The Perfect Game All-American Classic presented by Rawlings celebrates its 10th anniversary on Aug. 12, and for the third straight year the elite all-star event will be staged at PETCO Park, the home stadium of the big-league San Diego Padres.
That location holds a special meaning for left-hander Stephen Gonsalves, who calls the San Diego suburb of San Marcos home. The 6-foot-5, 190-pound hard-throwing senior at Cathedral Catholic High School in San Diego was as thrilled as anyone when he learned he had been selected to play in the 10th annual Classic. He's about as close to being a hometown kid as anyone else on the West Team roster.
Gonsalves, a University of San Diego recruit, remembered watching the reception San Diego native Corey Oswalt received at last year's PG All-American Classic presented by Rawlings. Oswalt spent the evening last August not only surrounded by his teammates, but also hundreds of friends and family members.
"It's a wonderful feeling, especially with it being in San Diego," Gonsalves said after learning of his selection. "Being a hometown boy, it's going to be a great experience. I'm calling my entire school and telling them all to come out and hopefully we can sell out that whole lower level."
In truth, all of the participants at the Classic are treated like hometown boys by the fans who file into PETCO ; more than 9,000 last year. The crowd and the warm reception it offers is just one of many elements that factor in the words "honor" or "honored" being used by these outstanding prospects more than any other after they learn of their selection.
"It means a lot and it's a huge honor," Fountain Valley, Calif., and West Team catcher Jeremy Martinez said. "I've watched the game over the years and I know many of my buddies have been a part of the game, and they tell me all about it and how amazing it was. I'm really looking forward to it and going out and playing the game."
Martinez has committed to Southern California.
Clint Frazier, an impressive five-tool prospect from Loganville, Ga., earned an invitation to the PG All-American Classic and jumped to the top of the class of 2013 national rankings after an eye-popping performance at last month's PG National Showcase. His selection was a dream come true.
"I've heard that's the biggest thing and the most proud thing to be selected for," said Frazier, a Georgia recruit. "I know how much it means for the top (50) players to be picked and I'm just very glad that I get to experience that. I think every kid that (was at the PG National Showcase) is who I will be facing out there, so I'll know a little bit about what I'm up against. But, then again, you never know."
If years past are any indication, and they most certainly are, most of this year's participants will bring their families along for the ride, no matter how far they have to travel. The Meadows family from Grayson, Ga., with top outfield prospect Austin Meadows leading the charge, plans on making the five days in southern California a family vacation.
"It's really a great honor; the whole family is looking forward to that trip," Kenny Meadows, Austin's father, said. "I'm looking forward to going to San Diego, and this is quite an honor. We're really looking forward to that trip in August."
For his part, Austin Meadows will treat it like a business trip.
"It means a whole lot and it shows my hard work has definitely paid off," he said. "I just need to keep a level head and keep it going. I'll just go along with it and try not to get too caught up with it. Just go with the flow with it."
Top Puerto Rican and Canyon High School (Anaheim Hills, Calif.) shortstop prospect Christian Colon was named the MVP of the 2006 PG/Aflac All-American Classic, a game in which he was 2-for-3 with two walks, three stolen bases and three runs scored. Colon went on to enjoy a stellar three-year career at Cal State Fullerton before being selected by the Kansas City Royals in the first round of the 2010 MLB amateur draft.
Throughout his high school, Perfect Game and collegiate career, Colon was being watched closely by young Christopher Rivera, another outstanding shortstop prospect from Fullerton, Calif., and El Dorado High School. Rivera, who has also committed to Cal State Fullerton, will follow in Colon's footsteps as a shortstop on the West Team for this year's Classic.
"My favorite player is Christian Colon and ever since I saw him play I always wanted to be in the All-American Game," Rivera said. "It's a great honor being on TV and the whole situation of being called an All-American; that's a big deal to me.
"Only a select few get to play in that game and it's a great honor to me and I thank God for giving me the ability to play baseball. I just thank everybody around me, my dad especially, for teaching me the game that I love."
