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Tournaments | Story | 10/3/2015

CCBA protecting its backyard

Jeff Dahn        
Photo: Perfect Game

FRESNO, Calif.  – Eager to take its turn in the considerable spotlight offered by the Perfect Game California World Series Upperclass championship being played this weekend, Central Cal Baseball Academy (CCBA) Upperclass couldn’t wait to get its tournament started late Saturday afternoon.

The venue was expansive Chukchansi Park in downtown Fresno and the opponent was the salty, seasoned and usually very successful Southern California-based Team California Warriors Upperclass out of Carlsbad. It was to be the first of three pool-play games at the event for CCBA Upperclass, and its deep roster was chomping at the bit.

It’s important to understand that its players and coaches view the PGCWS Upperclass as their event. They are the only squad in the 12-team field that identifies Fresno – or the Central California Valley, for that matter – as their operational base. This is personal; it’s about showing the rest of the state that the kids from the Central Valley can play a little bit.

“It’s really good to have a lot of people come here to Fresno,” CCBA Upperclass standout 2016 outfielder Matthew Frazier said before his team took the field against the Team California Warriors on Saturday. “There’s a lot of good talent out here – Perfect Game always has good tournaments – and this should be a good one. The Central Valley always kind of gets lost a little bit with Northern and Southern California (teams) so it’ll be good to show them what we’ve got.”

CCBA founder and head coach Terance Frazier, Matthew’s father, was even more direct when he explained his efforts – which were considerable – that helped bring the PG California World Series Upperclass and a pair of PGCWS Underclass tournaments that are running simultaneously to an area of the state PG had never visited before.

“After watching how Perfect Game runs their events and the good job they do as far as getting these kids seen, I felt our Valley was under-represented with Perfect Game,” Frazier said Saturday afternoon. “I wanted to introduce Perfect Game to Fresno. I wanted Fresno to see Perfect Game and I wanted Perfect Game to see what we’ve got to offer here in the Central Valley.

“I just thought it would be the perfect fit to bring (PG) here and … show them the facilities that we’ve got here; the people that we’ve got here,” he said. “I’m pretty excited that they decided to come to Fresno.”

And so, here we are, gearing up for two more days of play at the 12-team PGCWS Upperclass, 24-team PGCWS Underclass-Pacific Division and eight-team PGCWS Underclass-Coastal Division. Games are being played at six venues in Fresno and Clovis, just to the northeast.

The Underclass-Coastal championship game is scheduled for Sunday night in Clovis with the Underclass-Pacific and Upperclass title games scheduled for Monday afternoon at Chukchansi Park, the home of the Fresno Grizzlies, the Houston Astros’ Triple-A affiliate in the venerable Pacific Coast League.

Central Cal Baseball Academy Upperclass scored an unearned run in the top of the seventh inning to forge a 2-2 tie with the Team California Warriors Upperclass in their tournament opener Saturday; in fact, both of CCBA’s runs were unearned.

But it got five solid innings out of starter Jacob Pizzo – a 2016 right-hander from Fresno and a Cal State Fullerton commit – who scattered six hits and gave up only one earned run while striking out four and walking one.

Pizzo is one of four players on the CCBA Upperclass roster that has an NCAA Division I commitment. He is joined by Matthew Frazier, a University of Arizona recruit who also calls Fresno home. 2016 left-hander/outfielder Kater Prieto from Fresno has committed to Cal State Northridge and 2016 catcher/third baseman Myles Emmerson from Spring Valley – he had two hits in Saturday’s tie – is a Cal Poly Pomona commit.

Even with their commitments in hand, both Matt Frazier and Pizzo still feel it’s important to get out on the field and be seen by college coaches and professional scouts. There were as many as two dozen on hand on and off during the day at Chukchansi Park alone.

“It’s always a good time to go out and play,” Matt Frazier said, “and having a lot of eyes watching you is always a good thing, too.”

Added Pizzo: “You’re going to be playing against (the other colleges) in a year so it’s always good to showcase what you have for years to come.”

Fully 50 percent of the spots on the CCBA Upperclass roster are filled by players that identify Fresno as their hometown, but the entire roster enlists the talents of players from at least 15 high schools; the most prevalent is Fresno’s Bullard High School. While not many of these guys played together on a CCBA team in the past, they all know one another from of their frequent contact during California’s spring high school season.

“We know each other well and we know what we can do, but it’s nice to come together and play with each other,” Pizzo said. “It’s a lot of fun, and I enjoy playing against the (outside) competition. Playing against the Northern and Southern California teams it’s a little bit higher competition and it’s nice seeing something different every once in a while.”

Terance Frazier runs the Fresno-based Central Cal Baseball Academy and has been fielding travel ball teams for the last 20 years. He counts 2013 Perfect Game All-Americans and 2014 first-round MLB draft picks Luis Ortiz from Fresno and Jacob Gatewood from Clovis among the academy’s more notable alumni, but there have been dozens of others through the years.

The Central Cal Baseball Academy doesn’t have a permanent facility, opting instead to lead a somewhat nomadic life, traveling the country looking for games and top-notch competition. Frazier has taken teams from coast-to-coast in the past, which can, of course, lead to high travel costs. That in turn makes an event right here in Central Cal’s backyard all the more appealing.

“If we can have these types of events in the Valley, it makes its affordable for our kids and our families,” he said. “That’s the most important part, bringing good tournaments and good people to our Valley so we don’t have to travel.”

It is with a very profound appreciation that Frazier speaks of the services PG provides its customers, particularly in regard to the way the PG’s website disseminates scouting reports and other vital troves of information pertaining to a prospect to interested colleges.

“My son (Matthew) was one of the Perfect Game guys and he got a scholarship to the University of Arizona and I think it would have been harder for the University of Arizona to come to California to look at a kid,” Frazier said.

“But the way Perfect Game has their website set up and the way they do their evaluations, it makes it easier for D-Is, D-IIs, D-IIIs (to get their information) and then all they have to do is go out there and look at the kid.”

Terance Frazier believes this event is extremely beneficial to every one of his players, simply because he realizes that not all of them are going to end up at D-I programs and there are plenty of other coaches and recruiters from the smaller colleges out here watching and taking notes. He looks around and he sees D-II coaches, D-III coaches, NAIA coaches – the entire spectrum – and can only smile.

Finally, his players’ parents can come out and watch their sons play at high-profile PG event without the added burden of travel costs and they can also rest assured the right college coaches are also in attendance, watching their sons play. “It’s just very valuable,” Frazier said.

And then again, there’s that personal element. Frazier wants the elite level travel ball teams from Nor Cal and So Cal to know that there is some very good, fundamentally sound baseball being played at the high school level in the Central Valley. Those teams should have arrived here knowing that CCBA will give them a fight and they should not be surprised when they see how hard the CCBA kids play.

“That’s the thing about our Valley kids – we play hard,” he said. “With our kids, they know they’re going to come out here and there’s going to be good competition but they feel like they can compete with any of these other kids that are out here playing. … You’ve got to hit it, catch it and throw it and if we do all of those things I think we’re going to be fine.”

Pizzo summed it up pretty succinctly: “I think that our team can compete with anybody in the state,” he said. “I think that the Central Valley is going to show this weekend that we can play with Northern and Southern California.”

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