Be sure to check back early and often over the next several days, as this page will provide a running blog of notes, features and highlights from all of the events that are part of the Perfect Game All-American Classic presented by Rawlings. You can also follow updates via Twitter and Facebook and view photos of the event on Flickr.
Patrick Ebert -- Sunday, August 11, 2013 -- 10:48 PM PDT
The Game Recap and the Box Score from the 2013 Perfect Game All-American Classic presented by Rawlings are now available.
Patrick Ebert -- Sunday, August 11, 2013 -- 8:27 PM PDT
Tyler Kolek set a record at the Classic by peaking at 99 mph
Congrats to the West team for beating the East 8-6 in the 2013 Perfect Game All-American Classic presented by Rawlings. Jakson Reetz was named the game's MVP as the West pulled ahead in the 11-year series 6-4-1. Check back later for the full game score.
In the meantime, here are the peak pitching velocities:
Tyler Kolek – 99
Dylan Cease – 96
Touki Toussaint – 96
Grant Holmes – 95
Kodi Medeiros – 95
Brandon Murray – 95
Luis Ortiz – 95
Sean Reid-Foley – 95
Zack Shannon – 95
Justus Sheffield – 94
Joe Gatto – 93
Michael Kopech – 93
Keaton McKinney – 93
Brady Aiken – 92
Cobi Johnson – 92
Mac Marshall – 92
David Peterson – 92
Foster Griffin – 91
Devin Smeltzer – 89
Patrick Ebert -- Sunday, August 11, 2013 -- 7:15 PM PDT
I have just been informed that there are 230 scouts in attendance for tonight's game.
Jeff Dahn -- Sunday, August 11, 2013 -- 4:30 PM PDT
Matt LaCour (far left) and Chan Brown (far right) pose with the UmpNation staff prior to the Classic
Coaches together again at PG AA Classic
SAN DIEGO -- The two head coaches for this year's Perfect Game All-American Classic presented by Rawlings come from opposite ends of the country, but East head coach Chan Brown and West head coach Matt LaCour have been practically inseparable the last few months.
Brown, the head baseball coach at Parkview High School in Lilburn, Ga., and LaCour, head coach at Harvard-Lakewood High School in Northridge, Calif., will be in opposing dugouts tonight at the San Diego Padre's Petco Park trying to guide their respective collection of all-stars to victory at the 11th annual PG All-American Classic presented by Rawlings. They're savoring the opportunity.
"It's a privilege and an honor just to be here," Brown said during Friday night's practice session at the University of San Diego. "Being around the talent that we're getting chance to see; just watching them take BP is a 'WOW' factor just to begin with. You can't ask for anything better than coming here and seeing the talent and the facilities, and the way Perfect Game runs things, it's the way to go."
Added LaCour: "We spend all of our lives on the field with the pressure of going out and trying to develop players and win games and get guys better. It's fun to come out here in a pretty relaxed environment for a coach and kind of just sit back and watch really good players put on a show for everybody."
Brown and LaCour shared the same dugout -- and just about everything else -- for most of the summer. They worked together as coaches for the USA Baseball 15u National Team that won a gold medal at the 15u World Tournament in Colombia in early August.
"We've been together all summer. It's been a great summer and being around Matt has made it even better," Brown said.
"Me and Chan are real lucky that we get along really well because we've been to some places and we've done some things together this summer that if you didn't like the other guy, it was going to be tough," LaCour said. "I got to meet him three years ago in more of a competitive atmosphere -- it was our team versus their team -- but now being around him all summer ... we've picked each other's brain, and from a coaching standpoint, it doesn't get any better."
Both coaches have a history of placing their own players on one of the PG All-American Classic rosters. Left-hander Mac Marshall from Lilburn, Ga., is Parkview's representative this year while infielder Jack Flaherty from Burbank, Calif., is proudly representing Harvard-Westlake.
2013 Parkview graduate Josh Hart -- a first-round pick of the Baltimore Orioles in June -- played in last year's game. Right-hander Lucas Giolito, a 2012 Harvard-Westlake grad and first-round pick of the Washington Nationals, was the starting pitcher for the West squad at the 2011 PG All-American Classic.
And now, LaCour and Brown have the opportunity to surround themselves with 50 of the best high school seniors in the country.
"I was telling Chan, after being around some of the best 15-year-olds in the nation all summer long and seeing them, and now getting a completely different perspective on what kids are three years down the road," LaCour said. "It's a lot of fun to kind of see where kids were and how they've developed and where they're at now going into their senior year. These are the best of the best, so anytime you're on the field with the best of the best it's a pretty enjoyable experience."
LaCour just completed his seventh season as head coach Harvard-Westlake and it was one for the record books. The Wolverines finished 28-4, won their third straight Mission League championship and claimed their first Perfect Game National Championship. LaCour was named the Los Angeles Times Coach of the Year and the BCA Western Region Coach of the Year.
He believes his selection as the West Team's head coach is a positive reflection of his program at large.
"It's a big honor and for us and our program it's a congratulations to our entire coaching staff and our school for what we've built and we're at now," LaCour said. "It's good every once in awhile to take a step back from the daily grind and just enjoy what you do for a living. To be recognized and to be out here with these guys, it's a complete honor.
"From where we were to where we are now, it's been a long way," he continued. "So it's kind of fun to come out here and enjoy it. This is something that in the back of my mind I had always said that, 'Hey, that would be a lot of fun to do. I'm just kind of soaking it all in."
Parkview finished No. 56 in Perfect Game's National High School Rankings after a 29-7 season in which the Panthers won their sixth regional championship since 2005, when Brown took over as head coach. He led Parkview to the Georgia state semifinals in 2005 and 2013 and won back-to-back Georgia state championships in 2011 and 2012.
"We've been able to produce some players that have gone high in the draft and a lot of kids that have gone to college, and a lot of my kids play in the Perfect Game (events) in July and in the fall and that's another reason a lot of that is happening," Brown said. "But, yeah, I'm proud of what we're doing at Parkview. We've got a shot at being pretty good again next year and that's our thing -- we want to be in the mix every year, not here and there."
Once the two teams take to the field at Petco Park tonight, LaCour and Brown will take off their coach's cap and sit back and enjoy themselves while the show unfolds in front of them. That's the plan, anyway.
"I'm going to go down to third base and I'm going wheel guys; there's not going to be a whole lot of stop signs," LaCour said with a satisfied smile. "If a pitcher needs a break maybe I get out there, but I'm like all these other people -- I'm here to watch. I'm not getting in the way of these guys; they've proven themselves enough to be here and I'm going to let them go on the field and kind of show what they can do."
Patrick Ebert -- Sunday, August 11, 2013 -- 1:22 PM PDT
Here is the starting lineup for the 2013 Perfect Game All-American Classic presented by Rawlings:
1. Derek Hill - CF
2. Bryce Carter - DH
3. Alex Jackson - C
4. Jacob Gatewood - SS
5. Jack Flaherty - 3B
6. Marcus Wilson - LF
7. DJ Peters - EH
8. Jakson Reetz - EH
9. Monte' Harrison - RF
10. Zack Shannon - 1B
11. Scott Hurst - 2B
Bench: IF Sean Bouchard, OF Darius Day, OF Trenton Kemp, OF Jon Littell, OF Stone Garrett
1. Nick Gordon - SS
2. Greg Deichmann - 2B
3. Michael Gettys - CF
4. Braxton Davidson - DH
5. Kel Johnson - EH
6. Justin Bellinger - 1B
7. Justin Smith - RF
8. Gareth Morgan - EH
9. Benito Santiago - C
10. Ti'Quan Forbes - 3B
11. Reese Cooley - LF
Bench: IF Michael Chavis, OF Carl Chester, C Chase Vallot
Here is the pitching order for the 2013 Perfect Game All-American Classic presented by Rawlings:
1. Grant Holmes - RHP
2. Dylan Cease - RHP
3. Mac Marshall - LHP
4. Cobi Johnson - RHP
5. Touki Toussaint - RHP
6. Joe Gatto - RHP
7. Sean Reid-Foley - RHP
8. Justus Sheffield - LHP
9. Foster Griffin - LHP
10. Devin Smeltzer - LHP
1. Brady Aiken - LHP
2. Tyler Kolek - RHP
3. Kodi Medeiros - LHP
4. Keaton McKinney - RHP
5. Luis Ortiz - RHP
6. Brandon Murray - RHP
7. David Peterson - LHP
8. Michael Kopech - RHP
9. Zack Shannon - RHP
Patrick Ebert -- Sunday, August 11, 2013 -- 1:13 PM PDT
Here are a couple of pics as we have arrived at Petco Park and prepare for today's festivities. Thanks again to our presenting sponsor at Rawlings for providing so much for this event, including the helmets as shown.
