PORTLAND, Maine — Tre Fletcher gazes at the batting cage from his seat on the bleachers at the Deering High School practice field.
“No matter where I’ve been,” Fletcher says in a soft but serious tone, “baseball is something that I’ve always been doing. Baseball has been one thing keeping me steady in this process.”
The senior outfielder, who dabbles in pitching with a low-to-mid 90’s fastball, is considered one of the best baseball prospects ever to play in the Maine high school ranks. The 6-foot-2, 190-pounder is committed to play at Vanderbilt University, but he’s also a potential first-round pick in the Major League Baseball Amateur Draft, which is coming up June 3-5.
“Baseball is everything right now,” Fletcher said. “I love playing other sports. I love sports in general, but baseball is what I think will take me farthest in life.”
Baseball brings stability to Fletcher, who has encountered some challenges in his life.
He was born in Wilmington, Delaware, and moved to Maine with his parents and five siblings when he was 12. Fletcher later was in the custody of the Brady family before turning 18 in April, but remains close with his biological parents.
“He had a lot of opportunities to do some things that he needed some help to do,” said Erin Brady, his foster father, who declined to go into detail about Fletcher’s family dynamic. “We did our best to help make sure that he was able to do the things he needed to succeed both academically and athletically.”
Brady credited a host of people who helped Fletcher along the way, including Deering coach Josh Stowell and coaches at the Edge Academy, a baseball and softball training facility in Portland.
“I think it’s cool that a lot of people rallied around a kid that needed help, and here he is a few years later with a lot of opportunity,” Brady said. “There’s a lot of people in his development that have done it from the goodness of their hearts.”
Chicago Cubs Mental Skills Coach Bob Tewksbury, who served in a similar position with the Red Sox from 2004-2013, said having a support system truly complements a talent. He does not know Fletcher, but is an expert in sports psychology.
“Any sport that can give people opportunities to be a part of a group, to do something that they do well, to get positive feedback and have a kind of a care in front of you … having something positive to focus on to move forward is great for everybody,” said Tewksbury, a Concord, New Hampshire, native who pitched 13 years in the Major Leagues. “Baseball can certainly be one of those sports that meets that need.”
Tre Fletcher grooves through a 1-2-3 3rd inning with a pair of strikeouts, the final of Hunter Owen. pic.twitter.com/s7rTDh6hsc
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Fletcher was a multi-sport athlete, known for his windmill dunks on the basketball court and signature flat top hairstyle. As a freshman at Cheverus High School during the 2015-2016 school year, he contributed at a high level in four sports: Basketball, football, indoor track and baseball.
He spent the next 2 1/2 years at Trinity-Pawling School, a private boarding school in New York, where he reclassified to graduate in 2020.
“Freshman year I just got some varsity experience, wasn’t scouted too high or anything,” Fletcher said. “Sophomore year at Trinity, it was actually a faster paced game, better competition and I just got to hone my craft.”
He enrolled at Deering in February and registered as a senior, back to his original graduation class.
Deering has struggled to a 3-12 record this spring. But Fletcher sees benefits of playing at home.
“This year is just trying to play the best that I can with the situation I have right now,” he said. “I get walked a lot, I get pitched around a lot, but overall I’m glad to be back with some of my friends.”
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Stowell said dealing with the attention surrounding Fletcher has been a new experience for everyone at Deering.
“The biggest challenge for me has been staying on top of all the communication that’s involved with scouts leading up to the draft. It’s involved texts, phone calls and emails at all hours of the day. It’s been cumbersome for me but I wouldn’t trade it for anything.”
Perfect Game, a respected amateur baseball scouting service, ranked Fletcher as the country’s No. 1 overall prospect in the class of 2020 — had he stayed in that class. Jheremy Brown, Perfect Game’s national crosschecker, said Fletcher ranks 28th on its 2019 draft board.
“What Tre does on the field isn’t that common,” Brown said.
He couldn’t think of a player comparison.
“With nobody jumping [to mind] immediately, that kind of speaks to the talent he is,” Brown said. “Athletes like that don’t come around often. Everything is advanced and top of the charts.”
Fletcher likes being a known commodity.
“Not many people are famous athletes out of Maine, and I have the opportunity to become one, and if I do that would be pretty cool,” he said.
Jim Callis, senior writer for MLB.com’s MLB Pipeline, said the 18-year-old has the talent to go in the top two rounds of the draft. Fletcher is ranked 86th on MLB.com’s draft prospect list.
Just three Mainers have heard their names called in the first round of the MLB Draft and all played in the big leagues. In 1984, South Portland’s Bill Swift (University of Maine) went second overall. Orrs Island’s Mark Rogers (Mt. Ararat High of Topsham) went fifth overall in 2004. Deering’s Ryan Flaherty (Vanderbilt), was selected 41st as a 2008 supplemental round pick.
“Having a player of Tre’s caliber in our state and in the SMAA (Southwestern Maine Activities Association) can only be spun as a positive,” Stowell said. “His talent has turned heads and caused scouts from about 25 of the 30 MLB teams to travel to Maine and watch high school baseball. Hopefully his time here will lead to more opportunity for Maine high school players to eventually get a shot at pro ball.”
Signability is another aspect which can affect Fletcher’s draft spot. He has made a firm commitment to the Commodores, but could be selected high in the draft.
“He’s a real wildcard,” Callis said.
There also could be a decent chunk of money on the table. Any of the top 66 draftees is assigned a signing bonus of at least $1 million. That is enticing, but so is an opportunity to play at one of college baseball’s most storied programs.
“The fact is that if you’re getting offered that now, that opportunity may not be there in four years, but that comes with its own challenges of living up to the expectations of a high pick and moving through the system with those expectations,” Tewksbury said. “It also creates challenges away from the field with people wanting some of the money. You have to have a really strong financial support and someone that can really take charge and say, ‘no.’”
Fletcher could follow in the footsteps of potential future Vanderbilt teammate Kumar Rocker, a freshman who was a projected first-round pick last year but who went in the 38th round because of his strong commitment to Vanderbilt.
“He’s tough for scouts to figure out because you have all kinds of things going on,” Callis said of Fletcher. “He’s one of the best athletes in the draft but he has committed to Vanderbilt, which does a very good job holding onto their kids.”
“He’s considered a tough sign,” another scout said.
Fletcher is taking it all in and enjoying the process with sights set on college.
“I definitely have to think about [the draft] with all of the scouts coming to talk to me,” Fletcher said. “But I committed to Vanderbilt, I’ve been committed to Vanderbilt for almost three years now. That’s my option one.”
Seems pretty clear. Is there anything else to know about Tre Fletcher? He smiled.
“Nah, I like a mystery,” he said.
Greg Levinsky is a Portland native, sports journalist and student at Boston University, graduating in the Fall of 2019 with a degree in journalism. Follow him on Twitter @GregLevinsky.