The 8th annual World Wood Bat Association Underclass World Championships will begin Friday morning, October 9, at 9 am, with the championship game scheduled for midday Monday morning. A total of 100 teams from across the country will compete for the championship, which will be held on 21 fields across the Ft. Myers, Florida area.
The 100 teams scheduled to play is by far the most to have ever participated in this event, eclipsing the 65 teams that competed in 2008. That jump is part of the huge increase in interest in WWBA events in 2009, where the number of teams in a tournament is increasingly determined by field availability, not interest. The 17U and 18U WWBA National Championships this summer were the two largest single age group baseball events ever conducted with 192 teams each.
The Underclass World Championships feature players from the 2011, 2012 and even 2013 classes, which makes it especially popular for college coaches, who are increasingly focusing their recruiting and scouting efforts on younger and younger players. It is also a huge event for the Perfect Game scouts and staff, as this is the first time many of the top young prospects will appear at a PG/WWBA event.
The young age and relative inexperience of the players at the event also make it very difficult to choose a “favorite” to take home the championship trophy. In fact, six different teams have made the finals during the last three years.
In 2006 the East Cobb Astros finished a run of four championships in five years by defeating Team Adidas in the final. Only Chet Lemon’s Juice in 2003 broke the Astros early stranglehold on the first place trophy. Team Adidas RHP-OF Keyvious Sampson was the surprise Most Valuable Player of the 2006 event and went on to become a Aflac All-American.
The 2007 event featured one of the bigger upsets in WWBA history, when the upstart McKinney Marshalls, playing in their WWBA event with a roster of relatively unknown players, defeated annual championship contenders The Dirtbags. Marshalls 3B Chase Durham was the Most Valuable Player.
Last October the All American Prospects, long championship contenders during the summer National Championships, broke through during the fall, defeating the Tri-State Arsenal. Aflac All-American SS/RHP Yordy Cabrera and 3B Nick Castellanos, also one of the top prospects in the 2010 class, shared MVP honors for All American Prospects.
So who are the favorites for 2009? It’s very hard to say. Few would have picked Tri-State, McKinney or Team Adidas to be playing in the final game.
The two primary East Cobb teams, the East Cobb Astros and East Cobb Braves, will have deep rosters, especially their pitching staffs, and play together most of the year and expect to play on Monday. Even at that, the Canes North team might have one of the most impressive pitching staffs in the history of the Underclass World Championships. The Midland Braves/Royals Scout Team has as much talent as anyone in the tournament on both sides of the ball.