Jeff Dahn -- Sunday, August 11, 2013 -- 1:02 PM PDT
PG 12u AA Championship big hit for C.R. dad, son
SAN DIEGO -- Brad Stovie from Cedar Rapids, Iowa, is huge baseball fan in general and a Baltimore Orioles fan in particular. His three sons are named Cal (after Cal Ripken), Camden (after Camden Yards) and Braden, which is a nod to his own name (Brad) and to Brady Anderson. Daughter Maddix strays from the Orioles theme but stays somewhat in the baseball realm.
"I had to change the spelling a little bit to appease my wife," Brad said with a smile.
When Brad and Braden arrived here Wednesday, they immediately shot out to Petco Park where the Padres were hosting -- you guessed it -- the Orioles in an interleague contest. The Iowa father and son not only got to see an Orioles victory but also saw Chris Davis hit a monster shot, his major league-leading 41st home run of the year.
"The Orioles are my favorite team," Braden said Friday. "I didn't even know we were going (to Petco) until that day when they told me were going out there, so that was kind of exciting."
But the Stovies' didn't come all the way to Southern California to watch the Padres and Orioles play. They are here to take part in the first 12u Perfect Game All-American Championship, a 10-team tournament that is running in conjunction with the 11th annual Perfect Game All-American Classic presented by Rawlings. There is also an eight-team 11u PG All-American Championship being contested.
Braden Stovie is playing with the San Diego Show 12u team this week (the Show will play in Monday's 12u championship game at Sportsplex USA Poway). He attends school at Regis Middle School in Cedar Rapids and is a member of the Saints Baseball Club back home.
"This is amazing right now; I really don't know how to describe it," Braden said, struggling to find the right words. "It's really fun playing with the guys from the Show and being able to create new relationships with them and playing against some of the best people out there in our grade."
Brad Stovie, a Cedar Rapids dentist, also seems to be having the time of his life.
"I've always wanted to come out here (for the PG AA Classic), and then when they put in the youth tournament -- and I have a 12-year-old who loves baseball and had an opportunity to play with the Show -- it was a no-brainer to come out," he said Friday. "Everybody has treated us so great, and the baseball talent out here is unbelievable. I witnessed the best 12-year-old game that I've ever watched in my life today.
"And as a father and coach, too, I wanted Braden to play the best competition there is, and kind of see how he responded."
The father and son watched the PG All-Americans practice and scrimmage Friday night at the University of San Diego's beautiful, newly renovated Fowler Park and were duly impressed.
"Being around this talent is special," Brad said. "From the coaches to the players to everybody involved with Perfect Game, it's being involved with the best in the business is what it is."
The two will be attendance at the PG All-American Classic tonight, as will all the other 12u and 11u PG All-American Championship players and their families. On Friday, Braden looked out on the field at the PG All-American practice and began to dream.
"Being able to be around some of the best high school players that will probably go to the MLB is just amazing," he said. "It would be awesome if I could be out here someday."
Jeff Dahn -- Sunday, August 11, 2013 - 11:12 AM PDT
Nick Gordon receives coveted Jackie Robinson Award
SAN DIEGO -- The 2013 Perfect Game All-Americans, their families, friends and supporters, and other assorted personnel gathered for the 11th annual Perfect Game All-American Classic presented by Rawlings Awards Banquet Saturday night to honor the players who will take the field at Petco Park tonight.
Six coveted awards were handed out, including the prestigious Jackie Robinson Award which recognizes the Perfect Game Player of the Year. This year's Jackie Robinson Award winner is Nick Gordon, the nation's No. 2-ranked prospect from Windermere, Fla.
"This is a blessing and I love it," Gordon told PG after accepting the award. "The feeling that I got when they called my name, nothing can explain it except that it was pure joy. Thank you Perfect Game for this award and thank you for inviting me to this event; I love it."
This year's PG All-Americans got a vivid history lesson this summer with the release of the biographical film "42", written and directed by Brian Helgeland, which reminded every living generation of Robinson's courage and legacy.
"It's an honor to be able to get this award in Jackie Robinson's name," Gordon said. "He did a lot of great things and I just hope to be that kind of amazing player one day and follow in his footsteps."
Nick Gordon is the son of former big league pitcher Tom "Flash" Gordon and Yolanda Gordon of Windermere. Tom has been a constant presence at Nick's side at the 22 Perfect Game events he has attended since 2010.
"It's a thrill, because as a parent you always want to see your kids go out there and succeed and become a whole lot better person (and) player," Tom said at the PG National Showcase in June. "In every aspect you just want your kids to go out there and be themselves, for the most part, but it's been a dream come true."
Saturday night's gathering also heard from PG All-American Classic Honorary Chairman Trevor Hoffman, the former San Diego Padres closer who remain second in all-time saves behind only Yankees' great Mariano Rivera.
"It's such an honor to be here; this is my third year and I wouldn't miss this for the world," Hoffman told the crowd. "I enjoy so much hanging out with you young guys and I appreciate you guys being here."
Perfect Game President Jerry Ford took the podium to announce that Voorhees, N.J., left-handed pitcher and cancer survivor Devin Smeltzer would be this year's recipient of the PG Nick Adenhart Award, which goes to the PG All-American who most exhibits not only outstanding talent on the field but outstanding courage and character as well.
Ford reminded the gathering that the starting pitchers in the first All-American Game in 2003 were Homer Bailey -- now with the Cincinnati Reds -- for the West and Adenhart for the East.
"Nick was probably one of the best pitchers we had ever seen as a high school pitcher," Ford said. "Nick was not only one of the finest high school pitchers we ever saw, but he was one of the nicest kids with the highest character you could imagine in a young man."
This year's other award winners were:
Tyler Kolek, Baseball America Pitching Prospect of the Year; Jacob Gatewood, EvoShield SWAG Award; Alex Jackson, Baseball Prospectus Prospect of the Year; and Derek Hill, Rawlings Defensive Player of the Year.
Jackie Robinson Award winner Gordon spoke for all 51 PG All-Americans when talking about the ride they've all been on.
"It's been amazing," he said. "It's been very competitive and a lot of hard work; everyday you've got to go out there and you've got to give your best and you can't go out there expecting to take a day off. Going out there and playing against these guys, it's tough every game you go out so you just have to go out and give your all."
Patrick Ebert -- Sunday, August 11 -- 10:54 a.m. PDT
Chuck Fox addresses the PG All-Americans and their families
Game day is upon us. As the players have been spending the last several days leading up to today practicing, scrimmaging, visiting Rady Children's Hospital, the Miramar Marine Base and participating in last night's award dinner banquet, they have been spending time together while getting to know one another and forming life long bonds. That camaraderie culminates in competition as today at 5:00 pm PDT the broadcast will begin on MLB Network with a 5:08 pm first pitch.
For the parents and scouts, the gates at Petco will open at 1:00 pm, and the players will participate in a light workout and BP. All scouts are invited to attend the scout's reception held at the LEXUS Homeplate Lounge from 3:00-5:00 pm.
The players started their day by participating in the second segment of EvoShield's "Protecting the Game" summit, which included a presentation by Chuck Fox of Major League Baseball and R.J. Harrison, Scouting Director for the Tampa Bay Rays.
Stayed tuned throughout the rest of today for updates and features from the 2012 Perfect Game All-American Classic presented by Rawlings.
Patrick Ebert -- Saturday, August 10, 2013 -- 9:43 PM PDT
West outfielder Derek Hill receives the Rawlings Defensive Player of the Year award from Mark Kraemer
Dinner banquet award recipients
The annual dinner banquet as part of the Perfect Game All-American Classic presented by Rawlings was conducted on Saturday evening at the San Diego Hall of Champions. Daron Sutton served as the emcee while San Diego Padres great Trevor Hoffman was the Honorary Chairman. Here are the award recipients:
Jackie Robinson Player of the Year Award: Nick Gordon
Rawlings Defensive Player of the Year Award: Derek Hill
EvoShield SWAG Award: Jacob Gatewood
Baseball Prospectus Prospect of the Year: Alex Jackson
Baseball America Pitcher of the Year: Tyler Kolek
Perfect Game Nick Adenhart Award: Devin Smeltzer
Jeff Dahn will have a more detailed feature from the awards banquet on Sunday.
