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Tournaments | Story | 9/24/2021

Guzaldo: From Germany to Jupiter

Jeff Dahn     
Photo: Christopher Guzaldo (Perfect Game)

MARION, Iowa – It was a pretty neat trick the way Christopher Guzaldo spent his high school years hop-scotching across the Atlantic Ocean in an ongoing effort to both see everything new and exciting and be seen at the same time.

He was just trying to experience as much as he could while learning about the different cultures he embraced while living life in Western Europe for months at a time only to return to Florida for equally long – and equally satisfying – periods of time.

This past weekend the 5-foot-10, 175-pound shortstop found himself at the Prospect Meadows Sports Complex just north of this Eastern Iowa community taking part in the 19th annual PG WWBA Kernels Foundation Championship.

Guzaldo, who now calls Tampa, Fla., home, has been on a road less traveled just so he could be where he is today, and his performances of late have grabbed the attention of at least one very influential person within the national amateur baseball community.

“From last year to this year, he’s just an altogether different player,” Perfect Game founder/president and longtime scout and college coach Jerry Ford said while in attendance at Prospect Meadows over the weekend.

Unranked and uncommitted, Christopher Guzaldo is one of those prospects that through no fault of his own has been put in real-life situations not entirely conducive to receiving D-I scholarship offers, and PG has done everything in its power to make sure he gets the notice he so richly deserves.

His dad, also Chris Guzaldo, is a career U.S. Army man and the family has moved frequently as a result. Christopher was born in Miami and spent his early years there before moving to Germany when he was 9 years old. The family moved back to the States in the summer of 2019, settling in Tampa.

Guzaldo, just a couple of months shy of his 19th birthday, is classified as a 2022 although he finished high school last year through a combination of online study programs and in-person learning. He attended Ramstein American High School in Ramstein-Miesenbach, Germany, while overseas, which is a U.S. Department of Defense Dependents School.

And now Guzaldo is in Eastern Iowa playing with the ever-growing Iowa Select Baseball program and more specifically with the Iowa Select Evans team coached by longtime Iowa college coach and respected baseball man Tim Evans.

His road here has been both wild and winding, to be sure, but it looks like he’s in a place that’s going to continue to offer him opportunities well into the next couple of weeks, at least. His goal has been to play in the PG WWBA World Championship in Jupiter, Fla., Oct. 7-11 and it’s a goal that has now been realized.

Guzaldo will be on board in Jupiter with the Iowa Select squad that will feature a roster made up of the Iowa Select (Wes) Obermueller, (Tim) Evans, (Gordy) Nordgren and other Select teams that performed separately from one another throughout the summer and fall (although the rosters have been interchangeable).

“Our bandwidth has combined some of the best ballplayers in the state to take down there now; [Guzaldo] fits in well,” Evans said of the Jupiter trip. “There will be another adjustment for him because there might be a few guys who he hasn’t played with in the fall but we’re playing together [in early] October so that will be good. Chris will make his adjustments and he gets along with all the kids so it’s a good deal.”

Perfect Game first made inroads into the European amateur baseball scene in the summer of 2018. Guzaldo had become familiar with PG as a youngster in Miami but was too young to be fully involved at the time. Once he heard there were going to be events in Europe, he immediately knew he wanted to be a part of it.

Guzaldo was there for both the 2018 European PG Series Challenge and the inaugural 15u PG European Classic in Brno-Hih-Komarov; he earned all-tournament recognition at the latter playing with the KMC Ambassadors.

He was back in Germany in late May/early June of 2019 where he took part in the European Showcase (he earned Top Prospect List recognition), the European PG Series Challenge and the PG 16u European Classic, playing once again for the KMC Ambassadors.

“Those Perfect Game events, they all went well,” Guzaldo said. “We used to play events without Perfect Game and everything was organized by the coaches working all across the different countries so you’ve got to really know the coach and really have good relationships.

“Perfect Game put that all together so that we could play all the countries at once in the same area, which was great. There’s some good talent over there that hasn’t been explored.”

Guzaldo was back in the States in July and August of 2018 and really started getting more involved with PG at that time. That’s when he participated at the Freshman PG Series Classic Challenge, the Freshman PG Series Classic and finally in the Florida Prospect Showcase; all three events were held in Fort Myers.

The Guzaldos relocated to Tampa in January 2020 just a couple of months before the Covid-19 pandemic paralyzed the country. It was during the summer of 2020 that Christopher got involved with the Delray Beach-based Elev8 Baseball Academy and he started to make a little more of an impression on PG scouts.

He was named to the all-tournament team at the PG WWBA Upperclass East Labor Day Classic playing with the Elev8 Select and was also with the Select at the PG WWBA Florida Qualifier in September 2020.

“That was the best team I ever played for and it was amazing,” Guzaldo said. “We played in multiple Perfect Game tournaments and were a good team and we played some real good competition. We played many games in one day and our team was just ready. We played four games in one day and it was like nothing; you keep it moving.”

