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Friday, December 27, 2013

Time for Underclass-Main Event

Jeff Dahn        
Photo: Perfect Game

FORT MYERS, Fla. – On a brisk late December morning in Southwest Florida exactly one year ago, standout Columbus, Ga., middle-infielder Alonzo Jones trotted out to a grassy area at the jetBlue Park Player Development Complex and ran the 60-yeard dash in a feet-warming 6.37-seconds. The clocking was an event record at the Perfect Game National Underclass Showcase-Main Event, which has been staged under several different names since 2002.

Jones, ranked 43rd nationally in his high school graduating class of 2015, will join nearly 550 other top prospects in the high school classes of 2015, 2016 and 2017 from all across the country, Puerto Rico and Canada when Perfect Game’s largest annual showcase event runs its three-day course Saturday through Monday at jetBlue Park and the Lee County Sports Complex. JetBlue is the spring training home of the Boston Red Sox while Lee County serves the same role for the Minnesota Twins.

The PG National Underclass Showcase-Main Event has grown in leaps and bounds over the years and with its spot on the calendar right between Christmas and New Year’s, it has become a popular holiday vacation destination for budding young ballplayers.

Through the years, nearly 2,900 prospects that attended one of the three PG national underclass events – Session 1, Session 3 and Main Event – committed to colleges, just over 600 were drafted and 51 have made their Major League Baseball debuts.

The 550 top guys at this year’s Main Event are divided into 34 teams, and every young player will be given the opportunity to take part in workout and batting practice sessions and play in several of the 51 games scheduled Saturday and Sunday. The showcase concludes with Top Prospect Games on Monday, at jetBlue Park.

Jones is one of 13 players from the classes of 2015 and 2016 that are back this year after being named to the Top Prospect List at the 2012 Underclass-Main Event. Counted among those from the 2015 class are left-hander Max Wotell (Marvin, N.C.), ranked No. 58 nationally; outfielder Reggie Pruitt (Kennesaw, Ga.), No. 65 nationally; and middle-infielder Ramon Alejo (Orlando), No. 182.

Top 2016 prospects including outfielder/right-hander Sawyer Smith (Cantonmont, Fla.), ranked No. 61 nationally, and shortstop Gabriel Coburn (Windermere, Fla.) are also looking for back-to-back selections to the Top Prospect List.

Canadian outfielder Josh Naylor from Mississauga, Ont., comes into the Underclass-Main Event as the most highly ranked 2015 prospect at No. 17. Naylor, listed at 6-foot, 225-pounds, was especially impressive at last summer’s PG Junior National Showcase in Minneapolis and enjoyed a strong summer and fall playing with the Ontario Blue Jays.

No. 39-ranked corner-infielder Isiah Gilliam from Stone Mountain, Ga., joins Naylor, Jones, Wotell, Pruitt and Alejo as the top 2015s in attendance. Third baseman Joe Skinner from Heathrow, Fla., and shortstop Gregory Veliz from Key West, Fla., ranked Nos. 11 and 16, respectively, are the highest ranked class of 2016 prospects expected to be on hand.

This weekend’s PG National Underclass Showcase-Main Event serves as a prelude to the first events on Perfect Game’s 2014 calendar. The PG World Showcase, PG National Underclass Showcase-Session 3 and PG World Uncommitted Showcase will be held Jan. 4-5 at Terry Park, the former Boston Red Sox Player Development 5-Plex and City of Palms Park in Fort Myers.

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