A PROFESSIONAL career is beckoning for Naracoorte baseball rising star Ben Keeping.
Keeping, 16, has just returned from competing at the national championships in Geelong from January 12-20.
He fronted up for the SA Bite under 18s and was pretty happy with how he went.
"In my opinion I went really well," he said.
Despite being one of the youngest in that age group, and SA's meagre form at the tournament, Keeping was statistically among the best.
He led SA in hitting and finished top five overall.
Not bad considering SA lost twice as many games as they won, finishing with three wins and six losses.
"The standard (at the championships) was pretty high," Keeping said.
He estimated eight or nine players in the tournament were already signed to professional clubs, but that didn't faze the young former Naracoorte Ranger.
"It didn't really fuss me that much," he said.
With Major League Baseball representatives keeping a keen eye on player performances, Keeping believes he put his best foot forward.
"I reckon I opened the eyes of the pro scouts," he said.
Playing so many games over the tournament, there was a question mark over the arm he broke in 2011.
He has moved to fielding at second base to compensate for diminished arm strength.
With the help of Brett Gould at the Naracoorte Fitness Centre, Keeping has continued rehabilitation to the point where he believes he is at "80-90 per cent" capability.
He said the arm didn't trouble him much during the championships.
"I didn't feel much pain, all my training and gym work helped."
Outside of the championships, Keeping has been playing A grade baseball for Glenelg - making the trip from Naracoorte each weekend.
But if all goes well he won't be there long.
In July, Keeping will be old enough to be signed by a major league club and he hopes to be picked up.
But he is aware of his responsibility to his own future outside of baseball.
"If I don't get an offer I'm satisfied with I'll hopefully go to America and through the college system then get drafted from there," he said.
"That way I can get an education as well."
He was full of praise for people and organisations who have helped him get this far, including Brett for the use of his gym equipment.
He also thanked his family for driving him to Adelaide for games, the Naracoorte Lions for offering grants, Naracoorte High School, Naracoorte Rangers Baseball Club, the Mount Gambier City Council and the Mount Gambier and District Baseball League for their facilities and support.