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Tournaments  | Story  | 10/4/2022

Jupiter: A 10 Year Lookback

David Rawnsley     
Photo: Michael Chavis (Perfect Game)
Only the random luck of timing and storm paths kept the 2022 edition of the WWBA World Championship (aka Jupiter) from becoming a victim of Hurricane Ian, but that doesn’t mean that the annual October celebration of baseball hasn’t ever been impacted by hurricanes.  In 2004, “Jupiter” was actually a misnomer, as the WWBA World Championships were shifted to the West Coast of Florida and Fort Myers after Hurricane Jeanne (one of four hurricanes to batter Florida in a six-week period that year) caused extensive damage to the Roger Dean Complex when it came on shore September 26 with Category 3 force winds.

2012 was another year that Jupiter was impacted by a Hurricane.  “Superstorm” Sandy made its way up the Atlantic Coast to its eventual collision with New York and New Jersey during Jupiter Week, creating 35-50 mph winds that often played havoc with what “normal” baseball would have been.  If you ever wanted to see a high fly ball to left-center field caught by the right fielder (without a shift!), this was the time to experience it.  Games had to be moved around and rescheduled at times due to squalls but it was the wind that created the biggest impact.

On the field, the big story in 2012 was the East Cobb Astros cruising to their second Jupiter win (the first title came in 2003), concluding with an 8-2 win over Chet Lemon’s Juice in the championship game.

Many of East Cobb’s dominant teams over the past two decades have been led by dominant pitching staffs but the 2012 squad was the opposite, featuring an incredible lineup that featured five 2012 PG All-Americans in infielders Michael Chavis and Travis Demeritte, outfielders Kel Johnson and Josh Hart and catcher Brian Navarreto.

Yet with all those All-Americans and future Big Leaguers (Chavis, Demeritte and Navarreto), the Most Valuable Player turned out to be shortstop Wesley Jones.  Jones was a highly-ranked prospect himself, so his performance in Jupiter wasn’t especially a surprise.  He hit .524 for the week with four doubles and 10 RBI.  He was also the winning pitcher in the championship game, throwing four one-run innings.

Demeritte also stood out as a two-way prospect.  He went 3-for-3 with 4 RBI in the championship game and picked up a quarterfinal win on the mound with six innings of three-hit, 10-strikeout baseball.  Hart was outstanding in his lead off role all through the tournament, posting a .571 on-base percentage and stealing five bases.

The Juice’s success in reaching the championship game leaned heavily on their pitching staff and especially on two future Big Leaguers, right-handers Tyler Danish and Drew Carlton.  “Everyday” Danish, as he was dubbed, threw four straight days for the Juice, including a complete game win in the semifinals over a talented Evoshield Canes team, and was named the Most Valuable Pitcher.

Carlton could have easily laid claim to that MV-Pitcher award as well, allowing no earned runs in two starts totaling 13 innings, with only five hits allowed and 17 strikeouts.

A look down the Juice roster reveals two other future Big Leaguers.  Sophomore right-hander Brady Singer got into one game and threw two scoreless innings.  Future Florida Gator and Cincinnati Red Mark Kolozovary shared the Juice’s catching duties.

Here’s a look at some of the other individual standouts from the 2012 WWBA World Championships, highlighting future big leaguers:

Pitching for the Atlanta Blue Jays, Touki Toussaint showed some of the best stuff ever at Jupiter, working in the 93-97 mph range over two games, including a victory over the defending champion Marucci Elite.  One scout made the remark about Toussaint’s curveball, “it’s going to be tough to get a called strike call on that pitch when it keeps buckling the umpire’s knees.”  Incredibly, Toussaint threw six innings over those two games and recorded all 18 outs via strikeout.

Jordan Sheffield almost didn’t pitch in Jupiter after his loaded Ohio Warhawks team unexpectedly missed the playoffs but threw an inning in one of the most heavily-scouted consolation games ever.  Sheffield worked mostly 95-96 mph in a quick inning that ended up with a Jupiter record-tying 98 mph fastball on the last pitch.

Tyler O’Neill has won two Rawlings Gold Gloves for his defensive excellence as an outfielder with the Cardinals, but he was heavily scouted during the week as a catcher for the DBacks Team British Columbia.  The consensus among the scouts was that the slugging O’Neill could probably remain behind the plate, which actually only lasted until early in O’Neill’s professional career.