American Heritage High School in Pembroke Pines, Fla., was named the Perfect Game High School National Champion late last month, and catcher/first baseman/hitter extraordinaire Zack Collins played a huge role in his school's success. A University of Miami recruit, Collins is one of three catchers - Chris Okey and Nick Ciuffo are the others - named to the East Team.
"When I got that call, it was an amazing feeling," Collins said of his selection. "Of course, Perfect Game runs a lot of things and that's the main thing that you want to be chosen for at the end. Now I can go out there and not only play on a (major league) field but also play with all the best people from around the country."
Tomball, Texas, right-hander Kohl Stewart is a top quarterback prospect who has accepted a football scholarship offer from Texas A&M. Stewart is also looking for a challenge on both the baseball and football fields, and feels like he'll get one as a member of the West Team at the PG All-American Classic presented by Rawlings.
"It's something that where you get to play with the best of your same age and you get the opportunity to set yourself apart from the rest of the kids in your class," Stewart said. "To be able to out there and play with the best players in the country, it's an honor."
To a man, the 2012 PG All-Americans seemed to realize their selection to this year's Classic is something they can proudly carry with them for the rest of their lives. In short, they felt humbled and, of course, honored.
"It's an honor," said East Team shortstop Oscar Mercado, a Florida State recruit from Tampa. "Those are the top players in the country, and it's an honor to be able to play with all them. It's an honor to represent my town and it's pretty cool. I never thought I would be in this position; I really didn't."
With the announcement of the 2012 Perfect Game All-American Classic presented by Rawlings rosters, here are a series of features already conducted on the players that were named to the team:
Derik Beauprez - from the Day 3 Recap of the Perfect Game National Showcase (Kira Olsen)
Cavan Biggio - Father's Day feature from Perfect Game National Showcase (Nick Kappel)
Nick Ciuffo - from the WWBA 17u National Championship (Matthew Stokes)
Ian Clarkin - from the WWBA 17u National Championship (Matthew Stokes)
Zack Collins - feature from Perfect Game National Showcase (Jeff Dahn)
J.P. Crawford - from the WWBA 17u National Championship (Matthew Stokes)
Travis Demeritte - feature from Perfect Game National Showcase (Jeff Dahn)
Dustin Driver - from the WWBA 17u National Championship (Matthew Stokes)
Kevin Franklin - from the WWBA 17u National Championship (Matthew Stokes)
Clint Frazier - feature from Perfect Game National Showcase (Jeff Dahn)
Stephen Gonsalves - feature from Perfect Game National Showcase (Jeff Dahn)
Jan Hernandez - from the Day 1 Recap of the Perfect Game National Showcase (Nick Kappel)
Clinton Hollon - from the Day 3 Recap of the Perfect Game National Showcase (Patrick Ebert)
Robert Kaminsky - feature from Perfect Game National Showcase (Nick Kappel)
Gosuke Katoh - feature from Perfect Game National Showcase (Jeff Dahn)
Jeremy Martinez - feature from Perfect Game National Showcase (Jeff Dahn)
Austin Meadows - feature from Perfect Game National Showcase (Jeff Dahn)
Oscar Mercado - feature from Perfect Game National Showcase (Jeff Dahn)
Brett Morales - from the Day 2 Recap of the Perfect Game National Showcase (Nick Kappel)
Chris Okey - from the the Day 2 Recap of the Perfect Game National Showcase (Kira Olsen)
Chris Rivera - feature from Perfect Game National Showcase (Jeff Dahn)
Cord Sandberg - from the Day 2 Recap of the Perfect Game National Showcase (Nick Kappel)
Jordan Sheffield - from the Day 4 Recap of the Perfect Game National Showcase (Patrick Ebert)
Dominic Smith - from the Day 5 Recap of the Perfect Game National Showcase (Kira Olsen/Nick Kappel)
Kohl Stewart - feature from Perfect Game National Showcase (Jeff Dahn)
Rowdy Tellez - from the Perfect Game National Showcase Rawlings Home Run Challenge (Kira Olsen/Nick Kappel)
Justin Williams - feature from Perfect Game National Showcase (Jeff Dahn)