Tournaments | Story | 11/15/2011

The Show says ‘Yes we can’

Jeff Dahn        
Photo: Perfect Game

Brian Cain appreciates a strong challenge, and time after time this summer and fall, his elite San Diego Show travel ball organization rose to confront any that came its way.

During the first week of July, a challenge presented itself at the East Cobb Complex in Marietta, Ga., when the Show won five playoff games over 1½ days – including wins over the mighty East Cobb Braves 17u in the semifinals and the East Cobb Yankees in the championship game – and won the PG WWBA 2011 Grads or 18u National Championship.

In late September a similar challenge reared its head, and the Show beat 520 Elite 18u one run in the semifinals and the San Diego Gamers by two in the championship game to capture the title at the Perfect Game/EvoShield National Championship (Upperclass) at Salt River Fields at Talking Stick near Scottsdale, Ariz.

That championship allowed the San Diego Show to join the East Cobb Braves 17u and Marucci Elite as the only teams to win two Perfect Game national championships in 2011.

But winning on the field isn’t the biggest challenge Cain and his associate Hector Lorenzana face each year. Cain wants the Show to maintain its level of championship excellence while also using Perfect Game events to secure college scholarships for the prospects he puts on the field.

I like where we’re at and I see the light at the end of the tunnel,” Cain said in a recent telephone conversation with Perfect Game. “People tell us ‘You can’t. You can’t get that kid a scholarship. You can’t make that player better.’ But we’ve always been baseball first, and anytime somebody says we can’t, that’s like flipping a switch. We take it personally.”

Cain has worked in the construction business for more than 20 years, and has also coached baseball at the junior college level and served as an associate scout for the Atlanta Braves. He started the San Diego Show organization 10 years ago.

The Show’s 18u and 17u teams are annually ranked in the top-10 in PG’s National Travel Team Rankings; the 18u squad is No. 3 and the 17u team No. 8 in the most recent rankings. Previous San Diego Show teams that featured No. 1 overall draft picks Stephen Strasburg and Bryce Harper were always highly ranked but they never left Marietta with a national championship.

The Show squad that won the WWBA 18u National Championship with a 9-0-1 record featured a roster peppered with 2011 prospects, including tournament Most Valuable Player SS Phillip Evans from Carlsbad, Calif., and MV Pitcher RHP Jake Reed from La Mesa, Calif.

Evans was 9-for-22 (.409) with seven RBI at the tournament, and signed with the New York Mets after being selected in the 15th round of the 2011 amateur draft. Reed allowed only one earned run in 12 2/3 innings (0.63 ERA) with seven strikeouts, and won two games and saved two others.

Cain called winning the WWBA 18u National Championship one of the most gratifying moments in San Diego Show history, highlighted by the wins over the two powerhouse East Cobb teams in the semis and championship game.

That last out at East Cobb was something special. There was a lot of hard work crammed into just a few weeks,” Cain said. “I knew I had all the pieces of the puzzle and our kids were extremely confident. Not cocky but extremely confident. I knew I had guys that would be leaders on the field for me.

My guys had to persevere through a lot and they did it with flying colors,” he continued. “When you’ve got a group like that when baseball means so much to them, a lot of time you just throw a ball out there and try to stay out of the way.”

Five prospects that were on the WWBA 18u championship team also played on the PG/EvoShield National Championship (Upperclass) title team. They were Perfect Game All-American 3B/SS/RHP Corey Oswalt of San Diego; RHP/INF/OF Michael Martin of San Diego; 3B/OF Fernando Perez of Chula Vista, Calif.; OF Nick Ruppert from La Mesa, Calif.; and SS/3B/RHP Bobby Zarubin of San Diego.

Oswalt, Perez, Ruppert and Zarubin are all in the class of 2012 and had committed to UC Santa Barbara, Central Arizona CC, Dartmouth and Stanford, respectively, at the time the PG/EvoShield tournament was held. Martin, ranked 133
rd nationally in the 2013 class, is uncommitted.

Josh Estill, a stocky 5-foot-10, 185-pound C/3B from Carlsbad, Calif., was named the MV Player of the PG/EvoShield National Championship (Upperclass) after an eye-popping seven games at the plate. He finished 14-for-20 (.700) with six doubles, one triple, seven RBI and eight runs scored, and recorded an on-base percentage of .727 and a slugging percentage of 1.100.

