Tournaments : : Story
Thursday, October 06, 2011

WWBA Underclass brimming with talent

Jeff Dahn        
Photo: Perfect Game

FORT MYERS, Fla. – Jered Goodwin brought his FTB Mizuno 17u squad here three weeks ago to try to steal a championship at the Perfect Game WWBA Florida Qualifier. The young team came up just short, finishing second to a loaded SWFL 18u squad.

But even before Goodwin took his team into the championship game of the Florida Qualifier, he admitted that his youthful squad was not really there to win the paid invitation to the WWBA World Championship in Jupiter, Fla., Oct. 20-24. Goodwin had this team at the Florida Qualifier to get it ready for this weekend’s PG WWBA Underclass World Championship.

“I got to bring a lot of young guys here and meet them and kind of groom them for the PG Underclass here in a couple of weeks,” Goodwin said three weeks ago. “Then this will be kind of my base team next summer, these guys that we brought to this event.”

He paused momentarily, and then continued.

A big reason for coming (to the Florida Qualifier) is to get reps,” he said. “The underclass guys are trying to go and make a run at the Underclass (World) tournament here in a couple of weeks and the older guys are trying to get ready for Jupiter.”

The 2011 WWBA Underclass World Championship begins Friday morning at no fewer than 15 Fort Myers-area venues. The 10
th annual WWBA Underclass Championship will utilize fields at Terry Park, the Red Sox Player Development 5-Plex, the Cape Coral Sports Complex, the Charlotte County Complex, City of Palms Park, Florida Gulf Coast University, Hammond Stadium and the Lee County Sports Complex, as well as seven area high schools.

One hundred and fourty-four teams from 19 states and Puerto Rico with more than 2,000 players will vie for the WWBA Underclass World Championship title, which concludes Monday with semifinal and championship games at City of Palms. This is the grandest underclass tournament in the nation every fall, showcasing the top junior and sophomore – and in some cases, freshman – prospects in the country in front of hundreds of college coaches and professional scouts.

If history tells us anything, those scouts have been paying attention.

There are 24 WWBA Underclass World Championship alumni who have already made it to the major leagues. That list includes first round MLB draft selections Jonathan Arencibia, Christopher Nelson, Justin Upton, Chris Volstad, Andrew McCutchen, Jemile Weeks, Chris Marrero, Eric Hosmer and Mike Trout.

More than 90 WWBA Underclass World Championship alumni from the 2009 tournament were selected in the 2011 draft. They include first round (and first round compensation) picks Tyler Beebe, Francisco Lindor, Kevin Matthews, Brett Austin, Dante Bichette, Hudson Boyd, Kevin Comer and Trevor Story.

This year’s field promises to produce even more standout teams and individuals.

FTB Mizuno Royal features top prospects LHP Sean Brady (Florida), MIF Derek Deler (Florida International) and LHP Ian McKinney (Central Florida), all 2013 guys who played on the runner-up Florida Qualifier team and who have already committed to D-I colleges. It also includes D-I commits catcher Chris Okey (Clemson), who is ranked No. 20 nationally (2013), and right-hander Kyle Marsh (Central Florida) who is ranked No. 12 in the class of 2014.

FTB probably isn’t even the team to beat at this tournament. Marucci Elite, the defending champion, is stacked once again, as is Orlando Scorpions 2013 Black, South Florida Elite Squad Black, Canes Baseball, Chet Lemon’s Juice, Dirtbags, East Cobb Braves and East Cobb Astros Texas Orange, along with a couple of dozen other elite teams.

The top-ranked national prospect expected to be in attendance as of mid-week is Statham, Ga., 3B/RHP Travis Demeritte, ranked No. 6. He is a member of the East Cobb Braves.

Other top guys include No. 9 C/UT Zach Collins from Pembroke Pines, Fla. (South Florida Elite Squad Black); No. 13 John Sternagel, a Central Florida commit from Rockledge, Fla. (Orlando Scorpions 2013 Black); and No. 17 Matthew Vogel , a right-hander from Medford, N.Y., who has committed to South Carolina (South Florida Banditos Seminoles).

There are at least eight other prospects – including Okey – ranked Nos. 20 through 33 in the class of 2013 who are expected to be here this weekend.

The 2011 WWBA Underclass World Championship sets the stage for the 2011 WWBA World Championship which will be held in Jupiter two weeks from this weekend.

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