FORT MYERS, Fla. -- More than 400 of the top high school juniors and sophomores in the country are packing their bags and heading to Fort Myers, Fla., for the 2009 National Underclass Showcase-Main Event that will be held from Dec. 28-30.
They'll come from 30 states, Canada, Puerto Rico and St. Maarten, some of them braving midwest snowstorms so they can showcase their talents in this premier event. This is the largest individual showcase on the annual schedule for Perfect Game USA, which therefore makes it the largest baseball showcase event in the world.
The National Underclass Showcase-Main Event has produced 27 first-round draft picks since the showcase began in 2002, and all told a total of 328 draft picks have participated over the years. Three Main Event graduates were selected in the first round of the 2009 draft when Bobby Borchering, Nick Franklin and LeVon Washington all got the call.
The Main Event will be held at the Red Sox 5-Plex and Terry Park, two outstanding baseball facilities in Fort Myers. Early registration begins Sunday night, Dec. 27, and the fun begins when all of the players are scheduled to report to the Red Sox 5-Plex at 8 a.m. on Monday, Dec. 28 for three days of action in front of the scouting community.
The National Underclass Showcase-Main Event is aimed for 2011 and 2012 high school graduates with high aspirations. Many of the top players in Florida will take advantage of having the showcase in their home state, but players will be participating from all over the southeast, northeast, midwest, west and southwest. All signs point to Fort Myers.
The National Underclass Showcase produced a pair of first-round picks among 2003 high school graduates in Chris Perez, a right-handed pitcher from Holmes Beach, Fla., who was selected by the Cardinals, and Jarrod Saltalamacchia, a catcher from West Palm Beach, Fla., who went to the Braves. The Class of 2005 produced three first-round picks in Jeremy Bleich, a left-handed pitcher from Metairie, La., who was picked by the Yankees; Andrew McCutchen, an outfielder from Fort Meade, Fla., who was selected by the Pirates; and Pedro Alvarez, a third baseman from New York City who also went to the Pirates.
The Class of 2006 produced a half-dozen first-round selections with Adrian Cardenas, a shortstop from Miami Lakes, Fla. (Phillies); Cody Johnson, an outfielder from Panama City, Fla. (Braves); Chris Marrero, a third baseman from Hialeah Garden, Fla. (Nationals); Jorge Sanchez, a catcher from Miami (Pirates); Max Sapp, a catcher from Orlando, Fla. (Astros); and Aaron Miller, a first baseman from Channelview, Texas (Dodgers).
The parade continued with five first-round picks from the Class of 2007 with Kentrail Davis, an outfielder from Theodore, Ala. (Brewers); Jason Heyward, an outfielder from McDonough, Ga. (Braves); Justin Jackson, a shortstop from Asheville, N.C. (Blue Jays), Michael Main, a right-hander from Deltona, Fla. (Rangers); and Ben Revere, an outfielder from Richmond, Ky. (Twins).
The Class of 2008 produced three first-round choices in Brett DeVall, a left-hander from Niceville, Fla. (Braves); Eric Hosmer, a first baseman from Cooper City, Fla. (Royals); and Casey Kelly, a shortstop from Sarasota, Fla. (Red Sox). There have been five other players who were first-round picks in the compensation rounds of the draft.
As you can tell from this impressive list of draft picks, some of these players have already reached the major leagues and are making their mark at an early age. Others are in the high minors, scratching on the door.
Daniel Marrs flashed a 94 mph fastball at this event in 2006, a performance matched by Kaleb Cowart in 2008. That's a remarkable effort, considering the time of year and that it came during the off-season.
Many families will turn their trip to Florida into a family vacation for the holidays, but when the players step on the field it will be all business for them. Well, business mixed with a lot of fun and excitement.