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Tournaments | Story | 9/13/2014

'Steering' the GBG ship

Jeff Dahn     
Photo: Perfect Game

GLENDALE, Ariz. – In many definable ways, the direction of Long Beach, Calif., class of 2016 third baseman Spencer Steer’s career path has followed in lockstep with the growth of Mike Garciaparra’s highly respected Garciaparra Baseball Group (GBG) organization.

Just since 2012, GBG teams has won a pair of Perfect Game national championships and contended for several others. The elite GBG squads have climbed PG’s National Travel Team Rankings to No. 18 in 17u, No. 22 in 16u and No. 27 in 15u. GBG alumni and current players have collected hundreds of college offers and several have been drafted.

Steer, a 5-foot-11, 175-pound third baseman and shortstop who is a junior at Millikan High School in Long Beach, has been around for much of that raucous ride. He has earned PG all-tournament honors and one Most Valuable Player Award and has risen to No. 39 in PG’s class of 2016 national prospect rankings (No. 2 third baseman, and No. 7 overall and No. 1 at third base in California).

And he is one of those dozens of GBG players past and present with an NCAA Division I commitment tucked neatly away in his backpack, having accepted an offer from the University of Oregon.

“It’s been great because I had never talked to a college before and right when I joined (the GBG) program, within the first couple of weeks I was already talking to three or four (colleges),” Steer told PG during a conversation Saturday morning. “They hooked me up with that pretty big-time and coming to all these (PG) tournaments and getting the exposure that I got, it’s been great.”

Steer and his GBG brethren continue to be exposed, and that is written in the most positive light possible. The exposure this weekend is coming at the 6th annual Perfect Game/EvoShield National Championship (Underclass), an 80-team, four-day tournament that features games being played at the Camelback Ranch spring training complex here in Glendale and at the Goodyear (Ariz.) Ballpark Recreation Complex.

The Garciaparra Baseball Group organization has four teams at this tournament – Marucci Blue, Marucci Navy, Marucci  Navy 2016/17 and Marucci Orange county – and GBG Marucci Navy, who Steer is playing for, is the premier entrant. Mike Garciaparra tries to keep the core of his top team together at the PG national championship events and the results have been impressive.

“We’ve all gotten use to playing with each other which helps us at tournaments because we’ve been playing with each other for awhile, so it’s fun,” Steer said. “We all want to go play D-I baseball and we all want to make a career out of baseball so we all kind of push each other to get better. It’s just fun because we’re all really intense about the game, really care for the game and we always go 100 percent; it just makes the games more fun.”

GBG Marucci Navy won its first two pool play games and looked poised to grab the No. 1 seed in the playoffs after beating its first two pool-play opponents – the Mountain Lions from Glendale, Ariz., and Gamers Baseball Alaska from Anchorage – by a combined score of 21-1. A third and final pool-play game was scheduled Saturday afternoon with the 20-team playoffs set to begin Sunday.

There are nine players from the high school classes of 2016 and 2017 on the roster that have already made D-I commitments, including Steer.

Other top 2016s include right-hander Kevin Gowdy (Santa Barbara, Calif.), ranked No. 22 nationally and a UCLA commit; shortstop Will Proctor (Manhattan Beach, Calif.), No. 236, Georgia; outfielder Jordan Prendiz (Visalia, Calif.), No. 270, UCLA and right-hander/third baseman Johnny Morrell (Temecula, Calif.), No. 291, Auburn.

The top 2017s are catcher Adam Kerner (Agoura Hills, Calif.), No. 126, U. of San Diego and outfielder Johnny Deluca (Agoura Hills, Calif.), No. 136, Oregon.

“This is a pretty talented group and they’re fun to watch,” Garciaparra said. “We’ve had some of them for a year or two now and to see them progress and get to this point (is gratifying). I want to make sure they push each other and don’t get complacent and don’t get too relaxed.”

The fledgling Garciaparra Baseball Group first entered the travel ball radar when one of its teams won the 2012 PG/EvoShield National Championship (Underclass) under the name of GBG Yak Baseball West. A year later, in 2013, the first GBG Marucci team returned to the Valley and picked up a second PG national title by winning the PG/EvoShield National Championship (Upperclass).

