Tournaments : : Story
Saturday, September 24, 2011

PG/Evo Under a good place to be

Jeff Dahn        
Photo: Perfect Game

PEORIA, Ariz. – This was one of those conversations that needed to be retold in a column or blog format, because it had nothing to with breaking news, 98 mph fastballs or a kid getting offered a dozen scholarships after one standout game.

It has to do with a family of three from San Jose, Calif., sweating out another triple-digit temperature day in Arizona playing baseball at the Perfect Game/EvoShield National Championship (Underclass) on Saturday while the tournament unfolded at the Peoria Sports Complex. The complex is the recently new spring training home of the San Diego Padres and Seattle Mariners, and it is a remarkable facility.

I left Salt River Fields at Talking Stick in the eastern part of the Phoenix metropolitan area at around 10:30 a.m. Saturday and arrived at the Peoria Sports Complex – in the northwest suburbs – about an hour later. When I climbed out of my car in Peoria, it was already more than 100 degrees outside.

I went to the Underclass because I felt like I needed to. I will be at the Upperclass each of the next two days, and I felt like I should try to find a story out of the 32-team event before I put it into the outer recesses of my mind.

I had no plan. Going into Saturday, there were four teams in the Underclass tournament that had won their first two pool-play games. I thought I would try to seek out the winners. Instead, I found a parent whose son was on a team that was about to go 0-3 and be eliminated from the tournament. I couldn’t believe how positive this gentleman was.

Lambert Calvert is a 52-year-old businessman from San Jose, Calif., whose son, Dakota, plays with the NorCal ABD Bulldogs, an underclass team based in San Jose. The NC ABD Bulldogs lost their first two games Friday by a combined score of 16-2, and then fell to Team California/Arizona, 17-5, not long after I had spoken with Lambert.

I’m not sure what connected me with Calvert, other than I initially mistook him for someone else and the fun he and his wife, Jamie, seemed to be having under the relentless desert sun. It just seemed like there was nowhere else the Calvert’s would rather be other than at the PG/EvoShield National Championship (Underclass) on a brutally hot late September afternoon.

“We were really excited to come down here because we haven’t been down to a set-up like this,” Lambert Calvert said of the Peoria Sports Complex. “The first thing we did was look it up online and see what the fields looked like and I did Google Earth and everything and I was like, ‘This looks nice.’”

Calvert explained that up in the San Jose area, while there are plenty of top-notch baseball fields, there aren’t Major League Baseball quality fields like those in Peoria.

Dakota Calvert is a 6-foot-3, 200-pound first baseman who is a sophomore at Pioneer High School in San Jose. This PG event was Dakota’s first.

“We mostly play travel ball up in Northern California, but we have been down to L.A. a couple of times,” Calvert said. “I think this a great event. Everything is organized well, the website stuff works really well, all the people are nice and friendly and the fields are perfect.

“I had heard of Perfect Game and I knew they had a good reputation and it’s kind of nice to come down and see that it really is that way.”

It’s always nice to hear that about a company you work for, and Calvert seemed exceptionally sincere. This was his first experience with a PG event and his 15-year-old son was toiling under a sun hot enough to fry eggs on a sidewalk in a matter of minutes.

There are a lot of experiences that lie ahead for a 15-year-old Dakota, but Lambert Calvert thinks those baseball experiences are just beginning. He doesn’t think it is at all too early to get his son out in front of college coaches and pro scouts, especially if baseball is something Dakota plans to pursue.

“I think it’s a great way for him to get out there and see better quality baseball,” Calvert said. “It’s good to see that you have to take it up to the next level.”

Calvert plans to send Dakota to more Perfect Game events in the future. As we parted ways, he mentioned that everyone was “having a great time down here as a family” and that they were planning on going to the Diamondbacks-Giants game Saturday night.

Dakota Calvert’s weekend of playing baseball ended under a hot Arizona sun Saturday afternoon. But a baseball experience continued Saturday night.

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