All American Game : : Story
Wednesday, August 17, 2005

The Aflac Experience

Patrick Ebert        
Friday All-American BP
Friday's events for the Aflac All-Americans started with infield and outfield drills, along with an extensive round of batting practice before the first round of the home run derby took place. The batting practice allowed everyone to get a better look at the hitters in attendance, as there wasn't much offense to be found during the scrimmage the day before.

11 members from the West squad got to swing the lumber first, with Robbie Alcombrack, Hank Conger, Grant Green (Anaheim Hills, CA), Chris Parmelee, Nathan Bridges, Devin Shepherd, Ryan Adams (Mandeville, LA), Kyle Drabek, Aaron Miller (Channelview, TX), Jeff Rapoport and Drew Rundle batting in order. Kyle Drabek had the most impressive power display, easily and consistently lofting home runs over the left-centerfield fence over 330 feet away. Hank Conger stung the ball harder than any West hitter, while Nathan Bridges drove the ball to all parts of the field better than any of his West teammates. Chris Parmelee showed the prettiest stroke, lacing line drive after line drive into right field. Devin Shepherd exhibited considerable power potential, but not as consistently as some of the other hitters.

Both Green and Adams used the whole field and hit the ball up the middle better than anyone in this group, but didn't show much power. Aaron Miller displayed a smooth left-handed stroke not unlike Parmelee's, while Rapoport and Rundle continued to display their well-rounded all-around tools with strong showings in the cage.

The East hitters countered the West sluggers with 11 batters of their own. Torre Langley, Billy Rowell (Sewell, NJ), Max Sapp, David Christensen, Cory Rasmus, Ryan Jackson, Derrick Robinson, Andrew Clark (New Palestine, IN), Cody Johnson, Chris Marrero and Brent Brewer batted in succession. Like Hank Conger, and as noted yesterday, no one hit the ball harder, more consistently than Max Sapp. Both he and Conger didn't hit many balls completely out of the park, but you could hear the balls they hit screaming to all parts of the field. Cody Johnson by far has the most power potential. He easily laced bombs towards the scoreboard in right field and the busy road that ran at least 50 feet beyond the right field fence. Billy Rowell's tall and powerful frame gives him the second best power potential among the East players, as he too lofted several bombs towards the right-field scoreboard as a left-handed hitter.

Andrew Clark's left-handed swing was similar to that of Aaron Miller's and Chris Parmelee's given the ease in which he whipped the bat through the zone. Chris Marrero's gap power was very similar to Nathan Bridges', as he too made consistent, hard contact. David Christensen is the East's answer to the West's Jeff Rapoport. Torre Langley peppered the ball to all fields despite his smaller stature, while Cory Rasmus also displayed the ability to drive the ball.

As fast as Derrick Robinson is, he had trouble driving the ball with authority during BP. He does put the ball on the ground, which definitely benefits his tool-set when it comes to game time. Brent Brewer had some good hacks and has obvious power potential, and athletically is similar to fellow Georgian and former Aflac All-American P.J. Phillips.

Home run derby, round one
Eager to get their hacks in, 30 Aflac All-Americans took part in the first-round of the home run derby. Due to time constraints given the number of participants, hitters were given 10 swings as opposed to 10 outs, which increased the need for them to make the most out of each and every of their 10 swings since it didn't reward them for getting into a groove.

While Cody Johnson entered the contest as the favorite, Kyle Drabek was my personal pick given his performance during batting practice. In the end, the winner was one of the most unlikely of characters, the shortest player on the squad, catcher Torre Langley. Langley proved that just because he is of a smaller stature doesn't mean there isn't some thunder in his bat, as he got into a groove hitting three home runs in a row at one point.

Robbie Alcombrack, the eventual home run derby champion on Saturday, had the second highest number of dingers in the first-round of the home run derby with four. Six players had three home runs in the first round, David Christensen, Chris Marrero, Ryan Adams, Kyle Drabek, Grant Green and Jeff Rapoport. Those six players advanced to a tie-breaking round, given five swings each to advance to the finals. Drabek and Rapoport each hit two to advance, with Rapoport hitting one with his final swing to move on in dramatic fashion.

As for some of the favorites to compete in the event, as noted above and earlier, no one hit the ball harder than Max Sapp. If there were a doubles-hitting contest he would have won easily. Hank Conger would have placed second in such a proposed competition, but the two slugging catchers ended up with one and two home runs respectively. Cody Johnson seemed to press a little too much and was unable to make use of his considerable power during the derby. Billy Rowell hit two big blasts, but like Johnson, was unable to move on to the next round. Andrew Clark and Chris Parmelee used their effortless swings to hit two home runs each.

Kasey Kiker earned the respect of his teammates and observers with his outing. Several pitchers decided to join in on the fun, but no one entered the batting box with as much conviction as Kiker did. He hit one home run, and hit every other ball that he saw very hard. Pitchers Colton Willems (Fort Pierce, FL), Jordan Walden, Jeremy Jeffress, Matt Latos and Taylor Hammack also managed to put their name on the board with one dinger each.