Guzaldo was also at the 2020 Florida Prospect Showcase in Sanford where he impressed enough to earn a spot on the Top Prospect Team. PG scouts definitely saw a lot of upside, particularly with his play at short, and noted that he had the talent and the drive to keep good things happening.

But because of Covid and because of his movements between Europe and the United States, Guzaldo wasn’t getting out on the field quite often enough. He got to wondering how he could get more exposure and make some decision-maker want to include him on their Jupiter roster, knowing that most of the spots with the more high-profile Florida programs were already spoken for.

According to Christopher, it was during their travels together that his dad Chris, had the opportunity to speak with PG’s Ford. Jerry invited Christopher to Cedar Rapids where he could join the Iowa Select, one of the fastest growing programs in the entire country. It’s telling that Jerry and Betty Ford have welcomed Guzaldo into their home during his stay.

“I got here, played on a good team and I do my job and I get to go to Jupiter,” Guzaldo said with a laugh before adding, “That was no problem for me. It’s good weather right now, too; in fact, it’s hot.”

Moving around the globe from Florida to Germany and back again and again has forced Guzaldo to adapt to his surroundings with very little time to adjust, if that makes sense. He was a part of two moves while living in Germany and two more while living in Florida.

Now he’s in rural Iowa: “I’m always moving,” Guzaldo said. “I come to Iowa and it kind of reminds me of Germany in a way. I’m here and it’s fun; no problem here. Tim [Evans] is a good coach and this is everything I expected.”

His moves in Germany offered contrasting lifestyles in that he lived a rather large city and also a smaller village. But in both settings he found himself playing with and against older kids, many from the United States as well, and he feels like those experiences helped tremendously with his development.

“That competition helps you grow as a player intellectually,” Guzaldo said. “You get to play with all those older guys, you can learn and you get to see how they play. And then going to Elev8 we played a lot of college teams in the spring and you can really tell the difference between the college players and those high school players. You’re always playing a level up.”

Playing at the PG WWBA Kernels Foundation Championship also represented a step-up in the level of competition with 82 teams all competing to have their entry fee to Jupiter paid for (Hawaii Select 2G out of Honolulu was this year’s winner).

The talent level at the event was through the roof with several potential early round 2022 draft picks in attendance, including PG All-Americans Noah Schultz and Tommy Specht (Specht will likely be a teammate of Guzaldo’s in Jupiter). In a setting like that, Guzaldo feels very comfortable keeping that kind of company.

In six games played with Iowa Select this fall, Guzaldo collected four singles in 13 at-bats (.308) and had been walked six times, good for a .526 on-base percentage; he also stole three bases and was singled-out for his play defensively. The kid has a knack for feeling right at home regardless of where home is at that particular moment.

“You can always learn [new things] playing baseball,” he said. “The game’s about adapting...and you don’t want to underestimate them and then go out and underperform; then you’re the guys who doesn’t care...You’ve just got to go out and do your thing regardless. Just, ‘No problem here.’”

Evans pointed out that Christopher and his teammates get along extremely well. The experiences that he’s going to have here over the next six months aren’t anything he hasn’t gone through before and his ability to adapt means everything becomes second nature.

He loves playing baseball and it shows in his actions, Evans went on to say and he's just the type of prospect who’s extremely confident in his abilities; that confidence will continue to carry him a long way.

“He’s very mature and his actions are very skilled; you can tell he takes care of his game,” Evans said. “The things that stick out are his passion, his excitement for playing the game at a high level and he’s going to be an asset down the road when he goes and plays college baseball...

“The culture that’s he gained on those experiences from where’s been, obviously there’s a mature work ethic in just how he presents himself. Credit his parents; they’ve prepared him well for his future.”

Christopher Guzaldo is slated to play with Iowa Select 2022 Evans at this weekend’s PG Upper Midwest Select Championships at Prospect Meadows and then will focus on little else except the PG WWBA World Championship, commonly known as Jupiter.

He told PG last weekend that because he had spent so much time overseas that he really didn’t learn much about Jupiter until after the fact last year, when the 2020 WWBA World Championship was actually staged in Fort Myers because of pandemic restrictions in place over in Palm Beach County on the Atlantic side of the state.

Guzaldo had a friend who showed him photos and told him how heavily scouted the tournament was. The friend went on to tell him that all he had to do was get down there and play well and he’d get noticed. While acknowledging that’s much easier said than done, he does view it as one giant opportunity to show the scouting community just how much his game has progressed.

“I’m just going to do my best to prepare,” he said. “I’ll get my reps in and do what I can and hope for the best because I’m getting ready; I am ready. … I wouldn’t trade my experiences [for anything]. I’ve played in places people would [never imagine]. I’ve played in London, I’ve played in Barcelona, I’ve played in South Florida...I was there and I wouldn’t trade it at all.”

And now, he has so much more to show. As PG Founder/President Jerry Ford put it so succinctly: “From last year to this year, he’s just an altogether different player.”

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