All American Game : : Story
Monday, July 28, 2014

'Awesome' experience expected

Jeff Dahn        
Photo: Perfect Game

SAN DIEGO – It happened two years ago now, but it might as well have been yesterday as far as dynamic Texas prospect Kody Clemens from Houston is concerned.

Kacy Clemens, at the time a University of Texas commit who is now a Longhorns' contributor, not only scored what proved to be the winning run at the 2012 Perfect Game All-American Classic but walked to the mound at Petco Park in the bottom of the ninth inning for an encore.

Striking out two of the four batters he faced, Kacy Clemens recorded a save in the West Team’s 7-6 victory over the East at the 10th annual 2012 PG All-American Classic at Petco while one of the craziest dog-piles in dog-pile history ensued.

Kody Clemens, Kacy’s younger brother, took in the entire scene with an unmatched and profound interest, like countless little brothers do in similar situations.

“(Kacy) was so happy being able to go out to San Diego and he kept telling me how much fun it was to actually close the game,” Kody Clemens told PG after learning he had been selected to be a member of the West Team roster at the 2014 PG All-American Classic. “He got to be right in the middle of that dog-pile and he was telling me how much fun that was.”

That double-dog-pile – the first of what has morphed into two straight double-dogs with both the East and West teams involved, regardless of the game’s outcome – has become a staple. It has also become one more thing the select few that have been invited to the Perfect Game All-American Classic want to be a part of.

The 12th annual Perfect Game All-American Classic will be played Sunday, Aug. 10, at Petco Park in San Diego with a record 54 participants in attendance. The first-pitch is scheduled for 5 p.m. (PDT) and the game will be televised live on the MLB Network for the second straight year.

This year, the top prospects on both the East and West rosters come from all four corners of the United States – with one from Canada for the second straight year – with a 12 from Florida (East) and 11 from Texas (West).

The 2014 Classic also features an increased emphasis on fund-raising for San Diego’s Rady Children’s Hospital, where the players will visit during their four-day stay in here. That makes the involvement in the event’s proceedings all the more important to the local prospects who have earned invitations.

“Living in San Diego, the (PG) All-American game is always in Petco and if I’m not at the field I’m definitely watching it on TV,” top San Diego prospect and Rancho Bernardo High School senior Kyle Dean said. “I knew the (PG National Showcase) was the step I needed to reach my dream of finally playing in Petco with all the best top-notch players in the nation.

“Watching Bryce Harper and all those other guys play in the All-American game, and just the fact that I know I’m going to put on that same jersey and play on the same field as all these unbelievable professional players that have played in this game, it’s really an honor and a blessing,” he continued. “Now I can represent my hometown and that’s always been my dream, and with whoever else is from San Diego I want to represent my city.”

Alan Dean, Kyle’s father, is excited to be a part of his son’s experience.

“We were talking about this (on Father’s Day) and I said, ‘Did you ever think we’d be put in this situation years ago?’ We both never even thought of it; I couldn’t imagine in our wildest dreams that we would have been there,” Alan Dean said.

Kyle Dean’s Rancho Bernardo classmate and teammate Drew Finley expressed sentiments remarkably similar to those of Dean.

“Being selected for the All-American Game is a great honor, and I’m glad Perfect Game gave me the opportunity to play in my hometown in front of my friends and family,” Finley said. “I set goals for myself at the beginning of the year, and the Perfect Game All-American Game was my top goal. It’s an indescribable and unbelievable feeling that I was even considered and selected as an All-American.”

There are at least two guys from the East Coast – and most certainly more – that share the same feelings as Dean and Finley.

Pennsylvania top prospects, best friends and Tri-State Arsenal teammates John Aiello and Willie Burger – from Lansdale, Pa., and Maytown, Pa., respectively – can’t wait to get out to the West Coast and become best friends with everyone else on the East Team. If they happen to become best friends with everyone on the West Team, too, well, the more the merrier.

“The Classic was a goal of mine from the start,” Burger said. “Coming to all the Perfect Game events the last couple of years and being close with guys like (former Tri-State Arsenal PG All-Americans) Rob Kaminsky and Devin Smeltzer who played in the Classic previously was special.

“Just looking up to guys like that and knowing that was something that I wanted to accomplish and something that I wanted to be a part of (and) to be able to fulfill that is part of the dream – because the dream never ends; it’s a great honor.”

Fellow standout Aiello was all-in with what his best friend had to say.

“I’ve been blessed with a lot of good people in my life that helped me get better, like my dad and my coaches and my trainers and people like that; it’s just an honor be a part of that game,” he said. “I watched it last year in San Diego, and Willie and I set a goal last year that we wanted to make the team and we’re really thankful to make it.”