Jeff Dahn -- Saturday, August 10, 2013 -- 4:47 PM PDT
SAN DIEGO -- Ballgames are won on walk-off home runs almost every day. Home run derbies, not so much.
But that is exactly what Marietta, Ga., top prospect Michael Chavis did Saturday afternoon on Cunningham Field at Fowler Park on the beautiful University of San Diego campus when he clubbed his fourth home run of the final round to win the Rawlings Home Run Challenge at the 11th annual Perfect Game All-American Classic presented by Rawlings.
Chavis, a 5-foot-11, 190-pounder, was the last of eight finalists to step in, and by the time he did he knew that Weston, Mass., slugger Justin Bellinger and sweet-swinging Reese Cooley out of Orange Park, Fla. -- his East Team teammates -- had already delivered three bombs in their final-round at-bats. Chavis reached three dingers with three outs to go before delivering the Challenge-winner over the left-center field fence as his teammates cheered him on.
"When I hit that third one, I'm not going to lie, I had a little bit of the jitters," Chavis said after signing a couple of baseballs for young fans who had watched the Challenge. "But I got out there and got my pitches and cut it loose, and it all worked out. Obviously this is all for fun and you want to take it somewhat seriously. Everyone is trying to have a good time out here and I guess that's all it takes."
Chavis, like most of the participants in the Rawlings Home Run Challenge, admitted to putting a little mustard on his swing as the competition drew to a close.
"I tried to take my normal swing in the first round and then in the end I figured I didn't really have much to lose so I might as well take a bigger hack," he said. "So I added a little leg-kick and tried to get more torque on the bat and, well, yeah. But just to be able to be a part of this home run derby is incredible. I'm just blessed enough to say that I'm glad I won it and it was a great experience."
Bellinger and his 6-foot-5, 240-pound frame set the bar when he pounded out three home runs early in the final round, including one that landed on the roof of a building more than 430-feet away in right field.
"Home run derbies are my thing," he said after congratulating Chavis. "That was really fun getting on a field like this, nice little obstacles (beyond the outfield fence) to try to hit, and it was just real fun. But I take everything seriously -- you're trying to get better and I'm trying to work on my swing and take some good swings up there. I'm having a good time with my buds so, yeah, it's a blast."
There is a lot of chatter going on during the Rawlings Home Run Challenge, but with the three leaders all being on the East roster, not so much among one another.
"Between the East and West definitely, we go back and forth," Bellinger said. "East thinks they're better, West thinks they're better, but it's all in fun; we're all friends back at the hotel and everything."
Cooley is a speedy 6-foot-2, 200-pound outfielder/infielder who proved to have the ability to put solid wood on the ball. He was able to match Bellinger's three homers with five more outs to go but couldn't get to No. 4.
"It was a great feeling with your boys cheering you on and stuff," Cooley said of the experience. "You want to win but the main part is having a good time. It was good to see Chavis win it; he walked-off so he deserved it."
Like Chavis, Cooley admitted to changing his approach at the plate once he made it to the finals.
"When you start off everyone is just having a good time and then you get into that final round and it's like, 'Yeah, I want to win it,'" Cooley said. "When you get in the final round you can kind of taste it a little bit and definitely want to win it at the end there. I kind of speed my hands up a little bit and try to let them fly as much as possible. You still want to have a good approach; you don't want to pull everything. You want to stay up the middle, up the gap, and sometimes it goes and sometimes it doesn't."
After the Rawlings Home Run Challenge concluded, the players headed back to the hotel and an appointment with the good folks from Oakley sunglasses, where they would be fitted with some custom-designed shades. The HR Challenge provided just one more memory.
"Everything that we've been doing for the All-American game has been incredible," Chavis said. "This is the best experience I've had in baseball so far."
Patrick Ebert -- Saturday, August 10, 2013 -- 3:48 PM PDT
Jeff Dahn spoke with PG All-American left-hander and San Diego native Brady Aiken about his participation in the Classic as well as his role as a "Miracle Maker" helping to raise money for Rady Children's Hospital:
Brady Aiken: No Shortage of Greatness
Patrick Ebert -- Saturday, August 10, 2013 -- 3:34 PM PDT
Michael Chavis with Mark Kraemer of Rawlings
Michael Chavis wins Rawlings Home Run Challenge
Less than 12 hours from departing Fowler Park/Cunningham Field on the University of San Diego's campus, the Perfect Game All-Americans found themselves back on the field for the second practice, which consisted of another round of BP, which was followed by the Rawlings Home Run Challenge. This year, the entire Challenge was conducted on Saturday.
A few notes on the batting practice session held prior to the Challenge:
• Jacob Gatewood was driving the ball much better on Saturday than what he did during BP on Friday night. With a tall, pro-style stature, Gatewood creates excellent leverage on his swing with immense power potential.
• Trenton Kemp, who has been dealing with a pulled hamstring and hasn't looked himself, got a hold of a ball in BP and drove it well over the wall in left field.
• Alex Jackson and Jon Littell continue to form an exiting 1-2 back-to-back punch in the West team's BP order. Both hit the ball consistently hard to all fields.
• Sweet swinging left-handed hitter Bryce Carter got into more of a power groove on Saturday, pulling the ball with loft to right field.
• Benito Santiago, like Gatewood, did a better job driving the ball today. His hardest hit balls were hit to straightaway centerfield, with intriguing power from gap-to-gap.
• Michael Chavis continued to show the ability to loft balls deep to all parts of the park.
• Justin Bellinger is a man among boys physically, much like Rowdy Tellez a year ago. And like Tellez, Bellinger enters Saturday as one of the favorites to win the Rawlings Home Run Challenge.
Thirty-eight players participated in the Challenge. Here are the totals from the first round in the order that they hit:
Jakson Reetz – 2
Monte' Harrison – 0
Michael Kopech – 1
Jacob Gatewood – 0
Marcus Wilson – 2
Bryce Carter – 1
Alex Jackson – 3
Keaton McKinney – 0
Sean Bouchard – 0
Jon Littell – 4
Brady Aiken – 1
Tyler Kolek – 1
Scott Hurst – 1
Brandon Murray – 0
David Peterson – 0
DJ Peters – 0
Stone Garrett – 0
Zack Shannon – 1
Justin Smith – 0
Carl Chester – 1
Michael Gettys – 3
Greg Deichmann – 1
Nick Gordon – 0
Braxton Davidson – 4
Justin Bellinger – 3
Ti'Quan Forbes – 0
Michael Chavis – 3
Grant Holmes – 1
Touki Toussaint – 0
Cobi Johnson – 0
Reese Cooley – 3
Sean Reid-Foley – 0
Chase Vallot – 1
Benito Santiago – 0
Kel Johnson – 3
Justus Sheffield – 0
Gareth Morgan – 2
Foster Griffin – 1
Jackson, Littell, Gettys, Davidson, Bellinger, Chavis, Cooley and Johnson (who hit two with nine outs) advanced to the second round of the Challenge and each batter was given 10 more outs. Here are the results:
Alex Jackson – 2
Jon Littell – 1
Michael Gettys – 0
Braxton Davidson – 2
Justin Bellinger – 3
Reese Cooley – 3
Kel Johnson – 1
Michael Chavis – 4
Patrick Ebert -- Saturday, August 10, 2013 -- 11:49 AM PDT
O-Lab rolls into town
On the bus ride to Fowler Park/Cunningham Field, the team bus passed the mobile Oakley Lab, heading in the opposite direction to set up their impressive military looking command station in the parking lot of the event hotel. The folks from Oakley will be giving the PG All-American players a detailed presentation of the benefits of their eyewear in addition to having them craft a custom pair of their own.
Patrick Ebert -- Saturday, August 10, 2013 -- 10:22 AM PDT
Here are a few behind the scenes looks here at Fowler Park/Cunningham Field at the University of San Diego. The first of which is Brett Dolan and David Rawnsley handling the play-by-play and color duties for the online broadcast of the Day 2 batting practice session on Saturday. The second is of our partner handling the online video production, Skillshow, and super producer Pat Austria.
