Tournaments : : Story
Saturday, September 22, 2012

Angels in Arizona

Jeff Dahn        
Photo: Perfect Game

PEORIA, Ariz. -- All of the highly ranked national prospects in the class of 2014 will perform the next 10 months with the hope of being one of the elite players invited to the 2013 Perfect Game All-American Classic, the prestigious national high school all-star game.

Several of those top 2014 prospects, along with a handful of top 2015 guys, are getting the opportunity to play on what is essentially an all-star team this weekend at the Perfect Game/EvoShield National Championship (Underclass).

Angels Baseball -- a team of terrific prospects put together by a handful of like-minded players' fathers, including Los Angeles Angels fan Mike Herbert from San Clemente, Calif. -- has generated a lot of interest from the dozens of college coaches through the first two days of pool-play at the 48-team event.

Angels Baseball boasts a roster of 12 players from California, Arizona, Florida and Iowa, all of whom will one day sign NCAA Division I letters-of-intent. Nine of them have already made D-I commitments.

Herbert, who acts as the team's head coach, explained that most of the players on the roster attended the USA Baseball trials when they were 14 years old and the families knew each other from that experience. Quite a few of families also traveled to Nicaragua together with the USA Baseball 14u national team.

They decided to play in the PG/EvoShield Underclass way back in December and added a few players that fit in nicely with the whole group.

"We really look for kids with good grades and good parents; those are the kids that we look for," Herbert said. "We put together a good team that came out here with a small roster so that we can (bat) everybody and let people move around and play.

"The chemistry has been unbelievable," he continued. "Most of them all know each other either from playing against them or with each other."

Herbert has a son, Lucas, playing on the team. Lucas Herbert (2014, San Clemente) is the nation's No. 6 overall prospect in the class of 2015 (the No. 1 ranked catching prospect) and has verbally committed to UCLA.

Doug Urbach, Jim Aiken and Dave Finley are other dads helping Herbert with the team. Urbach is the father of infielder/outfielder Tyler Urbach (2014, Pasadena, Calif.), Aiken is the father of left-hander Brady Aiken (2014, Jamul, Calif.) and Finley the father of right-hander Drew Finley (2015, San Diego),

Dave Finley is also the Director, Player Personnel for the Boston Red Sox.

"We are lucky to have Dave with us and kind of give the kids a little perspective on what scouts look for, so Dave is really helping them from a mental aspect," Herbert said.

One of the top 2014 prospects on the roster is Blake Wiggins, an infielder from Little Rock, Ark. Wiggins is ranked the No. 64 overall national prospect in his class and has committed to Arkansas.

"I've been really looking forward to this weekend and it's been a blast," Wiggins said. "We're expecting to win every game. We've got some good talent, so we're going to go out there and try to show it and play the best we can."

Brady Aiken, right-hander Ryan Castellani (2014, Phoenix), first baseman/right-hander Keaton McKinney (2014, Ankeny, Iowa), middle-infielder Brandon Perez (2015, Ladera Ranch, Calif.) and right-hander/third baseman Joe DeMers (2015, Martinez, Calif.) are among other top-70 ranked prospects on the roster.

Aiken and Castellani have also committed to UCLA, McKinney will join Wiggins at Arkansas, Perez is an Oregon commit and DeMers is uncommitted.

These are kids who know how to play the game.

"Basically, these kids are coaching themselves," Herbert said. "We've got a few of the dads in the dugout, and we don't call pitches, there's no signs, they can steal on their own, they call their own first-and-third, they call their own bunt plays -- so we're really just drinking water in the dugout and letting them go. They're all superior, superior baseball athletes."

Herbert said the players and their families all agreed that the PG/EvoShield Under was the event they wanted to enter. A coveted Perfect Game national championship is the ultimate reward, and even though the temperature climbed into triple-digits again on Saturday, the facilities -- the Peoria Sports Complex and the Goodyear Sports and Recreation Complex -- and playing conditions are second to none.

"It was good on the schedule for everybody; we love Perfect Game events and most of the kids have been to  Perfect Game events," Herbert said. "We put everything together early so  everyone could put this on their calendar."

The tournament certainly started out in stellar fashion for the Angels. They beat the San Diego Scorpions, 9-0, Friday night and 520 Elite Underclass, 8-1, Saturday morning. Their third and final pool-play game was scheduled for late Saturday afternoon.

Right-handers DeMers, McKinney, Wiggins and Perez combined on a five-inning, nine-strikeout no-hitter in Friday's win. Wiggins was 3-for-3 with a double and two RBI, Darren Miller -- a Florida State recruit -- was 2-for-3 with a triple and two RBI, and Urbach tripled and drove in two.

Four pitchers -- Isaiah Deutsch, Daniel Slominski, Miller and Perez -- combined on a three-hitter Saturday morning. Lucas Herbert doubled twice and singled, and Aiken and Slominski each had a pair of hits. Everyone on the Angels Baseball side of the field was having a grand old time.

"The parents have been so excited for the last couple of months as the event was coming up, and the kids have been texting each other back and forth. It's just a great experience to watch them all play and play on the same team together," Herbert said.

"We knew we wanted to play in a Perfect Game (tournament) and one where they bring teams in from all over," he continued. "We really like the format where you almost have to win your pool to advance because then everybody's got to use some pitching. We have nine pitchers and all nine of them are going to pitch."

This is Wiggins' 11th Perfect Game event, including nine tournaments and two showcases.

"It's a great organization, and it's a great way to get your name out there and travel all over and play everywhere," Wiggins said of PG.

The two showcase events he attended were the 2012 PG Junior National Showcase in Minneapolis and the 2012 PG National Games in San Diego. The latter event started the day after the PG All-American Classic was played in PETCO Park. Wiggins attended the Classic with some buddies and decided he liked the idea of playing for a national all-star team.

"We went over and watched the whole game and it's something I'm wanting to do," Wiggins said. "It's going to be fun if you get the opportunity to do that; it would be a nice experience."

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