SAN DIEGO -- Every one of the 93 prospects on hand for Monday and Tuesday's Perfect Game Underclass All-American Games tournament showcase has his own reasons for being here. Most cite taking advantage of the opportunity to play alongside other very talented ballplayers from around the country and of the same age and many others cite the added exposure in front scouts and college coaches.
Those are among the reasons why highly ranked 2015 Colorado catching prospect Wyatt Cross said he was at Fowler Park at the University of San Diego on Monday with plans to return on Tuesday. But Cross had another motive, one that hadn't really occurred to him until he walked out of the San Diego Padres' Petco Park at about 8:30 Sunday night.
After watching the 11th annual Perfect Game All-American Classic presented by Rawlings, Cross decided he is going to do everything in his power over the next 11 months to make sure he is invited to the 12th annual PG All-American Classic -- starting with a strong performance at the PG Underclass AA Games.
"I'm out here today to play in these games and I feel like I'm ready to play," Cross said before he and his USA (Red) teammates took batting practice on Cunningham Field. "Hopefully, then, I can be like those guys who were (at Petco) last night, out there playing in the All-American game. It was amazing; I can't even imagine being able to play in that game."
Cross, a 6-foot-3, 190-pound, left-handed hitter from Broomfield, Colo., who is a junior at Legacy High School, is doing everything right so far in his bid to gain PG All-American status in 2014. He came into the All-American Games ranked No. 31 overall in the national high school class of 2015; he is ranked as the country's No. 5 catching prospect (Nos. 2 and 1, respectively, in Colorado).
Both of his parents, Todd and Lisa, accompanied Wyatt on this trip to Southern California and are very supportive of Wyatt's pursuit of accomplishing big things on the diamond. Lisa found herself an individual box seat on the wide-open main concourse at newly renovated Fowler Park and was content to take in all of the day's action.
"This is what we've all been working for, and this a family thing," she said, sitting in the warm early afternoon sunshine. "In order for him to be successful it takes the family to have that buy-in -- financially and with your time. I'm just so excited for him I wouldn't rather be anywhere else.
"This is definitely one of the steps that he had to take to get to where he wants to go; this is where he needs to be today, for sure."
The PG Underclass All-American Games are technically a showcase -- each of the five teams took batting practice and participated in an infield-outfield workout session -- but the games also award the winners with a showcase-ending "championship" game. That format gives the event a tournament feel.
"Being tournament style, it's fun trying to build a team together and getting to play with some of the kids that you've been playing against over the summer," Cross said.
He has already participated in two important showcases this summer: the Rocky Mountain Showcase played June 1-2 at Cherry Creek High School in Greenwood Village, Colo., and the prestigious PG Junior National Showcase June 11-12 at the Metrodome in Minneapolis.
He was named the No. 2 overall prospect at the Rocky Mountain behind only good friend Nicholas Shumpert (2015, Lone Tree, Colo.). A PG scouting report said that Cross "showed good bat speed with pop" and "as a catcher he showed great actions behind the plate, receives very well and has good arm strength" while noting he recorded the event's top pop time of 1.81 seconds.
"Perfect Game has opened up a lot of doors for me; I probably wouldn't be where I am today without them," Cross said. "Going to that first showcase and getting seen and getting on the radar and getting on the (PG) website, it's really opened up a lot of eyes; it's really cool."
He moved to a much bigger national stage at the Metrodome where he performed in front of hundreds of scouts and college coaches alongside another 150 of the nation's top underclass prospects. He was named the No. 3 position-player prospect at the Jr. National, with PG vice president of player personnel David Rawnsley writing:
"While the other two catchers on this TP list, Dominic DiCaprio and Michael Hickman are strong, physically mature backstops ... Cross is the epitome of projection. He was also the best game receiver combining all aspects of the position’s diverse needs and swung the bat very well."
"That was a once in a lifetime experience; that was really fun," Cross said of the Junior National. "That was my first time getting to play against the caliber of players like that with all the pitching -- it was coming in 90 (mph) and it was really fun and it was really eye-opening."
Cross's rise to the top-30 in the national rankings has been steady and sure. According to his mom, Lisa, Wyatt has received a ton of support from the Colorado baseball community, most notably ex-big-leaguer Terry Shumpert, who is also at this event with son Nicholas.
"We're really blessed because we're surrounded by a lot of real great people that have gone through it," Lisa said. "There are former Major League Baseball players that have coached him or continue to coach him, and they have given him advice; even the people with Perfect Game have given us wonderful advice. We've even been telling kids that are ranked high throughout our state that they need to be with Perfect Game; that's where it's at."
Terry Shumpert threw BP to Wyatt, Nicholas and the other USA (Red) team members Monday afternoon. He has served as an assistant coach to Chad Raley at Marucci Elite the last two summers and Cross played with Marucci Elite at the 16u Perfect Game World Series in Fort Myers, Fla., earlier this month.
"Terry has been huge for us," Lisa Cross said. "Great advice, great mentoring. Wyatt actually played with Nick (Shumpert) when they were younger and I work with (Terry's) wife ... and they've had a huge, huge influence."
Cross regularly plays summer ball with CageRats Baseball, an organization he describes as the best in Colorado.
He has committed to the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, and he said his decision came down to UNC and neighboring North Carolina State. He liked both coaches, he liked both campuses, he like both schools, but in the end chose the Tar Heels because he felt they offered a little more of what he was looking for academically.
"I'm actually sad because in two years this part of the ride will be done, and then we'll be off on the next adventure," Lisa said. "Whether it's UNC or the draft or where ever we end up going, but right now this is why I have a huge smile on my face; this is just awesome."
Where ever they end up going, Cross plans on arriving there with a catcher's mitt on his left hand. He has always been a catcher and said he couldn't imagine playing any other position on the field: "When you're catching you're in on every play and that's what I like about, being right there in the action," he said.
And, of course, he hopes to be right there in the middle of the action at the 2014 Perfect Game All-American Classic presented by Rawlings. That's the reason, he's not ashamed to admit, he's even at the PG Underclass All-American Games.
"We're all getting ready to play with some of the kids that hopefully will be out there next year at the All-American game," Cross said. "We all want to get prepared and see where we stand."