Patrick Ebert -- Saturday, August 10, 2013 -- 10:00 AM PDT
Be sure to read Jeff Dahn's feature on Devin Smeltzer from late on Saturday. Smeltzer is a cancer survivor at a young age, who shared his story after visiting Rady Children's Hospital on Friday.
Devin Smeltzer - 'It gives you hope'
Patrick Ebert -- Saturday, August 10, 2013 -- 1:03 AM PDT
Jakson Reetz peaked at 93 mph during his one inning appearance
Teams workout, East squeezes by West 3-2 in scrimmage
For as powerful message and overall experience it is annually to visit Rady Children's Hospital, and for as powerful of an impressive visiting the Mariners Corp. Air Station Miramar, the players and coaches were anxious to finally take the baseball field on Friday night as part of the event's first team practice and scrimmage.
Each team took batting practice to open the evening, which was conducted at newly (and beautifully) renovated Fowler Park at Cunningham Field, the University of San Diego's baseball field. After BP, each team took infield drills before taking part in a six-inning scrimmage.
Monte' Harrison, who continues to make strong impressions both on and off the field, is a dynamic three-sport athlete that has committed to play for Nebraska for football. For as relatively inexperienced as he is in baseball, he swings the bat incredibly well with great strength in the batter's box, and shines in all aspects of the game (he also made a strong impression during the day's visit to Ray Children's Hospital). Harrison has performed incredibly well all summer long and may be looking at yet another bump up Perfect Game's class of 2014 player rankings after his strong BP performance, and he also added a single that he smoked to right field in the scrimmage.
Trenton Kemp didn't get a hold of any balls during BP, but continually stung the ball hard.
You can see why onlookers are so excited by Marcus Wilson's future. Incredibly slender through the waist, Wilson has very impressive bat speed and very quick hands, giving him the ability to drive the ball a long, long way.
While Bryce Carter didn't put on a dramatic show of power during BP, you'll be hard-pressed to find a better looking left-handed swing.
Alex Jackson and Jon Littell, who hit the in same BP group as Carter, both squared up the ball consistently well and drove it to all parts of the park. While Jackson hit more line drive lasers, Littell showed the ability to use his impressive natural strength to add loft to his swing.
Justin Smith, similar to Trenton Kemp, also his fair share of screaming line drives during BP.
Carl Chester continues to prove that he's much more than just his world-class speed, although him sprinting from second to home in the scrimmage was one of the day's biggest highlights, as he drove the ball high and deep to left field consistently during BP, evidence of his budding power.
Gareth Morgan didn't hit too many right on the screws, but the ones that he did travelled well over the wall in left-center and left the ballpark in a hurry.
Justin Bellinger is a ridiculously large and strong individual for a soon-to-be high school senior. He hit the most balls out that drew the most audible gasps from the crowd.
Ti-Quan Forbes is nowhere near Bellinger in stature with rail-thin yet wiry strong, lanky limbs, but he can put a charge in the ball and it's easy to dream on what he may become once he adds more strength.
Michael Chavis hit the ball consistently hard, adding loft to his quick swing while muscling a few out of the park.
Reese Cooley, somewhat similar to Monte' Harrison, is a strong and physical overall athlete with the ability to put a charge in the ball and send it a long way.
The last batch to take BP was easily the most impressive collectively: Michael Gettys, Greg Deichmann, Braxton Davidson and Kel Johnson.
The ball makes a different sound off the bat of Gettys, and it travels a long, long way. There's an obvious confidence about Getty's swing and overall approach, and he's an extremely fun player to watch in a situation like this, as his incredibly arm strength was also on display as part of the pre-scrimmage infield.
Deichmann's power was well chronicled at the PG National Showcase at the Metrodome, and he continued to show that power stroke through BP.
Davidson is such an accomplished hitter, he makes everyone look easy in the batter's box routinely driving balls hard to right field.
Onto the scrimmage, a contest in which the score really doesn't matter, but one we still keep for the records (and one the players clearly take seriously, as every athlete wants to win no matter what the situation).
Due to the importance of keeping pitchers fresh since they will be taking the mound for one-inning appearances during Sunday's Classic, not a single hurler expected to throw Sunday made an appearance in the scrimmage. Instead, three primary position players from each team went one inning a piece, with one pitcher on each squad (Kiko Garcia and Aaron Pinto) being added to the scrimmage that aren't on the Classic rosters to help give the hitter's more plate appearances. Garcia and Pinto are from nearby Chula Vista and West Covina.
Here's a quick rundown of what the pitchers threw, starting with the West:
Jack Flaherty (inning 1): Pretty easy 88-91 mph heat. Worked quick and added quality 71-73 curveball, using one to freeze Reese Cooley to close out the frame.
Jakson Reetz (inning 2): Not only does he have one of the strongest and most accurate arms as a catcher, but he also pumped easy 91-93 mph heat with a sharp 79-81 mph slider. He would have great success in college, should he honor his commitment to Nebraska, if he went to campus and was allowed to perform both as a pitcher and as a position prospect.
Scott Hurst (inning 3): Surprising stuff for a smaller athlete, working at 88-91 with is fastball and mixing a pretty effective if not sharp 74-75 mph curveball.
Kiko Garcia (innings 4-6): Pitched 85-87 with his fastball and a slow 73 mph curve.
The East pitchers:
Nick Gordon (inning 1): No stranger to pitching, Gordon continued to show his electric arm strength by sitting at 899-92 with his fastball while dropping in his usually sharp 74-77 mph curveball, striking out a pair of batters.
Braxton Davidson (inning 2): Davidson also struck out a pair of batters, and was surprisingly effective with his 83-86 mph fastball from sneaky a low three-quarters delivery. He looked comfortable lulling hitters to sleep with his slow, upper-60s curveball before busting them up with his fastball.
Reese Cooley (inning 3): Cooley was mostly 85-87 mph, touching 88, with his fastball and also threw a fairly impressive upper-70s changeup.
Aaron Punto (innings 4-6): Using a 82-84 mph fastball, you could tell Punto was a little nervous facing the talent-laden Classic roster. That said, he did a nice job overall, recording three strikeouts in his three innings of work.
Some quick hitters from the rest of the scrimmage:
• Alex Jackson threw a pair of strikes to second base to gun down, or at least to attempt to gun down would-be basestealers. In the second inning he threw out Michael Chavis, who reached on a walk, and in the fourth his throw beat Carl Chester, who reached on a single to left field, but Chester beat the tag. Ti'Quan Forbes had a pair of hits for the East squad during Friday's scrimmage.
• Sean Bouchard, who showed up to the Classic with a protective boot on after fouling a ball hard off of his foot, took the boot off today to participate not only in BP, but infield drills. He made a great play in the scrimmage look even greater considering his situation by charging a ball hit in front of him at third base prior to firing a seed to first base to record the out.
• Forbes had a pair of hits in the scrimmage, a single up the middle in the first and an RBI smash to right that gave the East a 2-0 lead in the fourth.
• Michael Gettys, who arguably had the most impressive round of BP, asked the umpire "can I hit again" after getting hit by a pitch. Showcase rules would have allowed Gettys to continue to hit, but such rules were not being observed for this game.
• DJ Peters hit a sharp RBI single up the middle in the fourth inning to put the West on the board.
• Scott Hurst, who also pitched an inning while also taking part of infield drills as a primary outfielder, made the scrimmage interesting by driving an RBI single up the middle in the sixth inning to pull the West within one of the East. That would be the last run of the game, as the contest finished 3-2, East squad.
Be sure to view the archived video footage, which is being streamed live from the 2013 Perfect Game All-American Classic presented by Rawlings, in this feature.
Patrick Ebert -- Saturday, August 10, 2013 -- 12:27 AM PDT
All-Americans get a “Top Gun” taste at Miramar
After the visit to Rady Children's Hospital and a lunch back at the event hotel, the players got back onto the bus and headed over to the Marines Corp. Air Station Miramar.
The Marine base was the site of the cinematic classic from the 1980s, Top Gun. Several of us well over the age of 30 reminded ourselves of some of the movies most classic quotes and overall moments, highlighted by Tom Cruise racing by the airstrip on his motorcyle with F-16 jet fighters taking off with a roar by his side.