Torre Langley, Robbie Alcombrack, Kyle Drabek and Jeff Rapoport all moved on to the finals in the home run derby as part of the festivities on game day at Ripken Park on Saturday.

Perfect Game Aflac Showcase Day Two
Like the Aflac All-Americans the day before, the players attending the Perfect Game Aflac Showcase got to show their abilities in a game format scrimmage on Friday, the second and final day of the showcase. I'm going to share some of the highlights and the radar readings of the pitchers.

Thomas Pham, playing third base for the North team, hit a booming home run to deep left-centerfield off of South pitcher Ryan Butner. Pham's athletic ability is evident on the field defensively and at the plate, as he finished the scrimmage with three hits, including his home run and a double. He has a very strong arm in the infield which also translated well on the mound, as his fastball touched 92 mph and he sat in the 87-91 range during his inning of work. Pham showed the ability to change speeds as well with a 69 mph curveball, a 78 slider and a 80 mph changeup. His offspeed pitches need some work, as his fastball alone wasn't enough for him to retire a single batter.

Infielder Matt Jaimes (Ontario, CA) made some very nice plays at both second and third base, and added two hits on the day. Jaimes' offensive potential stood out as much as his smooth defense, with very quick hands through the zone that should allow him to make consistent, hard contact at the next level.

Left-handed hitting outfield Ryan Kalish (Shresbury, NJ) drove a double down the right-field line, and displayed his speed and aggressive base-running by taking advantage of a bobbled-ball by hustling in to third base. Kalish also took the mound for the North, using a slow and deliberate delivery tossing a fastball that sat in the 83-84 range while touching 87. As a left-handed pitcher, you could see his potential for improvement as he threw the ball effortlessly.

Fellow North outfielder Michael Belfiore (Commack, NY) also hit a booming double, this one off of the first pitcher to toss for the South squad, Adam Veres.

Infielder Ryan Powers showed his athleticism on the field defensively, with good range at shortstop and a strong arm. At the plate he has the bat speed and power potential to be an offensive-minded infielder. Given his size, he may outgrow the shortstop position, but he has plenty of pop to slide over to the hot corner, where his arm will be an asset.

Catchers Joe Velleggia (Monkton, MD) and Sam Mahoney (Belmont, MA) offer big, intimidating presences at the plate at 6'6', 225 and 6'5", 215 respectively. Mahoney adds to his value by swinging from the left-side of the plate, and both have intriguing power potential to go along with strong arms behind the dish.

From the South squad, I mentioned infielder Jonathan Merritt's tools in the day one installement despite his small frame. He has good speed, a very good arm, and an aggressive approach at the plate that reminded me of the University of Washington's Brent Lillibridge.

Luis Tovar's name has been popping up on top prospect lists from several summer showcase and tournament events from this summer, and he showed why with a quick bat and very good, smooth actions in the infield. He has a tall and rangy body with plenty of room to fill out and add strength. Tovar may be a third baseman or even an outfielder down the road, but his offensive potential should allow him to play just about anywhere.

I continued to be impressed with third baseman Evan Cox. As I noted yesterday, he made very good, consistent hard contact while adding a very strong arm at the hot corner. Cox stands over the plate, an aggressive approach that likely will lead to getting hit by a lot of pitches. He also pitched an inning, employing an extremely high and almost exaggerated leg kick. His fastball sat in the 86-90 range, and while he had a good curveball in the 73-75 range, his delivery and leg kick noticeably slowed down.

I didn't get to see much of an infielder Jet Butler (Pensacola, FL). You can quickly see Butler's potential with a strong, athletic frame, as it looks like he has worked hard to chisel his body while putting on more muscle. He's a switch-hitter with smooth actions on the infield, natural instincts and good speed.

Onto the pitchers that weren't detailed above. Right-hander Jason Stoffel (Agoura Hills, CA) made the long trip from the West coast and was the most impressive pitcher in attendance. He quickly sat down the North squad in his first inning of work, striking out one batter and inducing a weak, broken bat dribbler back to the mound. Stoffel worked quickly throwing his heater in the 88-91 range while changing speeds very well with a hammer of a curveball clocked at 74-75 mph. Just as impressive as his stuff was his approach, as he pitched fearlessly and aggressively to the opposing hitters, owning the inner half of the zone. He did give up a run in his second inning of work after a bloop single, a stolen base and another bloop single, but no one got solid contact off of Stoffel.

The other South pitchers included righty Adam Veres (Palm Beach Gardens, FL), who started the scrimmage. He pitched right around 87 with every fastball he threw, and showed an outstanding curveball consistently around 70-72. Veres left during his second inning of work after feeling some discomfort in his throwing arm, but the injury wasn't expected to be anything serious.

Righty Ryan Butner (Davie, FL), who gave up the home run to Tommy Pham, came in next, touching 90 and consistently working in the 84-86 range with a 77-78 breaking ball. Butner has a very tall and lanky frame that allows plenty of room for improvement.

Stoffel pitched next, followed by local product, southpaw Neil Davis (Baltimore, MD), who probably was the most pleasant surprise for me. Blessed with the perfect pitcher's frame at 6'5", 195 pounds, Davis had a nice, easy, effortless delivery that consistently delivered mid-to-high 80 mph fastballs. He mixed in a really nice, hard biting slider in the 76 range, and pitched from a low three-quarters delivery that offered a fair amount of deception.