“This event has been great and it just keeps getting better every year,” Mike Garciaparra said Saturday. “The teams keep getting better and definitely here on the West Coast it is being talked about as the event to come to.”

This is the 10th Perfect Game event Steer has attended since he debuted at the 2012 PG WWBA Underclass World Championship in Fort Myers, Fla., playing with the Royals Scout Team/Midland. The 2013 Junior Olympics was the first tournament at which he wore the GBG Marucci uniform; he made his GBG Perfect Game debut at the 2013 PG/EvoShield National Championship and was named to the all-tournament team.

A week after that appearance, Steer was promoted to play with the GBG Marucci squad at the 2013 PG/EvoShield National Championship (Upperclass) and hit the ground running while playing with the older guys. GBG not only won the title at the PG national championship tournament but Steer was named the Most Valuable Player – as a high school sophomore.

“It’s been a great experience; it’s been a lot of baseball but it was a good time,” Steer said after the championship game victory. “I love my team, I love my coaches and I had a lot of fun here. I’ve been pretty close to my coaches and I know they have confidence in me, so it’s pretty easy to come out and just play my game. I know they have confidence in me so it wasn’t that big of deal for me; I wasn’t really wasn’t that nervous.”

In 2014, Steer played with GBG Marucci at the 16u Perfect Game MLK Championship and at the 17u PG World Series, with both tournaments held here in the Valley. He was also named to the all-tournament team at the PG WWBA 16u National Championship in Georgia playing for the Midland Tomahawks and was named to both the Top Prospect List and Top Prospect Team at the PG Underclass All-American Games in San Diego.

It’s the PG tournaments here in the desert that Steer seems to enjoy the most; he will be back next week to once again play with the upperclassmen at the PG/EvoShield Upper National.

“I just look forward to the great competition,” he said. “The games are always fun and we’re always playing these good teams and stuff. Just playing with all my good friends here in Arizona and hanging out with them at the hotel and getting to know everybody, it’s just a great experience.”

Garciaparra has been most impressed with Steer’s mature approach to the game, referring to a certain “calmness” to his actions that aren’t often found in 16-year-old high school juniors. He also likes the way Steer handles himself around third base with his strong arm, and the way he swings the bat from the right side. “He’s not a big guy but he plays big,” Garciaparra noted.

“He’s a good leader – not a vocal, boisterous guy – and he kind of leads by example, and that’s the kind of player we love to have,” Garciaparra continued. “His attitude is always great. He can have a bad couple of swings and he gets kind of down but then he’ll say, ‘All right’, and he gets back on the field and it doesn’t affect his game. That’s something that my father (Ramon) taught my brother (Nomar) and I at a young age and we try to teach that to these boys.”

Garciaparra likes this team’s chances of winning a third PG national championship early Monday afternoon. He especially likes the fact that the GBG organization is now established enough that it has reached national prominence on the backs of homegrown players – like Steer – and without the need to import players for the most prestigious players.

 “We expect – and not just with this team but with our other teams, too – to go far in these tournaments,” he said. “That’s the mentality that we teach and we preach: ‘Hey, you guys can compete with anybody, let’s go out and expect to be there but don’t get complacent; play your butts off all the time and go get ‘em.”

Before joining GBG, Spencer Steer grew up playing baseball with his dad and three brothers. Spencer’s parents, Chris and Dana Steer, have two sets of twin boys and all four have been involved in baseball at least through high school.

Connor Steer still plays at Long Beach City College and his twin, Tyler, is at the University of California-San Diego but no longer plays. Spencer’s twin brother, Trevor, is content to play for his high school team but has not gotten involved in travel ball. Spencer Steer is simply grateful he was able to learn the game by honing his skills in an area where some of the best high school baseball in the country is played.

“We see good pitching and good players all year-around; there are just good prospects left and right in Southern California,” he said. “Just the competition there keeps me going and gets me better and better and it’s nice to be facing really good players all the time.

 “From my freshman year to my sophomore year and now into my junior year I just kept getting better. I just keep working with the coaches and they just keep teaching me more and more about the game and what I can do to get better.”

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