The greater-Las Vegas area will play host to thirty-nine travel ball programs ranging from 9u to 13u April 12-13 at various ballparks. Everyone seems to be eager for games to be underway for many reasons.
Teams from Southern California, like the San Diego Show, are anxious to leave their home state and face unfamiliar competition. In fact, the Show will have a team competing in each of the five age groups.
“Everyone’s excited to go,” said Luis Lorenzana, in charge of much of the program’s player development. “Every time you jump in the car and drive five or six hours to play ball, it's something we always look forward to and every time we step outside our area we like to represent well.”
“There are some teams that we aren’t used to playing that are out of our normal So Cal region so it’s gonna be good to see different faces.”
Brad Maloff, a member of the Las Vegas Rebels coaching staff, is excited to have some of the top travel ball teams coming to play in his backyard.
“I don’t have to travel to get to a ton of competition,” said Maloff. “Perfect Game did a good job drawing teams here. It’s rare that that happens. One thing I think we’re missing the boat on in Las Vegas is just the general exposure to kids.”
“Anytime we can bring top-quality competition into Vegas instead of having to go to Southern California is always a good thing,” mentioned Rex Kim, a coach for Phenom Baseball in Las Vegas and a big name for youth baseball in the area. “The kids are pretty stoked. The turnout that you have is just real great quality teams, so the buzz has really spread on this tournament. I think next year and the year after it’s going to be even more talked about.”
For teams like Diamond MVP, its familiar competition that gets them fired up for this weekend’s Four Corners Regional, specifically a pool-play match-up with the SY Titans from Santa Ynez, Calif.
“I’ve been wanting to play the SY Titans all year and finally we get them in one of our pool-play games so I’m excited,” said 13u Diamond MVP coach Larry Patino. “I’m excited to see Alejandro Murillo throw against us for the SY Titans. He’ll be a Top-5 player when it’s all said and done.”
Patino’s team has dominated competition since the Fall, which is why he believes Diamond MVP will have a big target on their back coming into the Four Corners Regional.
“We’re bringing the best players I have,” Patino said. “From top to bottom we have an amazing lineup.”
About half of his roster played on the 12u team that finished as runner-ups last year’s inaugural 12u All-American Championship, losing 3-2 to the San Diego Show.
Diamond MVP will fit in well with the high level of competition that will be playing in Las Vegas this weekend. There are several teams that could make a championship run, whether it’s Phenom Vegas, the San Diego Show, the Las Vegas Rebels, Patino’s club, or anyone else in the field. It’s exactly what these coaches are looking forward to.
“This will be one of the top tournaments we’ll have played in,” said Maloff. “I would rather play tougher teams than walk all over teams. I don’t put our team in a tournament where I don’t think we’re going to be challenged.”
“Whenever the best teams are around we always like to go out there and compete,” Lorenzana said. “We’re going out there with a business-like attitude. We’re gonna have our fun, but we’re going out there to play good baseball and represent our area well.”
“I expect them to execute what we’ve practiced and play their hardest,” said Kim of his Phenom Vegas team, which will be competing in the 13u division.
With the new Perfect Game Super25 tournament series Perfect Game has expanded its brand to the younger age groups in an attempt to put greater emphasis on baseball as a “team” game, setting roster regulations and breaking the country down into regions, where a team must win before earning a bid to the Super25 national championship.
“I’m glad to see Perfect Game expand down to the younger ages and as long as they are around we’re gonna be right there with them,” Lorenzana said.
The scouting aspect Perfect Game brings to tournaments and showcases is also a big draw for programs looking to get the players the exposure needed to take their games to the next level. The Super25 series offers the chance for kids to get involved with what Perfect Game does from a very young age.
“It’s stuff like this where Perfect Game gets these kids the scouting and puts them into that system and gives them an idea of what needs to be done,” said Maloff. “Tournaments like this start giving kids the idea that there are a lot more ways of getting exposure than just playing high school baseball.”
“Being that a lot of our players are now seventh and eighth graders, our focus is now on the Perfect Game stuff. We use each other to get this exposure. I preach and teach these guys that you never know who’s watching,” Patino said. “With this being our first Perfect Game event of the year I’m hoping that we’ll be able to get a few kids’ names out there. Moving forward we want to do as much stuff as we can with Perfect Game.”
The Four Corners Regional will begin Saturday with pool-play games played at various ballparks in Henderson. The 13u division will play at O’Callaghan Park, while the 11u and 12u divisions will play at Mission Hills Park, and the 9u and 10u divisions at Weston Hills Park. The winner of each age group will earn a bid to the national championship later in the summer.