While Stoffel was the most impressive overall pitcher in attendance, very athletic right-hander Clint Franklin (Longwood, FL) had the most impressive curveball. A true downer in the 70-72 range, he set up the pitch perfectly with his 85-89 mph fastball. He induced some pretty awkward looking swings against his breaking pitch. The one concern I have with Franklin is his delivery, as there seems to be a lot of wasted movement, although that also played to his favor as opposing hitters had difficulty timing him.

Richie Goodenow (Nashville, TN) took the mound next. An athletic, projectable lefty armed with a high-80s fastball and a very good curveball, Goodenow was another pleasant surprise in attendance. Word has it that he has already committed to Vanderbilt, so he may be tough to pry away from his college (and local) commitment.

Evan Cox, as described above, was the last pitcher to throw for the South. The North team had a few more arms that were there to pitch, as they started to filter those pitchers in to the mound for the South team so everyone had the chance to showcase their abilities.

The North squad trotted right-handed pitcher Arthur Clyde (Teaneck, NJ) out to the mound first. While he didn't show the best pure stuff at the showcase (83-86 fastball, 66 curveball), the difference of speeds between his fastball and curveball seemed to baffle hitters. Clyde hit his spots well and did a nice job getting batters out.

Lefty Matt Zoltak (Philadelphia, PA) came in next, and as a smaller pitcher (listed at 5'11") he relied more on keeping the ball down and commanding the strike zone than blowing batters away. He threw his fastball 84-87 in his first inning of work, which dipped to 83-84 during his second inning. With an advanced repertoire, he threw slow but very good curveball consistently in the 63 mph range, a slider in the low-70s, and he also mixed in an advanced, sinking changeup clocked around 77 mph. Adding to his effectiveness was a deceptive delivery.

Ryan Kalish, as described above, pitched next, followed by righty Dale Hering, who impressed me the day before in BP. Hering's athleticism on the mound is evident, and you can tell that he could be a two-way standout at the college level should he choose to pursue that path. His fastball touched 89, and he worked consistently in the 84-87 range with an easy and free delivery. Hering threw his curveball in low 70's, which complemented his fastball very well.

Fellow North righty Joe O'Malley (Morrestown, NJ) followed Hering on the mound. Another fine overall athlete, O'Malley piched well in the 85-87 range mixing in a very good curveball clocked consistently in the low 70's.

Southpaw Glenn Gibson (Center Moriches, NY) pitched next. Getting bigger and better over the years, he offers a very good presence on the mound at 6'4", 180 pounds, with even more room to grow and improve. His fastball touched 88 mph while tossing in a 70 mph curveball and an impressive 78-81 changeup. All of his pitches showed good life, and he had one of the more advanced approaches to pitching with good command of the strike zone.

Other than Tommy Pham and Jason Stoffel, righty Daniel Cropper (Snow Hill, MD) showed the most consistant fastball velocity, topping out at 90 mph. He worked consistently in the 87-90 range, mixing in a good low 70's curveball. Cropper has a very good, projectable frame at 6'4", 180, and certainly will be a name to watch over the next year.

Yet another impressive southpaw took the mound after Cropper, J.D. Reichenbach (Doylestown, PA). While his velocity wasn't at where it has been at other events (87 mph), he showed that he knew how to pitch without his best stuff while also flashing a promising curveball thrown consistently at 69 mph.

Pham, mentioned a few times within my notes, pitched next, followed by local product Will Krasne (Washington, DC), who was the last pitcher to take the mound during the scrimmage. At 6'0", 180 pounds, he has filled out a little bit over the past year, and still has room to grow. Krasne already offers advanced poise on the mound, and consistently threw his fastball at 87 mph, a tribute to his polished mechanics. His curveball was thrown in the high-60s, and it's hard not seeing this young man getting better in the next year or two.

Overall, the Perfect Game Aflac Showcase once again brought in the next-best group of players from around the nation. There were a few players that could have been selected as Aflac All-Americans themselves, and you'll probably start hearing more and more about these players as the summer winds down and as the World Wood Bat Championship in Jupiter, Florida approaches.

Orioles game at Camden Yards
Friday night the Aflac All-Americans were treated to a game in a luxury box at Camden Yards to take in an Orioles-Blue Jays game. Unfortunately for the home crowd, the Orioles didn't put up much of a fight (other than a bench-clearing incident), but the experience was much more important to the players as they enjoyed talking with one another, the coaches, some of the children from the Aflac Cancer Center and surprise guest Justin Upton, last year's Jackie Robinson/Aflac Player of the Year Award winner.

Be sure to check back tomorrow on Perfect Game USA's homepage for more coverage from the Aflac All-American Baseball Classic. In the next and final installment of this three-part feature I will focus on Saturday's game events, which consisted of the finals for the home run derby and the biggest reason why everyone was in attendance: The Aflac All-American Baseball Classic.

The thoughts and opinions expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of Perfect Game USA. Patrick Ebert is affiliated with both Perfect Game USA and, and can be contacted via email at
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