JUPITER, Fla. -- Wagner Mateo came all the way from the Dominican Republic to Florida this past week to show major league scouts he's not damaged goods and that he was worth the $3.1 million bonus he almost got from the St. Louis Cardinals.
Mateo, 16, won the first Bo Jackson 5-Tool Championship Saturday night at Roger Dean Stadium with an impressive display of hitting, fielding, throwing, running and hitting with power against some of the top amateur talent in the world.
Mateo, who does not speak English, was all smiles as he posed with Jackson after the event and received his handsome award.
"He says, 'Thank god, the trip was worth it so I could show people who I really am,'" said Edgar Mercedes, his agent and translator. "He feels super."
The Cardinals signed Mateo in July for a $3.1 million bonus, but St. Louis voided the contract last month when it announced the left-handed outfielder had failed a mandatory physical exam due to unspecified injuries. Mercedes insists Mateo failed the physical because he does not have 20-20 vision in his right eye, denying his client has any previous or current injuries.
Mateo is a free agent, under international rules, and can sign with any major league team at any time. He has taken a series of physical exams with his own doctors since the Cardinals voided his contract. Those results are pending, and Mercedes said they'll be shared with any club that asks.
Thirty-two players participated in the 5-Tool Championship, including 19 Aflac All-Americans. Many of the players participated in all five stages of the event, while others competed in part of the competition that was held in conjunction with the WWBA World Championship.
"There was a lot of talent out there," said Jackson, the former two-sport all-star who many people consider one of the greatest athletes of all time. "I think at the rate these guys are going, I wouldn't be surprised if I wouldn't see half of them in the big leagues within five or six years."
Jackson is the owner of Bo Jackson Elite Sports in the Chicago suburbs, and the 5-Tool Championship was a joint venture of his company, Perfect Game USA and Nike. The entire event was filmed for television at a later date.
Kevin Jordan, a 6-foot-2, 180-pound outfielder from Columbus, Ga., won the Power Hitting competition with six impressive home runs, many of which traveled more than 400 feet. Mateo and Yordy Cabrera (Lakeland, Fla.) tied for second with five homers apiece.
"It just kind of happened," said Jordan, who has committed to Wake Forest. "I swung and it just kind of happened. They flew off."
Jordan said he's not known for his power at Northside High School in Columbus. "I'm known for my speed, I guess," he said. "That's all I thought I was going to be doing (in the 5-Too Championship) and I hit a couple of home runs, I guess."
Mitchell Shifflett, from Midlothian, Va., won the 60-yard dash in 6.38 seconds. He also won the 60-yard dash at the Perfect Game National Showcase in Minneapolis this past June and was crowned the "Fastest Player in the Country" for his performance Saturday night.
"It's nice," said Shifflett. "I'm just fortunate, very fortunate. I just got out there and tried my hardest and it worked out."
Eric Arce, from Marietta, Ga., won the hitting competition with four mammoth home runs and other ringing line drives. Ironically, Arce did not hit any home runs during the power hitting competition, but he'd already proven what he can do.
Kaleb Cowart, from Adel, Ga., won the throwing competition, highlited by a bullet from right field to home plate that was clocked at 100 mph. Chevez Clarke, from Marietta, Ga., won the fielding competition with an impressive display in center field.
Mateo, from Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic, did not win any of the five individual contests, but he had the highest composite score for the entire 5-Tool Competition with impressive results in all five categories, including several massive home runs.
Jackson served on the elite five-man panel that judged the competition along with former major leaguers Chet Lemon, Carl Everett, John Cangelosi and Dwight Smith.