Dodgers prospect reflects on his growth at Pearl RiverBy PATRICK OCHS,
POPLARVILLE – When Simon "Meaux" Landry first stepped onto campus in Poplarville, he already looked the part. The Ponchatoula, La., native had "popped" in recruiting and scouting circles years before, but by his own admission Landry needed the college experience. He needed the extra time to roundout his game, mentally and physically.
That's where Pearl River came in.
Landry was already a Wildcat signee when Michael Avalon was hired to lead the program prior to the 2017 season, but the new coach made the slugger a priority and the partnership ended up being a win-win. By the time Landry graduated – with a MACJC State Championship ring – not only was he one of the country's top home run hitters, but he also had options that most other aspiring ball players can only dream about.
"High school was a little tricky for me. I started off great my first three years. Then I started getting a lot of attention my senior year. A lot of scouts started coming to our games and I just blew it. I put a lot of pressure on myself and had a terrible year so my options were limited," Landry said recently. "I came to Pearl River on a visit, loved it here and signed that day. It was awesome.
"It turned out to be a great decision because I am where I am today."
AT THE RIVER
Landry was an immediate star for the Wildcats, hitting .300 with 14 homers, 40 RBIs, 25 extra-base hits and a .410 on-base percentage paired with a .660 slugging percentage. His already impressive numbers only improved as a sophomore in 2018. In addition to hitting .392, he was third in the country with 19 homers, 11th in both RBIs (68) and slugging percentage (.830) and 12th in total bases with 142.
"When you talk about building a foundation you start with pillars and Meaux Landry was one of those when we got here. That's a heckuva piece to start with," Avalon said. "A lot of credit goes to him. He knew coming in there were a lot of things he had to improve. He had to improve his body, pitch selection, approach and all those things. He worked and continued to work."
THRIVING UNDER PRESSURE
Landry's standout freshman season brought plenty of attention to the first basemen. Where in the past, the pressure might have been too much, he thrived the second time around.
"One of the biggest improvements early on that I saw him make was handling the scouts," Avalon said. "I can remember vividly going up to him one day and saying, 'hey man, this isn't going to change anytime soon. You're 6-foot-4, 230 pounds and a physical specimen. They're going to continue to come see you and one day, whether it's this year or next year, you're going to be playing in front of them every day.'
"I think he matured and handled that a lot better than he did his senior year in high school."
Prior to graduating, Landry had already signed with the University of Houston and intended to play for the Cougars. Thanks to his standout sophomore campaign, however, helium was attached to Landry's name on draft boards and in the 22nd round of June's MLB Draft, the Los Angeles Dodgers selected the PRCC first baseman. The entire process, while stressful, ended up being a dream come true.
"The fact you have a chance to be drafted is very special," Landry said. "You hear things from people saying you should go in this round or this round and you wait and wait. It can be very stressful, but it was a great day for me and my family. I thank God for it."
THE POWER IS REAL
Often times athletes can mash in high school, but scouts wonder if the power will translate or if the hitter is merely beating up on prep pitching. By slugging his way through the MACJC for two years, Landry proved his power was for real.
"Without a doubt that's his No. 1 tool and one of those you can't teach," Avalon said. "It's something that has separated him, without a doubt. Watching him hit BP or hit balls in games, that's one of the things that makes baseball really exciting and he's one of those types of players."
Dodgers Director of Amateur Scouting, Billy Gasparino, echoed those thoughts following the draft.
"It's probably the best raw power we've ever seen at a workout," Gasparino told Dodgers Insider. "It would be better than any power in our system now, based on some of the measurements we have. If you go through exit velocity, he has better exit velocity than any minor or Major Leaguer we have in our organization. He's 6–4 and he's 225 pounds. It's just a fun guy to watch, because he has extreme power."
Landry hit a double in his professional debut for the Arizona League Dodgers and collected six hits in his first six games – including a 2-for-6 performance in his fourth professional game – and swatted his first professional homer just over a week after making his debut.
"It was a great start to my career. Coming off of my season at Pearl River, there was a lot of excitement," Landry said. "You're very excited and adrenaline is going. I was happy for a little bit but then (the production) slacked off a bit because of the toll of playing a full season (at PRCC) and then in the minors."
Landry ended up hitting .210 with a .338 OBP and .452 slugging, collecting 10 extra-base hits – including two homers and seven doubles – in 19 games.
Landry credited his training at PRCC for his strong professional debut.
"The coaches here at Pearl River really prepare you for the next level. There's a little adjustment, but the way you work hard at practice at Pearl River made everything flow," Landry said. "The structure here helped prepare me. You come out every day and know what to expect.
"I'm really looking forward to the future."
'PEARL RIVER IS THE PLACE TO BE'
Although he has started his journey through the minor leagues, Landry frequented The Dub this offseason to stay in shape and prepare for his professional encore. In addition to doing what he does best, Landry also spent extensive time working on his defense at first base. He said the Dodgers frequently check in on him during the offseason to ensure he's improving.
The extra work, often while all his former teammates were away from the field, didn't come as a surprise to Avalon.
"When you first meet him physically you're very impressed, but the longer I got to know him and was around him, what was more impressive is the person he is, the player he is and the leader he is," Avalon said. "He was a very special player and a very special piece to what we were able to do our first two years here.
"He's a kid you want to coach. He's the right person and right player and without a doubt we hope he's an example of what our program is about."
During one of his fall workouts, Landry paused to admire what Dub "Paw Paw" Herring Park has become. PRCC installed new turf during the fall semester and is currently putting the finishing touches on a major press box renovation.
"For starters, this school is the best JUCO in Mississippi in my opinion," Landry said, gazing across the bright green turf at the new scoreboard. "And now adding the turf and the new stadium; Pearl River is the place to be."
Landry has not yet received his assignment for 2019, which should come next month. Meanwhile, his former Wildcat teammates will officially begin preseason practice Thursday with their season opener against JUCO power Jefferson College a month away.