Tournaments | Story | 10/29/2015

First-time Jupiter reflection

Mike Rooney        
Photo: Perfect Game

2015 WWBA World Championship: Leaderboard | All-Tournament Team

As I reflect back on my first ever trip to Jupiter for the WWBA World Championships, this event exceeded all of my expectations and then some. Jupiter, as it is commonly known, is a baseball bonanza.

Here are my four main takeaways and I'll detail these in the paragraphs ahead: there are things that make the Jupiter experience unique; the tools of certain individual players here were extreme; some of the player vs. player showdowns were captivating; and Jupiter reminds us what the game of baseball is all about.

First, Jupiter is unlike any other baseball event I've attended.

Jupiter's core principle is "six and six," meaning you are going to see six games per day and get six hours of sleep per night. This is certainly a grind but it creates the same kind of fatigue that a six-year old child would experience from a trip to Disney World. One must caffeinate early and often or else risk missing a great baseball moment.

The hundreds of golf carts that envelop the fields are now the iconic visual for what this event has become. The golf carts' purpose is counter-intuitive as they serve more as stadium seats than transportation. The golf carts also reinforce the small-town feel of our game since you are sure to be offered a seat by someone in a random golf cart on more than one occaison. Six games in one day is a long time to be on your feet. Now do that for four days.

As Jupiter heads into the playoff round and only 17 of the original 85 teams remain, the unique "overtime" rules kick into play for tie games. After seven innings of play, or the allotted time limit has been reached, the subsequent innings are begun with the bases loaded and one out until a winner emerges. This is penalty kicks on steroids and the tension reaches meteoric levels.

Second, and as I mentioned on Twitter throughout the weekend, some of these elite players possess carrying tools that make your trip to Jupiter worth it all on their own.

Catchers M.J. Melendez (Mets Scout Team/Scorpions) and Cooper Johnson (Reds Midwest Scout Team) threw frozen ropes all over the place and their defensive chops are exceptional. In fact, we certainly appreciated their opponents' fearlessness in trying to run on these two despite the fact that this is a lower percentage strategy than playing the lottery. Alabama State and Mississippi are their respective commitments, but both receivers feel like longshots to see a college campus.

Matt Manning's (EvoShield Canes) fastball jumps at the hitters and he could be comped to two-time first rounder Phil Bickford. Both righthanders possess fastballs that sit in the low-90s but play up significantly because of the life on those pitches. We saw maybe one good pass at Manning's fastball all weekend (by Washington commit Ben Baird) and that included his semifinal outing versus the very talented GBG Marucci team. Manning could potentially play both basketball and baseball at Loyola Marymount yet he certainly looks the part of a first round pick in next June's draft.

Cole Turney (Texas Scout Team Yankees) swings it with an authority rarely seen at his age. His significant leg kick creates light tower power but yet he has the athleticism to maintain control of the barrel. I'm a sucker for an advanced lefthander hitter and I fear that Cole Turney will break my heart by never making it to Fayetteville to play for Dave Van Horn and the Razorbacks.

Third, the individual matchups we witnessed may be the only thing capable of trumping the previously mentioned tools.

Lefthander Richard Gregory (South Carolina commit) threw a gem against a stacked Mets Scout Team/Scorpions team that featured two of his future SEC East comprades in Brady Smith (Florida commit) and Carlos Cortes (South Carolina commit). Gregory took a 1-0 lead into the seventh inning only to have Cortes, who Gregory had struck out looking just two innings earlier, hit a laser up the middle to drive in the go ahead run. Cortes possesses one of the purer hit tools in the 2016 class.

Ryan Zeferjahn (Kansas commit) faced off against Alex Kirilloff (Liberty commit) so we saw how one of the best fastballs in the 2016 class would fare versus one of the best lefthanded bats. Zeferjahn, who is highly projectible and sat in the low-90s, was clearly impressive but Kirilloff won this battle as he hit two balls right on the screws.

My favorite scene of the weekend featured Nick Allen (Southern California commit) leading his CBA Marucci team into a crucial pool play game against Andrew Baker (Florida commit) and Chet Lemon's Juice. Allen and Baker may both be undersized but they play with an elite level energy and these two often will their teams to victory with their incredible intensity. CBA Marucci won a highly spirited contest on this day but both of these players will bring a winning spirit to their college programs if they make it to campus. We may be talking about these two as the best defensive infielder (Allen) and outfielder (Baker) in college baseball someday soon.

Finally, and most importantly, the game of baseball provides relationships that last a lifetime and Jupiter reinforced that for me in spades.

I spent time in Jupiter with a former college teammate of mine who is a now national crosschecker for a pro team. I also had a blast seeing three men who coached me in college and now are professional scouts as well. I caught up with one of my former players who was just promoted to a crosschecker position and I couldn't be more proud of him. I saw a good buddy from my hometown who brought a travel team to Jupiter. And I enjoyed the company of so many scouts and coaches who I've known since I cut my teeth as a young college assistant coach.

These relationships are ones I cherish and that is why my first Jupiter was priceless. We are so fortunate to work in this great game, it is truly a gift.

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