You would be hard-pressed to find a member of the 2013 PG All-Americans that has seen, much less heard of Top Gun, but we weren't at Miramar to discuss movie trivia anyway. The sites to take in were beyond impressive, as our host Marine split the group into three rotating between the three stations the Mariners were so kind enough to set up for us.
My group started with the emergency fire crew, who were quick to point out that F-18 fighter jets have a propensity for over-heating. Their response time is crucial is saving both lives and equipment at the base, needing to get into their gear within two minutes and anywhere on the base within five. The base response fire fighters invited the All-Americans to try on the gear, and Luis Ortiz and Benito Santiago were quick to respond, having an impromptu “60-yard dash” on the flight deck.
The second station focused on the aforementioned F-18 Super Hornet fighter jets, which as we were informed were the U.S. Military's most widely used single-pilot fighter. A pilot stood on hand at the top of the access stairs to answer any questions about both the plane and his role as a fighter pilot.
The third and final station put us on board an Osprey, which is a plane/helicopter that is capable of making vertical take off and landings, with four rotors that move to a helicopter position while landing/taking off, and then move to more of a prop when in route. The vehicle is used largely for troop deployment with the ability to move into and out of hard-to-reach places quickly.
Several Ospreys were on display in the air as well, amidst a number of F-18s that also took to the sky. One large helicopter also landed on the air strip with the All-Americans in attendance, all in front of a perfectly clear, crystal blue sky as the backdrop.
Jeff Dahn -- Friday, August 9, 2013 -- 4:00 PM PDT
Smiles all around during Rady visit
SAN DIEGO -- The Perfect Game All-American's annual visit to Rady Children's Hospital Friday morning was once again a resounding success, bringing simultaneous smiles to the teenage ballplayers and much younger patients alike.
This was my third trip to Rady as part of my involvement with the Perfect Game All-American Classic presented by Rawlings, and it has proved to be a highlight of the weekend -- right up there with the game itself.
Almost without exception, when the All-Americans file off the bus and enter Rady Children's Hospital, it is for a first-time visit to the facility. This year, however, three players from the San Diego area -- Alex Jackson, Brad Aiken and Sean Bouchard -- had already made several visits as part of a months-long goal of raising $10,000 for the hospital before the Classic is played late Sunday afternoon. With two more days of fund-raising left, they had already raised in excess of $12,000.
Based on his experience visiting the young patients, Jackson was asked Friday morning if he had any words of advice for his fellow All-Americans if any asked how they should interact with the youngsters.
"You need to stay just as positive as you can," Jackson said he told them. "Just make sure that everything you say has a positive outlook on life. Just be happy as you can and just have a great time and try to be a kid again."
Judging by first-hand observations, his counterparts followed that advice to the letter.
The All-Americans were divided into four groups and they rotated between taking tours of the hospitals wings and hanging out in the courtyard/playground area to enjoy personal interaction with the young patients. They played catch; threw soft, inflatable balls at equally soft bats; did some coloring and even played board games.
A group of four or five East Team All-Americans -- including Orange Park, Fla.'s Reese Cooley -- decided to throw a couple of underhand pitches to one stalwart youngster. The kid, swinging with one hand and at the first pitch, lined a drive back at the unsuspecting East-teamers, which scattered them like so many bowling pins. It was hilarious.
"I asked him if he played baseball and he said, yeah, he loves the game," Cooley said with a laugh. "He's having fun so we're having fun with him, just having a good time."
The smiles all around gave that away from the get-go.
"We come in and we're the All-Americans and stuff but really when we get here we look up to these kids because they're so happy," Cooley said. "They're not worried about if they went 0-for-3 or 0-for-4; they just love being out here having fun and doing what kids do. Just seeing the smiles on their faces is incredible."
East All-American Braxton Davidson from Arden, N.C., used the entire time that he got to spend in the courtyard/playground area playing games and doing some coloring with one young patient, who seemed prone to giggle frequently through her adoring shyness.
Davidson had told me earlier this summer about a program he was involved with through TC Roberson High School back home in which he worked with mentally and physically handicapped students and said that he "plays for the kids who cannot play."
"It's special being a part of this; these kids don't get the opportunities that we do," he told me Friday. "It brings a tear to my eye just seeing these kids and what they go through and we just have to give back to the community. Without me giving back to my community I wouldn't be here today and be in the spot that I'm in, so it's just good giving back; it's awesome.
"Being able to be with these kids and seeing them play baseball ... I love it; these kids are all awesome and they're all special. It's just a blessing to be here."
I approached Dalmetto, Ga., slugger Kel Johnson shortly after he had completed a tour of one of the hospital wings that houses some children who were unable to join us in the courtyard on this day. Johnson always speaks well and glows with a passion for baseball, in particular, and life, in general.
"We just got to walk around through the hospital and as you're walking you can see into the hospital rooms," he related to me. "It's a touching experience seeing some of the little kids craning their necks to look out the window down (into the playground) at the other kids out there playing; some of the kids were just staring at us as we walked by.
"Getting to come into this atmosphere -- it's just sheer joy with these kids. In and of themselves they're an inspiration, just the way they're so happy; it makes you appreciate what you've got."
That was the same sentiment expressed by every All-American I spoke with during the visit, including West outfielder Derek Hill from Sacramento, Calif. At the time I approached him, Hill was standing to the back a little bit, basking in the warm San Diego sunshine and watching the kids -- young and old -- interact in front of him.
"This is surreal; I love it out here," he said. "Just being able to give back after everybody's been giving to me for all these past years and making sure I'm all right and that I'm progressing. It's good to see that I can give back and help the kids out."
Hill told me his mom's a nurse and he would sometimes visit the hospital where she works and walk past young patients without being able to interact with them.
"I've always wanted to do that, so it's kind of been a long time coming," he said. "I'm glad that it's finally happening; it's been a great experience and I wouldn't want anything better."
Former big-leaguer and future Hall of Famer Trevor Hoffman serves as the Honorary Chairman of Perfect Game All-American Classic presented by Rawlings, and was on hand for Friday's visit by this year's All-Americans. Trevor and his wife, Tracy, have long been involved in fund-raising efforts for Rady, and enjoyed watching the players interact with the young patients while also doing some interacting himself.
In a casual conversation, Hoffman noted that the All-Americans are kind of "desensitized" in a way, in that they are able to see past the kids' medical issues and they're just basically out there playing with kids. "They're just like little brothers" to the All-Americans, he said.
I found that interesting. The All-Americans -- the nation's top 50 baseball prospects in the 2014 high school graduating class -- do have the ability to look beyond the youngster's illnesses and interact with them on equal footing while also understanding the gravity of the encounter.
"This is a life-changing experience, meeting these kids," the West's Keaton McKinney, from Ankeny, Iowa, said. "It really puts life into perspective and it really shows you that (baseball) is just a game and it's awesome when you can give something back. It's been a great experience with these kids and it's heart-warming to be with these kids."
I asked McKinney if was easy to bring a smile to the faces of the young patients, and he smile back at me.
"They bring a smile to my face, actually," he said. "They have a smile on their face even with what they're going through and that just puts a smile right back on my face."
It was a terrific morning in Southern California.
"Just getting out to do something like this is really a touching experience," Johnson said. "I really appreciate the opportunity, so, thank you."
No, thank you. Much to Alex Jackson's pleasure, it was an extremely positive experience for everyone involved. Smiles all around.
Jeff Dahn -- Thursday, August 8, 2013 -- 8:00 PM PDT
Montes de Oca happy to be part of program
SAN DIEGO -- The biggest player on either the East or West teams' rosters for Sunday's 11th annual Perfect Game All-American Classic presented by Rawlings won't throw a pitch, swing a bat or field a ground ball at all this weekend.
But Lawrence (Kan.) High School senior and University of Missouri commit Bryce Montes de Oca is determined to make the most out of the PG All-American Classic opportunity that he has been presented with, even if Tommy John surgery performed in early April will keep him from competing.
"I'm very excited to be a part of this," Montes de Oca told PG after adding his autograph to All-American Classic posters, bats and balls and being fitted for his West Team uniform on Thursday afternoon.