Speaking of catchers, one familiar PG All-American and current Big Leaguer made a surprising two-inning appearance behind the plate.  Left-handed throwing Dominic Smith played there during Yak Baseball’s consolation game and looked like a natural, including posting a pop time of 1.84 between innings.  This scout has often wondered why in this age of innovation in baseball there aren't any left-handed catchers being developed.

Devin Williams left quite an impression with scouts while pitching for the Mets Scout Team/St. Louis Pirates.  Williams was listed at 6-foot-3, 165 pounds on the Jupiter roster and showed huge athleticism and projection.  He worked in the 90-93 mph range to go with what even then was an outstanding changeup.  He would end up as the 14th ranked overall prospect in the 2013 class.

Only one player managed to hit multiple home runs in the high winds in 2012 and in retrospect it’s not surprising who it was.  Pete Alonso mashed two bombs while playing for All-American Prospects.

It’s not uncommon for current or former Major League players to come to Jupiter, many to root for their sons.  In this scout’s memory, there probably hasn’t been any player who has ever been as generous with his time and more giving than Manny Ramirez.  The 12-time All-Star had only finished his 19-year big league career in 2011 and was instantly recognizable to fans and scouts alike and he must have spent hours signing autographs and taking pictures without losing a huge smile.  Of course, Ramirez had another reason to be smiling, as his son, Manny Jr., led all qualifying hitters at the championship with a .778 batting average

Some other standout players and pitchers from the All-Tournament Team: 

Chance Sisco had an event-leading five extra-base hits and a .600 batting average playing for the Midland Redskins.

Another Midland Redskins standout was Andrew Benintendi, who hit .429 with three extra-base hits himself.

John Paul Crawford hit .357 with two doubles for Yak Baseball but stood out even more for his outstanding defense at shortstop.

O’Neill wasn’t the only Canadian standout, as Josh Naylor hit .333 with a pair of doubles for the Ontario Blue Jays.

Alex Verdugo showed his running speed and hitting ability, hitting .385 with two triples and six RBI for the Texas Scout Team Yankees.

Pitchers wanted no part of Rowdy Tellez, walking him nine times.  But when they did throw to the Team Elite slugger, he made them pay with a .417 average and three extra-base hits.

Zachary Gallen wasn't a big-name prospect as a 6-foot, 160-pound right-hander for the Tri-State Arsenal but he threw six shutout innings with nine strikeouts in Jupiter, working 87-90 mph with his fastball while showing a curveball and change up as well.

Many readers probably haven’t heard of Peter Strzelecki, who has been outstanding as a rookie reliever with the Brewers this year.  In 2012, he struck out 14 hitters in 7 innings for Palm Beach PAL but notably only threw 82-85 with a mid- to upper-60s breaking ball.  Players take different development routes, that’s for sure!

Nestor Cortes was another relatively unheralded prospect in Jupiter that year who enjoyed big success in the championship, striking out 11 in 4 innings pitching for Miami PG Columbia Blue.  The 5-foot-10 lefty worked 85-88 mph on his fastball with a full arsenal of secondary pitches.


You might look at the East Cobb Astros' five All-American position players and wonder where that might rank among the all-time most talented teams.  And that would be a great question, one that is often discussed behind the scenes by PG veterans.

But one Jupiter team certainly comes to mind immediately, more emphatically because they didn’t even reach the championship game.

In 2010, the FTB Mizuno/Cardinals Scout Team had seven PG All-Americans on their roster and in addition, had four other non-All-Americans who ended up playing in the Major Leagues.  The All-Americans were INF Javier Baez, RHP Jose Fernandez, RHP Deshorn Lake, INF Francisco Lindor, C Tyler Marlette, LHP Henry Owens and OF Jesse Winker.  Five of those All-Americans eventually reached the big leagues.

The additional four future big leaguers included RHP Zach Eflin, RHP Jakob Junis, RHP Justin Shafer and 1B Daniel Vogelbach.

FTB’s most distinctive game that year came in the first round of the playoffs against a loaded Dallas Patriots team.  Fernandez threw maybe the most dominant game this scout has ever seen pitched in context, shutting out the Patriots while only allowing two hits and throwing 94-97 the whole outing with a plus-plus slider.  The two hits, fittingly, were by Josh Bell and Trevor Story.