It was fun to come out here and play in Arizona,” Estill said after the championship game, seemingly unaffected by the triple-digit temperature and the searing mid-day Arizona sun. “We were tired and it’s 100 degrees, but I like hitting in the heat. We could be playing in 72 degrees – San Diego heat – but this is fun. We got it done out here.”

Zack Wilkins, a 6-2, 185-pound right-hander out of Scripps Ranch High School in San Diego, was named the tournament’s MV Pitcher after throwing 10 innings of six-hit ball with six strikeouts and a 2.10 ERA. He too enjoyed his time in Phoenix and seemed unaffected by the heat.

It was a great experience,” Wilkins said. “We played well and we played as a team and I just thought everyone bonded real well up here. And I’ll throw in any weather. I just go out there and do my best and see what happens.”

Another standout on the WWBA 18u squad was RHP John Gamble of Escondido, Calif. C/1B Jesse Kay of Encinitas, Calif.; MIF Kevin Newman from Poway, Calif.; and MIF Gosuke Katoh from Poway all played well at the PG/EvoShield event.

Perfect Game All-American 3B/SS Trey Williams from Suagus, Calif. – the nation’s No. 11-ranked overall prospect in the 2012 class – was listed on both rosters but didn’t participate in either tournament.

We have a good, tight nucleus of about 14 or 15 guys who really don’t miss much,” Cain said. “I don’t know if Michael Martin has missed a tournament for three years … and that pays off. Guys being out at all these events, and the recruiters and the scouts get to see them day in and day out, time and time again, it just increases their chances of getting drafted and recruited.”

And, as one quick look at these standouts’ home towns indicates, Cain doesn’t have to look far to find exceptional talent.

We attract good players and most of them are local,” he said. “Our guys are consistently from in-town … and that’s kind of cool because in this day and age you see a lot of guys calling players from all over the country. If you look at the top 15 or 20 programs around, I bet most can’t say that 95 or 98 percent of their players are from their town. And we can hang our hat on that.”

Cain made an arrangement with Ron Slusher from the Ohio Warhawks to send most of his star players to Jupiter, Fla., to play in the PG WWBA World Championship under the Warhawks nameplate.

In the end, 11 players from the Show wound up playing for the Warhawks in Jupiter: Estill, Martin, Oswalt, Perez, Ruppert, Zarubin, Gamble, Kay, Newman, LHP Stephen Gonsalves of San Marcos, Calif., and RHP Ian Clarkin from San Diego. Gonsalves is the nation’s No. 1-ranked left-handed pitching prospect (No. 8 overall) in the class of 2013. The Warhawks finished a disappointing 2-1-1 in pool-play and didn’t advance to the playoffs.

The San Diego Show organization plans on fielding 15 teams in 2012 for kids ages 7 through 18. The program just added the 7 through 13 age groups two years ago.

Every level is extremely competitive and they’re all winning,” Cain said. “They believe in what we’re doing and that’s the key with younger players. If they buy into the system, the system’s worked; the system’s worked for 10 years. So if you buy into it at a young age and trust in what we’re doing, when they get to high school they’re going to be far ahead (of other players).”

Cain hands of a lot of the credit to Lorenzana, his partner in the operation.

He’s the guy behind the scenes making a lot of stuff happen and he’s covering my rear end,” Cain said. “He operates in the background and he’s the unsung hero out of all this. He kind of gets the short end of the stick and he probably doesn’t get the credit that he deserves.”

The Perfect Game tournament championships the Show won in July and September will be what most outsiders comment on when the conversation turns to the 2011 season and the San Diego Show. It is an accomplishment Cain is justifiably proud of, but there is much more involved.

I’m very pleased with the two national (championships) this year, and if we didn’t have a good chemistry with some of the outstanding players that we have,” it wouldn’t happen, Cain said. “It’s nice to see a plan come together, but you can never do it without a great group of kids. Let’s be real – they’re the ones that play. I only give them the thoughts they need to have to focus in the right direction. I don’t get in their way, I don’t micro-manage and I let them play like they’re big-leaguers. There’s a mutual respect that happens when you treat kids with that kind of confidence and respect. …

I would say, all around this has probably been our most successful year, and we’ve had some very good years,” he concluded. “The big one for me is almost every one of my players has gotten a Division I scholarship. More than the wins and the accolades, it’s what we’re doing for the players. I got into this thing 10 years ago because I knew I could help players fulfill their dreams.”

Just don’t tell the Show they can’t do something.

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