"It's a great honor to be named to this team and even though I'm still hurt it's an honor to be able to come down here and attend the game," he said. "I'm going to do as much as I can, whatever that will be; I'm just happy to be here."
Montes de Oca, a right-hander listed at 6-feet-8 and 265 pounds, suffered ligament damage in his elbow while pitching in a high school game on April 4 and had the Tommy John surgical procedure performed on April 11. He is currently undergoing physical therapy that is set to be complete by the first week of September when he'll start a throwing program that will run into next February.
His surgeon was Dr. George Paletta, the head team physician for the St. Louis Cardinals' sports medicine department. Dr. Paletta's surgical techniques and rehab program have been successful with many major league players and Montes de Oca swears by him.
"I'm sticking with what (Paletta) tells me to do and I think that's the right thing to do," he said.
The rehab has involved a lot of band work and a lot of movement work in an effort to get his range of motion back. The process can be tedious at best at times, but Montes de Oca has persevered.
"It was frustrating at first, just trying to get use to not being able to play baseball," he said. "After awhile, probably the first few weeks, you just kind of learn how to deal with it and I've tried to find the light at the end of the tunnel and I'm trying to get something good out of it. I'm just working hard and trying to get better."
Montes de Oca was a little bit of an unknown on the national scene until he joined the Midland Redskins at last October's PG WWBA World Championship in Jupiter, Fla. He impressed the hundreds of scouts in attendance with a fastball that sat 93-95 mph complemented with a 78 mph curveball. He accomplished that despite coming off a less severe elbow injury the previous summer.
"I went down there and did well and that's when I kind of got (better) known," Montes de Oca said. "After that I was kind of progressing and working hard and just pitching; just doing what I can. And then the (high school) season came around and I got hurt, and I was back to square one."
"Square one" isn't as lonely of a place as it once was. Hundreds of you players at every level --position players and pitchers alike, from high schools, colleges and the professional ranks -- have come back stronger than ever from the Tommy John procedure. Montes de Oca is confident he will join the ranks of success stories.
"I know I will," he said when asked if he felt like he could be among the success stories. "I've worked very hard and I'm going to keep on doing that. Other people have had the surgery and they've either come back the same or even better and I'm determined to come back better than I where I was."
Montes de Oca has committed to the University of Missouri from the Southeastern Conference, noting that the Tigers were the first NCAA Division program to every contact him and stuck with him when he first experienced some elbow discomfort in the summer of 2012.
"That loyalty means a lot to me," he said. "They're progressing in the SEC and I have confidence in the coaches and everyone in the organization that they'll make the best decisions for me and for the team."
MLB scouting departments will follow Montes de Oca's recovery closely. His 6-foot-8 frame, previous velocity and even his smarts (he carries a 4.0 GPA at Lawrence High) will be hard for any MLB general manager to take a pass on in next June's First-Year Player Draft. Montes de Oca has memorized his best-case scenario time frame.
"I'm very confident that I will be 100 percent by (the draft)," he said. "My 10th month is my technical end to my surgery (recovery period) and that's when I should be 100 percent, but people know that it takes longer to get the feel (for pitching) back. By the time of the draft it will have been 13 or 14 months (since the surgery) so hopefully I'll be where I want to be ability-wise.
"I'm just doing what I can right now and I can't control what's going to happen; I can only control what's going on right now."
Jeff Dahn -- Thursday, August 8, 2013 -- 7:30 PM PDT
Tyler Kolek (center) receives the top pitching prospect award from
the PG National Showcase from PG's Kirk Gardner (left) and Jerry Ford.
All-Americans greeted at Welcome Dinner
SAN DIEGO -- For all you parents that were unable to accompany your son to this weekend's Perfect Game All-American Classic presented by Rawlings, you can sleep well tonight knowing: 1) They will be well-fed during their four-day stay at the Marriott Mission Valley Hotel and, 2) They will enjoy themselves tremendously while also being safely tucked away in their rooms by 11 p.m. each night.
That was the message delivered by the culinary staff at the Marriott and by representatives of Perfect Game and Blue Ridge Sports & Entertainment at tonight's Welcome Dinner.
PG and Blue Ridge work together to make sure tight schedules that cover the next three days are kept and the Marriott staff makes sure no one leaves hungry. After a box lunch Thursday afternoon that featured delicious roast beef, ham and cheese sandwiches, the players and coaches dined on scrumptious top sirloin steak, crusted halibut, red roasted potatoes, wild rice, hard rolls, garden fresh salad and maple pepper bacon spinach salad. A selection of cheesecake was offered for desert.
San Diego Hall of Champions public relations director Jesse Lovejoy spoke to the players of interaction with both the mainstream media and social media, reminding them to use their heads at all time. Blue Ridge president David Gardiner went through the schedule for the next three days and reminded the prospects of the importance of being on time and the very adult responsibilities inherent with being a PG All-American.
Finally, Perfect Game President Jerry Ford rattled off eye-popping stats regarding the number of first round MLB draft picks the Classic has produced (100 in the last six drafts alone, since 2008) and the number of PG All-American Classic alumni who have made their major league debuts (73).
"You're in the most elite group that there possibly could be in high school baseball; there's nothing else close to it," Ford said. He also spoke about how the All-Americans have impressed him through the years not only with their talent but with their outstanding character.
"We've had a few bad apples that have played in this game," he said, "but I'd say for every 50 players there is probably one bad apple. Don't be that bad apple."
Awards were also handed out recognizing the top performers at June's Perfect Game National Showcase in Minneapolis:
Fastest Man, Carl Chester; Top Power Hitter, Braxton Davidson; Top Hitting Prospect, Bryce Carter; Top Defensive Player, Nick Gordon; Top Pitching Prospect, Tyler Kolek; Best Tools, Michael Gettys; Top Overall Prospect, Alex Jackson.
Jeff Dahn -- Thursday, August 8, 2013 -- 4:15 PM PDT
Benito Santiago looks at the options Rawlings
provided with the custom gloves they offer
PG, Rawlings provide All-Americans with custom gloves
SAN DIEGO -- Every March for the past several years, representatives from Rawlings Sporting Goods set up camp at major baseball spring training facilities in Florida and Arizona and let the big-leaguers custom design their own fielding gloves.Thursday afternoon at the Mission Valley Mariott Hotel the folks from Perfect Game and Rawlings provided the same opportunity to the roster players for this year's Perfect Game All-America Classic presented by Rawlings.
Rawlings brought a complete line of gloves in all models -- catcher's mitts, first base mitts, infield and outfield gloves -- just to show the players the breadth and variety of gloves available. After trying the gloves on, talking with the Rawlings reps and amongst themselves, each player could then customize his glove by changing out the laces and webs, adding extensions or different textures and even have his name engraved on it if he really wanted to personalize the magic leather utensil.
"They're really just making a custom glove from soup to nuts," Mark Kraemer, Rawlings' Sports Marketing & Licensing Manger told me Thursday afternoon. "It gives these guys an opportunity to do something that a lot of these guys haven't been able to do.
"It gives them a little taste of the pro life and a bigger picture of what they can do, like putting their name on it," he said. "That's kind of one of the symbols of when you've made it is when you start getting your name on a glove."
The only difference between what the All-Americans experienced in the player hospitality room at the Mission Valley Mariott and what the Boston Red Sox experienced during spring training in their home clubhouse at jetBlue Park in Fort Myers, Fla., is that Rawlings will present between 30 and 40 more models to those big-leaguers at jetBlue.
The gloves will be individually crafted and shipped out to the players in six to eight weeks. In a nutshell, this is one more added benefit to the All-Americans, courtesy of Perfect Game and third-year presenting sponsor Rawlings.
"It gives these guys some good gloves and good leather," Kraemer said. "It's a win-win for everybody; hopefully the guys will like the glove and we know they will because we're pretty good at making gloves, fortunately for us."
Jeff Dahn -- Thursday, August 8, 2013 -- 12:30 PM PDT
Prospects arrive for Classic registration
SAN DIEGO -- After grabbing an unsweetened iced tea and a copy of the San Diego Union-Tribune from inside the restaurant and lobby at the Mission Valley Mariott Hotel early this morning, I made my way to the conference room area where registration for the 11th annual Perfect Game All-American Classic presented by Rawlings was set to begin.
