Tournaments : : Story
Monday, October 25, 2010

Observations from Jupiter

Jeff Dahn        

JUPITER, Fla. – It rained very briefly about an hour before the start of Monday morning’s semifinal round games at the WWBA World Championship.

It was really just one overhead cloud that opened, and the early morning rising sun shined bright throughout the very brief downpour.

In truth, the sun shined brightly throughout the five-day World Championship, in both the literal and figurative context.

I am wrapping up my first trip to Jupiter, as the World Championship is most commonly referred to in the industry. If someone asks “Are you going to Jupiter?” or “Have you ever been to Jupiter?” you know they’re talking about the WWBA World Championship and not the Florida Atlantic University campus.

The logistics of Jupiter are difficult to comprehend. Eighty-five baseball teams stocked with the best high school talent the nation has to offer, playing more than 200 games over five days on a myriad of beautifully maintained fields at the Roger Dean Sports Complex. It’s exhilarating and mind-numbing all at once.

At some point over the last five days, someone compared the event to a big circus coming to town, and in a way I could understand the analogy. But it is too down-to-the-detail to be accurately compared to a circus.

It’s more like a well-orchestrated invasion.

The games are, of course, entertaining and competitive because the players are entertaining and competitive. More than a few of them represent the next generation of Major Leaguers.

Two of my favorites of the dozens I spoke to were strong and quick Josh Tobias from Greensboro, N.C., who played for the Canes, and power-hitting Daniel Vogelbach from  Fort Myers, Fla., who played for FTB Mizuno/Cardinals Scout Team.

They’re different types of players from different backgrounds but baseball has brought them together. They will be teammates at the University of Florida next school year after earning scholarships.

As much as this event is for the players – and it is first and foremost for the players – it is also for the hundreds of professional scouts and college coaches who come to watch the players perform.

The scouts and coaches get around on hundreds of golf carts, and between games the complex grounds often resemble a bumper-car rink.

The carts are identified by Major League organization or college, and when a top prospect is in action – especially a top pitching prospect whose appearances will be limited – there could be more than 100 scouts at a single game.

The Toronto Blue Jays had 34 scouts here this year.

I was given the opportunity to speak with several scouts and front-office people from different MLB clubs, and they were unanimous in their support for the World Championship.

There was this comment from Roy Clark, an assistant general manager and vice president of player personnel for the Washington Nationals:

“This is just a tremendous tournament, outstanding talent. Even West Coast colleges are here. It’s known in the scouting ranks as the No. 1 tournament in amateur baseball.”

Or this from Matt Hyde, the Northeast Area Scout for the New York Yankees:

“We’re here just to see players we already know about and we’ve indentified and see them compete against other good players. You hear a name, and to be able to see them down here, it’s obviously easier going from (fields) Blue 4 to Blue 7 than from Massachusetts to Pennsylvania.”

Or this comment from John Mirabelli, an assistant general manager and vice president of scouting operations for the Cleveland Indians:

“Because of t he convenience and the logistics of having so many players in one spot, they put it on a silver platter for the scouting industry. So yeah, you put it all on paper and it’s a pretty good deal.”

It was certainly a memorable experience for this first-time visitor.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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