Lex Kaplan is spending his summer vacation like most Americans. He’s taking in some sights, getting plenty of sun and riding on the open road. Except he’s doing it with eye black on his face, a bat in his hand and his traveling buddies aren’t his family, they’re his teammates.
Kaplan, a soon-to-be senior at Ladue, is spending his summer playing with the Bayside Yankees, an elite baseball program based in New York. The 6-foot-2, 180- pound Kaplan will be with that team, if all goes well, from June 4 through Aug. 10. He will, literally, spend his entire summer playing baseball across the country. When reached last week, Kaplan’s team was wrapping up a two-week road trip that started in Delaware and wound its way into Tennessee. He was hoping he could make it back to his coach’s house in Queens to do laundry before he ran out of clothes. That’s where Kaplan is living this summer. He and two of his Yankees teammates are shacked up with their coach in Queens.
“It’s so much different,” Kaplan says. “I love living in Ladue a lot more.”
Not that they’re at home all that often. The team practices every day at 8:30 a.m. whether it has games or not. And the day there isn’t at least one game scheduled is rare.
“We play every day,” the 18-year-old says. “We’re either playing games or we’re on the bus.”
Ah, yes, the bus. The Bayside Yankees have done most of their road trips this summer on the bus. They will fly to Springfield, Mo., later this month and to the Connie Mack World Series in New Mexico in August, if they qualify. Otherwise it’s a road warrior’s life for Kaplan. Which, it turns out, is rather droll. Earlier this summer, the team rolled from New York down to Georgia. It was 11 hours on the road. Kaplan caught Z’s the whole way.
Kaplan was able to play for this elite team because his brother knew one of the coaches from their playing days together at Tulane University. Kaplan got a tryout and was asked to join them this summer. A standout centerfield for Ladue, the left-handed Kaplan recently was named to the All-Metro First Team after hitting .488 with six doubles, seven triples, eight homers, 39 runs scored, 39 runs batted in, 14 stolen bases and drawing 12 walks.
Ladue coach Rob Garrett says that Kaplan didn’t come by those kinds of numbers by chance. He’s the type of kid whose work ethic knows no bounds.
“If he has a bad day, he’s the guy who’ll go home and practice,” Garrett says. “He’d pull out flashlights and keep going in the dark. That’s the kind of work ethic he has.”
Kaplan’s days are often far from bad, which was one of the reasons the University of Miami offered him a scholarship to play baseball. The Hurricanes are a baseball powerhouse that routinely has players taken in the Major League Baseball draft.
Kaplan still has to pinch himself when he thinks there’s a roster spot at Miami with his name on it.
“I never thought I’d get to go to Miami,” he says. “I thought, No way, when they emailed me.”
The day the coaching staff came to watch Kaplan play a club game was “the most stressful day of my life.” He didn’t disappoint, however. A leadoff hitter for his club team, he displayed the pu-pu platter of talents he possesses to seal the deal. With his college choice behind him, Kaplan says he can enjoy his senior year without the burden of wondering where his future will take him.
“Now I can just go play,” he says.