was 8, his parents built a Little League-sized baseball field in the backyard,
complete with bleachers in the outfield. And they've been there as he's hopscotched the
country to play in tournaments and events.

"Baseball is just a part of our life," Barry says. "We've always had a passion for the game and we think it's the best game that's ever been invented. And he enjoys it, and we try to support him any way we can."

Along with his love for the game, Borchering also possesses an all-around package of skills matched by few players his age. He can hit for power and average, can go to the opposite field and works the count like Kevin Youkilis.

What puts Borchering a cut above is he can do all of it from either side of the plate, which is why he's been compared to switch-hitting Atlanta Braves All-Star third baseman Chipper Jones.

It isn't a skill Borchering developed in high school; at age 2, he was hitting Wiffle Balls his dad hung from the ceiling both lefty and righty. By the time he got to Bishop Verot, it was second nature.

"Bobby is not just proficient from both sides of the plate -- he's prolific," says Bishop Verot head coach Tom LoSauro.

"As you get older, the switch-hitting helps more and more," adds Borchering, who played in the Under Armour All-America Game last summer at Wrigley Field. "You can pick up the curveball better because it breaks right into my bat."

Borchering likes to have a little fun with teams that don't know he can hit from both sides. If he batted lefty in his previous at-bats and it's a key situation in the game, the unsuspecting team plays the percentages and brings in a left-handed reliever. While the pitcher is warming up,
Borchering switches to the right side.

"It's kind of funny to see the looks on their faces," says Borchering.
Before becoming one of the nation's top
players, Borchering got off to a slow start at
Bishop Verot as he adjusted to a growth spurt that occurred the summer heading into his freshman year. He batted .266 with a homer and 11 RBIs his first season with the Vikings but returned the
following year to tear the cover off the ball.

As a sophomore, Borchering hit .427 with 11 doubles, five homers and 33 RBIs while the Vikings went 16-13 and lost to eventual state champion Clearwater Central Catholic in the Class 3A
regional quarterfinals.

Last year, he earned All-State honorable
mention honors after hitting .463 with 15 doubles, six homers and 30 RBIs, and he had more walks (16) than strikeouts (nine). Borchering, who's also a right-handed pitcher for Bishop Verot, went 4-5 on the bump with a 3.71 ERA and 57 K's in 45.1 innings. The Vikings advanced to the Class 3A regional semifinals, where they once again fell to Clearwater Central Catholic.

Borchering was dominant during one particular stretch last year when Bishop Verot needed him most. Heading into the Sarasota Classic, the Vikings already had 10 losses and were desperate for momentum. Borchering provided it by going
9-for-14 with three homers and 10 RBIs and tossing a complete-game victory over Braddock as the
Vikings notched three wins in four games.

Borchering is hoping for an even more
dominant performance this season, which is why he continues to practice his swing -- whether with a bat, an axe or a sledgehammer.

"We have a slogan here that good things come to those who work hard, and Bobby is living proof of that," says LoSauro.

Even if his methods are a little unusual.

Jon Mahoney covers high school sports for ESPN RISE Magazine.