Tournaments : : Story
Monday, May 23, 2011

Memorial Day Classics on deck

Jeff Dahn        
Photo: Perfect Game USA

Well over a hundred of some of the best travel-ball teams from Florida and a couple of neighboring states will converge on Fort Myers, Fla., over the upcoming Memorial Day Weekend to officially kick-off Perfect Game’s 2011 summer tournament season.

The third annual PG 18U WWBA Memorial Day Classic and third annual PG 16U WWBA Memorial Day Classic will be held concurrently Friday, May 27 through Monday, May 31, at 12 venues in the Fort Myers area.

The majority of the 111 scheduled games in the 18U tournament will be played at storied Terry Park and at the Boston Red Sox Player Development 5-Plex. There are also games scheduled at City of Palms Park (the Red Sox’s spring training home), the Lee County Sports Complex (the Minnesota Twins’ spring training home), Florida Gulf Coast University and several Fort Myers high schools.

The 93 games on the 16U slate will be played at many of those same venues, and also at the Cape Coral Sports Complex across the Caloosahatchee River.

Palm Beach County PAL swept the 2010 Memorial Day Classic championships. Palm Beach PAL 17U won the 18U tournament and PB PAL 16U won the 16U event. The organization has teams registered in both tournaments again this year.

The 60-team 18U field and 49-team 16U field are loaded with teams from nationally acclaimed organizations like Chet Lemon’s Juice, Florida Diamond Pros, FTB Mizuno and Team Latin America.

Powerhouse organization Orlando Scorpions Baseball will send five teams to Fort Myers, including Orlando Scorpions 17U Purple, Orlando Scorpions 17U Black and Orlando Scorpions Underclass Purple for the 18U tournament. Orlando Scorpions 2014 and Orlando Scorpions Underclass Black will compete in the 16U event.

Matt Gerber became Scorpions Baseball owner/operator on May 20, succeeding the organization’s legendary founder, Sal Lombardo. Gerber played on the first Scorpions 12U team 17 years ago and is in his sixth year coaching the Scorpions Purple squad. Lombardo will remain actively involved with the Scorpions, but is turning over the day-to-day operations to Gerber.

And the new owner/operator is excited about getting his recently formed teams out on the field.

“This has been our first tournament and we always circle it (on the calendar),” Gerber told Perfect Game in a telephone interview. “We’ll have a (pre-tournament) practice to kind of get to know everybody and kind of see what we’ve got. We use these tournaments a lot of times to throw our pitchers for two or three innings and get everybody some playing time.

“It’s a good kick-off to the year and it’s always a good tournament, and this year it’s grown a lot too,” he continued. “That’s good for Perfect Game and for us – the bigger it gets the more coverage you’ll get from the college and pro (coaches and scouts).”

Most of the players Gerber will be bringing to Fort Myers have been in his program for awhile, but he said the organization adds between 20 and 30 new players every year.

“These tournaments coming up will be the first time they’ve been together as a team in a game setting, so we’ll kind of see what we’ve got,” he said.

One of the top prospects on the Scorpions 17U Purple roster is pitcher Walker Weickel, a 6-6, 205-pound right-hander who Perfect Game ranks as the No. 10 national prospect (No. 3 in Florida) in the 2012 high school class. Weickel has verbally committed to the University of Miami, as has his Scorpions 17U Purple teammate, right-hander Shane Crouse.

While the tournaments may serve as “getting to know you” events, Gerber – like his counterparts with each of the other teams – expects the Scorpions to be competitive.

“When we go out there, we’re trying to win and we’re talented enough to do it,” he said. “After there’s some feeling out between the guys, if they play their games individually then collectively we should do pretty well.

“The goal is to win any tournament you enter and we go out there and play to win. We’re not just going to roll over, and if the opportunity presents itself we’re going to do everything in our power to win.”

Perfect Game’s No. 1-ranked 2012 prospect, Tampa right-hander Lance McCullers, is expected to pitch for the Tampa Bay Warriors in the 18U Classic.

Perfect Game will hold two other tournaments over the long Memorial Day Weekend: the 14U and 13U Northeast Memorial Day Classics will be played concurrently May 28-30 at Muzzy Field and three other venues in the Bristol, Conn., area. The Northeast Classics are metal bat events.

The following weekend, June 4-5, Perfect Game will stage four prestigious showcases: The National Academic Showcase and Sunshine East Showcase, both at the Red Sox Player Development 5-Plex in Fort Myers; the Sunshine South Showcase at Baseball USA in Houston; and Sunshine Northeast Showcase at Mercer County Park in West Windsor, N.J.

Jeff Dahn is an online feature writer for Perfect Game and can be contacted at jdahn@perfectgame.org.

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