I mingled with a couple of PG co-workers and the folks from Blue Ridge Sports & Entertainment until West Team pitcher Luis Ortiz walked through the door just ahead of 10 a.m. Ortiz, a 6-foot-3, 205-pound right-hander from Sanger, Calif., was the first to register and did so with a wide smile and an air of anticipation.
"This is amazing," he said. "It's been a journey just to make it this far in baseball, and hopefully later on I can get to 'The Show'"
Ah, "The Show". The major leagues. The big leagues. It's not a far-fetched expectation for these 2013 PG All-Americans -- already 73 PG All-American Classic alumni have made their Major League Baseball debuts, including pitchers Dylan Bundy and Jose Fernandez, who played in the Classic as recently as 2010.
The registration process is the first "activity" the All-Americans take part in when they arrive for their four-day adventure and, in reality, it's something they seem to enjoy. I know I enjoy watching them experience it.
The players are first welcomed into a room where they sign posters, bats and balls, and try on their game and practice uniforms. From there they are led across the hall where they pose for photos to be used on their Topps PG All-American Classic trading cards.
"Doing this stuff almost makes you feel like you're halfway (to the big leagues)," Ortiz said.
Not long after Ortiz had sat down to start signing, East pitcher Joe Gatto followed in his footsteps. The 6-foot-5, 215-pound right-hander out of Hammonton, N.J., who is capable of delivering a fastball in the low- to mid-90s, seemed eager to embark on this adventure when I asked him what he was looking forward to the most over the next four days.
"Besides being out there and playing, it sounds like everything is going to be a fun time; I'm just ready for everything," Gatto said. "I never thought from day one that I'd be here so everything's been sweet. It's been a great experience."
What continues to strike me is the maturity with which these young men pursue their dreams of advancing their careers; almost all of them are experienced travelers by the time they reach their 18th birthday. Both Ortiz and Gatto received their invitations to the Classic based in large part due their terrific performances at the Perfect Game National Showcase in Minneapolis in mid-June.
Ortiz traveled here from his home in Sanger -- located in Fresno County in Central California -- by himself and has traveled by himself to most of his Perfect Game destinations this summer.
"This was my first year when I was actually traveling the most," Ortiz noted, rattling off Georgia, North Carolina, Minnesota, Texas and now Southern California as the states and regions he's visited this summer.
Gatto left his New Jersey home on Saturday and flew into Long Beach, Calif., where he a day early in the week pitching at the Area Code Games. Gatto has been accompanied by his father and his aunt, and his uncle joined the joined the entourage Thursday. Thoughts of what lies ahead were filling Gatto's mind Thursday morning.
"I'm just going to go with the flow out here," he said. "I had a couple of friends come over here last year and they said it's an unbelievable experience and I need to take it all in. So that's what I'm here to do -- enjoy the whole ride the whole time I'm here."
Ortiz had his thoughts on the playing field:
"You just basically have to try to be yourself; if you try to do more you're not going to succeed," he said, thinking ahead to the game itself Sunday evening. "But the main thing on the baseball field is to just go out there and have fun."
Just minutes into this adventure, it appeared the players were already having fun. A "Welcome Dinner" is on the agenda for early this evening and the real fun starts Friday with visits to Rady Children's Hospital, the Miramar Marine Air Station Base and a twilight practice session at the University of San Diego.
Matt Rodriguez -- Wednesday, August 7, 2013 -- 7:03 PM PDT
Just days away from the Perfect Game All-American Classic, Zack Shannon will join Midland Redskins teammate Cameron Varga as they represent Ohio on the West squad. The 6-foot-3 two-way player recalls the moment he found out he would be making the trip to San Diego to play in the Classic.
“It was more of a humbling reaction instead of a celebratory one,” said Shannon. “You just realize that ‘wow, I’m one of the top guys in the country and I have a chance to make something out of it.’
“It feels great. Only a select amount of kids get the opportunity to be called an All-American and it feels good to be one of them.”
Shannon, who has been attending Perfect Game events since he was 14-years-old, capitalized on his opportunity to stand out in front of a plethora of scouts and college coaches at the National Showcase in Minneapolis, Minn. earlier this summer.
The Cincinnati native showed he could play just about any position on the diamond, throwing 94 mph off the mound, 96 mph from the outfield, and 92 mph from the infield. He impressed enough to leave the showcase with a PG Grade of a perfect ’10.0’. One scouting report read:
Big extra strong athletic build. Top level two-way prospect. Right handed hitter, big bat speed with very strong hands, squares up everything, best games swings mid to opposite field, big oppo power, showed ability to turn and pull as well. Classic right field tools, plus arm strength, very accurate, also has tools and actions to play third base, 7.08 runner. High 3/4's arm slot on the mound, gets downhill, long arm action, young overall actions/mechanics on the mound but big stuff. Fastball topped at 94 mph, hard arm side running action at times, sharp slider bite with good depth, overmatched hitters.
“It was the top 300 kids in the country there and being able to go up there and play against all those guys and watch all those guys play everyday was actually pretty cool,” Shannon said of his time spent at the PG National. “It shows me how hard I need to work to keep moving up in the rankings and everything. I knew that they chose the All-American team out of there and that was my goal, to make the All-American team.”
The two-way player stays busy, continuously working to get better at every position and every skill each position requires. The numbers he put up at National are evidence of his work ethic.
“It’s mostly just working out a ton, hitting every single day, taking ground balls everyday, taking fly balls everyday, (and) working on mechanics for everything,” said Shannon.
Being from the Midwest, weather is not as ideal as it is for the California and Florida ballplayers, many of who make up the All-American Classic rosters. Shannon emphasizes the importance of taking advantage of the good summer months they do get in Ohio and continuously working hard year-round to stay competitive against kids from warmer climates.
“I think it’s more just working hard the entire time and keep going at it,” Shannon said. “Those guys do have a little better of an opportunity to play year-round, but if you work hard enough nobody can really get ahead of you.”
Shannon has spent his summer playing baseball with the Midland Redskins and All-American teammate Cameron Varga at the Connie Mack tournament as a pitcher and outfielder, but isn’t sure which one he prefers.
“I enjoy both a lot,” said Shannon. “I might enjoy pitching a little bit more just because I like getting up on the mound and putting the team on my back, but I love hitting.”
Shannon said he will be a two-way player at the next level when he arrives at Ohio State University. He hopes to play as a corner outfielder and take the closer role on the pitching staff eventually.
Patrick Ebert -- Wednesday, August 7, 2013 -- 9:26 AM PDT
Thanks for our friends and presenting sponsor of the Perfect Game All-American Classic, Rawlings, for providing the uniforms, balls, catching gear, batting helmets and bats, as shown above, over the years of the Classic. Give them a follow at @RawlingsSports.
Patrick Ebert -- Wednesday, August 7, 2013 -- 6:43 AM PDT
Jackie Robinson Finalists released
The Jackie Robinson Award, named for the late Major League Baseball Hall of Famer and former Brooklyn Dodger, is awarded annually to the Perfect Game National Player of the Year – the All-American considered the nation’s top high school prospect. The award is presented to the player who exhibits outstanding character, leadership, is involved in his community and embodies the values of being a student-athlete.
Jackie Robinson came from humble beginnings as the son of a sharecropper in Cairo, Georgia, to become the first black player to break Major League Baseball’s color barrier that had segregated the sport for more than 50 years. Jackie Robinson was not only a skilled baseball player, he was an excellent all-around athlete. At UCLA, Robinson became the first athlete to win varsity letters in four sports: Baseball, football, basketball and track.
After attending UCLA, Robinson briefly served in the U.S. Army, and after receiving an honorable discharge, he played one season in Negro Baseball League in 1945. Two years later in 1947, Robinson was approached by the Brooklyn Dodgers about joining their franchise. When he donned their uniform, he not only became the first black player in Major League Baseball since the sport was segregated in 1889, he pioneered the integration in professional sports in America. Through his integration, Robinson courageously challenged the racism that existed in both the north and the south in America at that time. At the end of Robinson’s rookie season with the Dodgers, he won the National League batting title (.342) on his way to earning the league's Rookie of the Year and MVP honors.
Robinson was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1962 and was inducted into UCLA’s Hall of Fame in 1984.
