FORT MYERS, Fla. – The 2011 Perfect Game 18u BCS Finals represents the here-and-now for big right-hander/first baseman Tucker Simpson. The possibility of getting fitted for two PG national championship rings in the span of seven days would grab any top prospect’s attention.
On the heels of winning the 2011 PG WWBA 17u National Championship in Marietta, Ga., last Friday (July 15), Simpson and his East Cobb Braves 17u teammates are here this week looking to pick up a second straight BCS Finals championship.
It was basically this same group that won last year’s 17u BCS Finals championship as the East Cobb Astros 16u.
“We just want to come in here and do the best we can, and hopefully we can come out of it with another ring,” said Simpson, whose fingers have to be getting kind of cluttered with rings after three years playing in the East Cobb Baseball organization.
But don’t blame Simpson if he’s looking ahead a little bit, especially since he didn’t play in any of the Braves’ first four games here, four games they split. There’s another even more impressive gem stone in Simpson’s future.
On Sunday, Aug. 14, Simpson will put on the uniform of the East Team and take part in all the pomp and circumstance that surrounds the playing of the Perfect Game All-American Classic presented by Rawlings (formerly known as the Aflac All-American Classic).
The game will be played at the San Diego Padres’ PETCO Park and will be televised live nationally by the CBS Sports Network 5 p.m. (PDT). All proceeds from the Classic go to benefit the Rady Children’s Hospital in San Diego.
Simpson, who carries a solid 225-pounds on his 6-foot-7 frame and is ranked as the No. 67 top national prospect in his class (2012), was one of the last of the 46 players to be added to one of the two (East and West) Classic rosters.
It’s a collection of many of the nation’s top prospects (class of 2012) that come from 17 states and Puerto Rico, and no matter when a player is added to a roster, a selection to the Classic remains one of the highest honors a high school baseball player can receive.
“It’s definitely special to be able to go out there with that group of guys,” Simpson said from Terry Park. “Just to have my name mentioned in the same sentence with the group of players going out there is definitely a humbling honor.
“It is definitely a reward for all the hard work I’ve put in over the years.”
After learning of his selection, Simpson – whose fastball has touched 92 on PG guns – got to wondering what he should expect at the PG All-American Classic. So he turned to a couple of guys who know exactly what the experience is like.
“I talked to Johnny Magliozzi (2010 Classic) and Kaleb Cowart (2009) a little bit, so I do have some expectations,” Simpson said. “I think it’s going to be kind of crazy, but hopefully I can just go in, keep my head down, keep working and have a good time out there.”
Cowart was a first round selection of the Angels in 2010 and Magliozzi was drafted in the 35th round by the Rays this year.
Two of Simpson’s East Team teammates at the Classic will be quite familiar to him – they’re here with this week playing for the Braves 17u and Coach Kevin Baldwin. Left-hander Matthew Crownover from Ringgold, Ga., and Skye Bolt from Woodstock, Ga., will also be in San Diego in mid-August.
All three players credit their association with East Cobb and Perfect Game for the length of their success, but Baldwin said all the credit lies with the players themselves.
“I’m just real proud of them for working hard to get to this point and have the opportunity to do it,” he said. “For them to be picked is a real honor for the kids and also an honor for our program.
“It’s more important that it proves the kids worked hard to get to that point and it’s more about them. It’s not really about me or about East Cobb.”
Simpson has attended 22 Perfect Game events over the last three years, including the 2010 PG Junior National Showcase and the 2011 PG National Showcase. Events like those got him noticed by college coaches and professional scouts alike.
Like Crownover (Clemson) and Bolt (North Carolina), Simpson has verbally committed to a Division I college in the Atlantic Coast Conference – in his case, Georgia Tech. Simpson carries a 3.67 GPA at Oxford (Ala.) High School and academics figured heavily into his decision.
“I was really looking for a good fit, someplace where I felt comfortable with the coaches,” Simpson said. “And also, a place academically where I could grow not only as a person and a baseball player but in the classroom. I felt like Georgia Tech covered all of that.”
Today is all about the 18u BCS Finals for Simpson. Next month means the PG All-American Classic presented by Rawlings. More PG events are sure to follow in the fall and one final season of high school baseball next spring. For the time being anyway, Georgia Tech will just have to wait its turn.
Perfect Game All-American Classic