The All-Americans – as the name suggests – come from all over the county. The majority of the roster spots are filled by prospects Perfect Game scouts indentified as special early in their careers but there are also those that might not have been noticed until the most recent PG National Showcase.

At this year’s PG National at JetBlue Park in Fort Myers, Fla., Lafayette, La., left-hander and East Team member Hogan Harris fell into that category after scouts got a look at his 95 miles-per-hour fastball.

“I’m not really sure how to put this into words. Pure joy, I guess,” Harris said after learning of his selection. “I never thought it was (a possibility) but now that it has happened, it is pretty exciting. I don’t really know how to put this into words.”

“It’s pretty overwhelming, really,” Hogan’s father, Robert Harris said. “You don’t think about your own kid, you see all the other kids he plays with. It’s good because he’s worked hard to get to this point and he does his (workouts) every day … and does all the things he’s supposed to do to get ready.

“It’s good for him and I think he deserves it. People say, ‘Well, he’s just natural’ and I say, no, natural is one thing but sometimes you have to work on being natural.”

There are, without doubt, many natural athletes that are part of these rosters. The sons of former major league ballplayers like Dazmon Cameron (Mike Cameron), Kody Clemens (Roger Clemens) and Ke’Bryan Hayes (Charlie Hayes) might seem to have built-in genetic advantages but the fact is they just might work harder than anyone else.

“It is such a great honor,” Ke’Bryan Hayes said about his selection. “I’m just blessed to be able to be one of the few that have been chosen to go play there in front of all the MLB scouts, and it’s just great. I’ve been watching it (on TV) and that’s always been one my goals to make that team.”

One of the country’s top catchers is Nick Fortes, who has played his summer ball with Matt Gerber and the Orlando Scorpions organization for the last four years and will play for the East Team. Gerber, who has coached his share of PG All-Americans in recent years, said it was a match made in PG All-American heaven.

“He deserves to be there and I’m glad (PG) selected him,” Gerber said. “I think once he gets out there it’s just going to give him another opportunity to be around the best kids and I think he’s going to rise above there, too. It’s just going to give him another opportunity to show that he belongs and he’s right there, if not better, than the other guys that are going to be there.”

Fortes, who calls Deland, Fla., home is simply left humbled.

“I feel very honored to be selected to that game because that’s the best talent in the country,” he said. “It’s 50 of the best guys in the country and to be selected as one of those guys, it’s an honor, but I feel like I belong there. I watched it (on TV the last two years) and I looked and I always could see myself playing with those guys.

“I have high expectations for myself so seeing those guys play in that kind of environment, I’ve always wanted to do it and I’ve always hoped that I could.”

Kyle Tucker, a power-hitting outfielder from Tampa, Fla., was more surprised than anyone to learn of his selection, but immediately decided to make the most of the opportunity,

“My dad told me first and I was real excited to be able to fly out there, and just to know that they chose me to be able to go out there (was special),” he said. “I feel like I’m going to have a great time out there with all the guys and just being able to see them again. It’s a great honor knowing that I was chosen for it and to be able to go out there and see all the great competition and be able to be a part of that.”

Another Tampa product – outfielder Christopher Chatfield – is a top prospect to keep an eye on and one whose father, Keith Chatfield, will always be close at hand. And, that’s way OK.

“I really felt kind of relieved,” Chatfield said about receiving the invitation. “I felt it was a real blessing because it took a lot of hard work, and it was something that I always wanted to do ever since I started with Perfect Game. I heard about it my freshman year and I really wanted to do it.

“I want to have fun, but I’m going there and I want to do really good because I know there is going to be a lot of scouts there,” he continued. “I’m starting to get more relaxed (in front of scouts) but it’s tough because … I just put a lot of pressure on myself sometimes.”

His dad, Keith Chatfield, offered the following:

“The bigger the stage, the better he plays. I’m very proud of him getting invited out there … and we’re going to travel out there with him … and watch the game and be part of the experience. It will help get his confidence up high and like I said, the bigger the stage the more he likes it.”

The 12th annual Perfect Game All-American Classic will be played in the early evening of Aug. 10 at the San Diego Padres’ Petco Park on what most certainly will be a perfect night weather-wise. Is there ever anything else in San Diego? And the only other certainty is that more memories will be stored away to go along with those already in a safety deposit box.

 “I’m so excited; I’m so pumped-up,” Kody Clemens said. “It’s going to be such a fun experience and being able to go to Rady Children’s hospital and help all the kids is just going to be an unbelievable experience. Just to help out with all those kids and then playing at Petco Park, it’s going to be awesome.”

Editor's note: PG journalism intern Tyler Andrews contributed to this report

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