On April 15, 1997, exactly 50 years after he broke the color barrier in Major League Baseball, the entire nation honored his legacy. Robinson’s No. 42 jersey number was retired league-wide, the first and only player to earn this honor. That same day, President Bill Clinton paid tribute to Robinson at the New York Mets’ Shea Stadium in a special ceremony. Robinson was also honored by the United States Postal Service that year with a commemorative postage stamp.
Jackie Robinson’s life and legacy will continue to be remembered as one of the most important in American history.
The first recipient of the award was Justin Upton in 2004, the second year of the Classic. Clint Frazier, the No. 5 overall pick in this year's draft and now a member of the Cleveland Indians organization, received the honor last year.
Here are this year's finalists (listed alphabetically):
Dylan Cease - Posted a 0.88 ERA with 100 strikeouts in 69 innings
Jack Flaherty - Hit .361 with 31 hits, 13 RBI and 13 stolen bases
Jacob Gatewood - Hit .340 with 34 hits, 25 RBI and 10 stolen bases
Michael Gettys - Hit .420 with 45 hits, 35 RBI and 40 stolen bases
Nick Gordon - Hit .505 with 50 hits, 2 home runs and 14 stolen bases
Grant Holmes - Posted a 0.40 ERA with 88 strikeouts in 52 innings
Alex Jackson - Hit .343 with 37 hits, 14 home runs and 33 RBI
Tyler Kolek - Posted a 3.02 ERA with 71 strikeouts in 46 innings*
*sophomore season, injured junior year
Patrick Ebert -- Wednesday, August 7, 2013 -- 6:22 AM PDT
In addition to the televised, national live broadcast of the 2013 Perfect Game All-American Classic presented by Rawlings, which will be aired on Sunday, August 11, 2013 at 5:00 pm PDT on MLB Network for the first time, Perfect Game is excited to announce that other aspects of the event will be also be available for those to watch from the comforts of their own home.
This year Skillshow will be providing the production of live online video broadcasts of the following events from this year's Classic (all times local/Pacific):
• Team practice -- Friday, August 9, 6:00 pm
• Team scrimmage -- to follow the team practice on Friday night
• Team practice -- Saturday, August 10, 9:30 am
• Rawlings Home Run Challenge -- Saturday, August 10, 10:30 am
• Awards Dinner -- Saturday, August 10, 6:30 pm
Video portals from all of these events will be posted in this feature, so check back in the days to come to view these events.
Patrick Ebert -- Wednesday, August 7, 2013 -- 6:15 AM PDT
Alex Jackson was named the No. 1 prospect from last year's PG National Games,
now known as the PG Underclass All-American Games
While this is listed/linked below, I wanted to point out again given a few inquiries from scouts that the full schedule for baseball-related activities for the 2013 Perfect Game All-American Classic presented by Rawlings can be found here. Included on that page is the schedule for the 2013 PG Underclass All-American Games which will be conducted the two days after the Classic, Monday and Tuesday August 12 and 13. This year's PG National Games will be held at the University of San Diego's newly renovated Fowler Park and Cunningham Field (Google Maps are also included on that page).
This annual event, formerly known as the PG National Games, is held in conjunction with the Classic to showcase some of the very best players in future graduating classes. Last year, six of this year's All-Americans (Sean Bouchard, Bryce Carter, Jack Flaherty, Alex Jackson, Mac Marshall, David Peterson) participated, and four of those were named to the event's top prospect list, including the event's No. 1 prospect, Alex Jackson, who is also currently ranked the No. 1 prospect in the high school class of 2014.
In other words, this year's PG Underclass All-American Games will serve as a preview of some of the players we can expect to see in next year's Classic.
Patrick Ebert -- Wednesday, August 7, 2013 -- 6:08 AM PDT
Welcome to the Perfect Game All-American Classic presented by Rawlings blog, and congratulations to all of the players, friends and family members involved with the Classic.
This page will be used to provide updates from all of the events that are part of the four-day festivities, primarily from Perfect Game Feature Writer Jeff Dahn and myself.
Be sure to visit the Media Room page to read past features where many of the players have been profiled. Jeff Dahn and 2013 PG Interns Matt Rodriguez and Sam Brazenas provided stories on other All-Americans this summer not found in the media room prior to the announcement of the rosters on July 17. Here is a list of those player features:
Justin Bellinger - from the Perfect Game National Showcase (Jeff Dahn)
Sean Bouchard - from the 17u WWBA National Championship (Matt Rodriguez)
Bryce Carter - from the 17u WWBA National Championship (Sam Brazenas)
Michael Chavis - from the 18u WWBA National Championship (Sam Brazenas)
Carl Chester - from the 17u WWBA National Championship (Sam Brazenas)
Reeese Cooley - from the 17u BCS Finals (Jeff Dahn)
Braxton Davidson - from the 17u BCS Finals (Jeff Dahn)
Darius Day - (Matt Rodriguez)
Greg Deichmann - from the 17u WWBA National Championship (Sam Brazenas)
Jack Flaherty - from the Perfect Game National Showcase (jeff Dahn)
Ti'Quan Forbes - from the Perfect Game National Showcase (Matt Rodriguez)
Stone Garrett - from the 17u WWBA National Championship (Matt Rodriguez)
Jacob Gatewood - from the 18u WWBA National Championship (Sam Brazenas)
Joe Gatto - from the 17u WWBA National Championship (Matt Rodriguez)
Michael Gettys - from the Perfect Game National Showcase (Jeff Dahn)
Nick Gordon - from the Perfect Game National Showcase (Jeff Dahn)
Foster Griffin - from the 17u WWBA National Championship (Sam Brazenas)
Monte' Harrison - from the 17u Perfect Game World Series (Jeff Dahn)
Derek Hill - from the Perfect Game National Showcase (Matt Rodriguez)
Grant Holmes - from the Perfect Game National Showcase (Matt Rodriguez)
Scott Hurst - from the 17u Perfect Game World Series (Jeff Dahn)
Alex Jackson - from the Perfect Game National Showcase (Matt Rodriguez)
Cobi Johnson - from the 17u WWBA National Championship (Sam Brazenas)
Kel Johnson - from the 18u WWBA National Championship (Sam Brazenas)
Trenton Kemp - from the Perfect Game National Showcase (Matt Rodriguez)
Tyler Kolek - from the Perfect Game National Showcase (Jeff Dahn)
Michael Kopech - from the Perfect Game National Showcase (Jeff Dahn)
Jon Littell - from the 17u WWBA National Championship (Sam Brazenas)
Mac Marshall - from the 17u WWBA Naitonal Championship (Sam Brazenas)
Kodi Medeiros - from the Perfect Game National Showcase (Jeff Dahn)
Gareth Morgan - from the Perfect Game National Showcase (Jeff Dahn)
Brandon Murray - from the Perfect Game National Showcase (Jeff Dahn)
Luis Ortiz - from the 18u WWBA National Championship (Matt Rodriguez)
D.J. Peters - (Matt Rodriguez)
Jakson Reetz - from the 17u WWBA Naitonal Championship (Sam Brazenas)
Sean Reid-Foley - from the 17u WWBA Naitonal Championship (Sam Brazenas)
Benito Santiago - from the Perfect Game National Showcase (Matt Rodriguez)
Justin Smith - from the Perfect Game National Showcase (Jeff Dahn)
Touki Toussaint - from the Perfect Game National Showcase (Jeff Dahn)
Chase Vallot - from the Perfect Game National Showcase (Matt Rodriguez)
Features conducted with 2013 PG All-Americans prior to the summer of 2013:
Keaton McKinney - 2012 Perfect Game Midwest Top Prospect Showcase (Jeff Dahn)
David Peterson - 2012 Perfect Game National Academic Showcase (Jeff Dahn)
Zack Shannon - 2013 Perfect Game High School Preview (Jeff Dahn)
Justus Sheffield - 2013 Perfect Game High School Preview (Jeff Dahn)
Cameron Varga - 2012 Perfect Game Jr. National Showcase (Jeff Dahn)
Marcus Wilson - 2013 Perfect Game MLK Champoinship (Jeff Dahn)
Visit the Roster page to access the individual player profiles, as well as the History page to learn more about the previous 10 games played including the inaugural event in 2003. The Scout page provides the daily schedule of baseball-related activities, including those for the 2013 PG Underclass All-American Games. And of course, don't forget to tune into MLB Network at 5:00 pm PDT on Sunday for the game itself.