Tournaments | Story | 7/15/2017

Playing for The Show

Tiffany Seal        
Photo: Perfect Game

EMERSON, Ga.—The San Diego Show comes to LakePoint stacked with potential top talent and a resume to back up the prospects participating at the 15u WWBA National Championship in East Cobb. 
With a resume spanning multiple first-round picks, the San Diego-based program has seen hallmark names such as Harper, Strasburg, Moniak, Aiken and a handful more on the backs of San Diego Show jerseys throughout the years.

The 2020 class has well represented the winning standard in Atlanta. With a recipe consisting of strong pitching and defense, the 15u’s arrived from the West Coast winning their opener and taking one of two in a doubleheader.

“Pitching and defense is definitely top of the list,” said head coach Brian Cain. “We do swing it pretty well also, so we are a well rounded group with hitting, pitching and defense, I don’t know if one carries us, but the name of the game is pitching. If you have enough pitching you can survive awhile here.”

Righthander Justin Esters started the first of a doubleheader for The Show, tossing three innings, giving up two earned runs off three hits with three walks and strikeouts, apiece. Two additional important arms for The Show include two-way players Chad Abel and Jordan Thompson, who are right-handed pitchers and play third and short, respectively.

“Chad has got a chance to be a very, very good one,” said Cain. “He’s got a good bat and excellent glove at third. He’s a strength on the mound when he is pitching, a very humble kid.”

To Abel’s left on the infield is an equally strong glove with soft hands, projectable both on the mound and at short. Right-hander Thompson came in relief for Esters and threw two strong innings, before giving up two earned runs off one hit, ending his outing with two walks and four strikeouts.

“Jordan has outstanding tools. I expect both of them to be looked at as All-Americans, they have the tools,” said Cain. “And Jordan has some special tools, not only at shortstop, but on the mound. It’s no mistake they got selected to go to trials for USA Baseball. They are well-deserving of that.”

Both players are long-time products of The Show, and are on their third tour to the East Cobb area.

“I’ve been playing with them since I was 10 or 11, and it’s helped me with every aspect of the game,” said Abel. “It helps me with hustle, I’ve never hustled harder on the field.”

Thompson, who will attend USA Baseball’s 15u development program trials in August, echoed the same feelings.

“I’ve been playing with The Show for seven years, and it has definitely helped me in every aspect of the game, just hitting, pitching, defense and everything.”

With over 12 years of success under thier belt, The Show has established themselves at the winningiest program in San Diego.

“It’s not just one thing that develops a player,” said Cain. “A competitive environment, both in the game and at practice, is huge. We firmly believe in the cream rises to the top when you put them all together and work together. We’ve been very fortunate to have five [No.1 overalls] in the Draft play for us in the last 14, 15 drafts.”

The Show saw a record five players drafted in the first round of the 2014 MLB First-Year Player Draft, with No. 1 overall Brady Aiken leading the class. There is no mistake San Diego Show is in the business of creating both a draftable and projectable product year-in-and-year-out.

“I don’t think it’s by mistake. I think it’s because of the environment we’ve created,” said Cain. “People think it’s easy and it’s really not, it’s really difficult and we are fortunate to have that happen. We’ve had 12 first-round picks, and that’s a statement in itself, we don’t take that lightly. We believe in our product and we believe in our philosophy, and continue to stay that course.”

The recipe for success includes a few simple ingredients, starting with the priority to take the time to develop the wealth of talent going through the program, without rushing through the process.

“Our philosophy is a lot of hard work at home,” said Cain. “We want to work hard at home, we want to put our guys in that competitive environment on the practice field. That culture of us wanting to win, the competitive environment and the focus on detail is what makes a player better.”

Some of the cream rising out of The Show and now playing in The Show, include No. 1 overall picks Matt Bush, Stephen Strasburg and Bryce Harper as well as starting right-handed pitcher for the Texas Rangers, A.J. Griffin.

“We’ve had some good ones come through this program, and we are proud of all of them,” said Cain. “We don’t use the terms loosely when we mention their names, because we have great pride at what they have brought to the table, and how they have helped us as a program, and how we have helped them.”

Almost all of these players have traveled through the East Cobb area and participated in Perfect Game tournaments nation-wide with San Diego Show, which is going on its 15th year attending PG events.

“It definitely pits you against the best players across the United States,” said Cain. “I think sometimes it’s lost when you are in your hometown and you’re a really good ballplayer. Then you come out here and find out that there’s a whole other side to it, in Atlanta, Arizona, Florida. You’re going to see different faces, different names and if you think you are the only guy that throws 94 or 95, you’re going to find out really quick there’s a lot of guys just like you, and that you have work to do to get to the next level.”

The 2020 San Diego Show has some time before a possibility of hearing their names called on Draft Day, or signing a college scholarship, however, it is not lost on them the opportunities that come with playing in tournaments at this level.

“There’s definitely a lot more exposure at these tournaments, and scouts get to come and watch you,” said Thompson, who, like most of his teammates, is going into his sophomore year.

With a rigourous summer schedule, one of the most important factors for a deep run in the National Championship includes team chemistry.

“I feel like we have to work as a team and as a unit to win ballgames,” said Abel. “It’s a big tournament and a long way from home.”

The Show will continue play a ways from the San Diego area, after spending three weeks in East Cobb, they head to Arizona, then back to San Diego for a short time before returning to Arizona for most of September—only to wrap up with a cross-country trip to Jupiter in October.

But with all the traveling and changes in scenery, the game still remains the same. As Thompson put it, “pitching and defense wins championships—” as well as being some of the tools that have taken San Diego Show alumni on to a bigger show.

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