JUPITER, Fla. – The totally stacked Cardinal Scout Team/FTB Mizuno squad that is here this week for the 2011 Perfect Game WWBA World Championship has at least one thing in common with this year’s USA Baseball 18U National Team.
That connecting cord would be the one that starts with leadoff hitter Albert Almora in left field, continues through No. 2 hitter David Dahl in center, and finally wraps firmly around No. 3 bat Jesse Winker in right.
The trio represents the starting outfield CST/FTB Mizuno manager Jered Goodwin trotted out for his team’s WWBA World Championship opener Thursday afternoon at the Roger Dean Complex. It will also be the starting outfield USA Baseball 18U National Team manager Scott Brosius puts on the field at the COPABE Pan Am AAA/18U Championships in Colombia Nov. 17-27.
“When you look at that outfield, we’ve been blessed with David Dahl, Albert Almora and Jesse Winker – it’s just phenomenal,” Goodwin said Thursday. “USA Baseball thinks it’s the best outfield in the country at this level, and going into it that really wasn’t what we were looking to (assemble) – it just happened that way. It’s going to be great for them, actually, to come and play awesome competition here in Jupiter and then (three) weeks from now go and compete against the world.
“They’re all phenomenal kids and they all have a different skill set and they’re all great people,” he continued. “It’s really cool to be able to put that outfield out on the field.”
Almora, Dahl and Winker were all 2011 Perfect Game All-Americans, as was Cardinal Scout Team/FTB Mizuno infielder Alex Bregman. Bregman and CST/FTB Mizuno catcher Chris Okey (2013) are also members of the USA Baseball 18U National Team.
Winker, Almora and Dahl are the nation’s Nos. 17, 18 and 19 ranked top prospects in the 2012 class, respectively, and Nos. 4, 5 and 6 at their positions. All three are projected as potential first or second round picks in June’s MLB amateur draft.
Although selected for the PG All-American Classic in August, Almora was unable to attend due to illness. In his words, he became “super sick” while playing in the Connie Mack World Series in early August, and decided to return home to Florida to regain his strength.
Almora, who hails from Hialeah, Fla., and has verbally committed to the University of Miami, is using this WWBA World Championship as a sort of a substitute for missing the Classic.
“Every kid that was on that All-American team, they’re here now and I played against them in the summer,” he said. “It’s been a blessing that I’ve gotten to know all these kids and build a relationship with them.”
This is the fourth time Almora as participated in the WWBA World Championship. He came here in 2008 and ’09 with the All-American Prospects and last year with the Florida Legends/White Sox Scout Team.
“It’s awesome. It’s one of the best competitions that I’ve ever been a part of in my whole baseball career,” said Almora, who has participated in 14 PG events since 2007, including the 2011 PG National Showcase in June. “To get back out there this year, it’s going to be a lot fun.”
Winker calls Windermere, Fla., home and has committed to the University of Florida, and is the uncontested PG veteran of the group with 26 events under his belt. This is his third trip to the WWBA World Championship, all three with FTB Mizuno.
“All of the games at this event are sweet to be a part of, and then as soon as it gets into the playoffs that’s when you really want to win. Every time you come here you want to come in and win a ring,” Winker said. “Me, Dahl and Albert have played together with USA Baseball and we’re a close-knit outfield. This will be our fourth week playing together in the (same) outfield and this is going to be lot of fun.”
Dahl, an Auburn commit from Birmingham, Ala., is a veteran of 13 PG events, but this is his first experience at the prestigious Jupiter tournament with its hundreds of scouts and college recruiters zipping from field to field in their golf carts.
“I’ve heard it’s fun so I’m ready to see what it’s all about,” Dahl said. “I just like coming out and playing the game, have some fun and play the best I can. I love coming out here and playing with what’s going to be the USA outfield, and I’m looking forward to that. I want to play as good as I can and win the tournament.”
All three PG All-American outfielders have become somewhat oblivious to the plethora of scouts who map their every move, and the prospects can pretty much just go out there and play their games.
“Coach Goodwin has had us playing in front of these guys since I was 14, so you just get used to it,” Winker said. “They’re going to come watch you and our team’s really good, so they’re going to come watch the team. It’s just about playing well and winning.”
That’s not to say there aren’t any nerves whatsoever.
Goodwin said he received a text message from Winker early Thursday morning with the outfielder telling the coach he had hardly slept the previous night because he was so excited to start playing.
“You get here and the blood starts flowing, and the whole week is better than Christmas, at least it is at my age,” Goodwin said. “It’s been a lot of fun and we’ve got a good group and the Cardinals have been awesome for us again.”
This has been an especially exciting last few days with the big league Cardinals advancing to the World Series and picking up a win in Wednesday’s Game 1. The Roger Dean Complex is used by both the Cardinals and the Florida Marlins as their spring training homes.
“They give us absolutely everything down here and it’s been phenomenal for two years now,” Goodwin said. “It’s been really cool now that they’re in the World Series and this is kind of our world series. We’re kind of battling the little one and they’re in the big one, so this has been great.”
And make no mistake; the Cardinals Scout Team/FTB Mizuno is here to win an event that in no way, shape or form can be referred to as “little.” As for the three standout outfielders, the WWBA World Championship can also serve as a stage to elevate their draft prospects as well as their games as they prepare to represent their country for USA Baseball late next month.
“We’re all looking forward to getting to play with USA and going down to Colombia and being part of the USA team, and to get together here and work in the outfield together and work on our communication, it’s going to be awesome,” Almora concluded.