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Sunday, May 27, 2012

Rocky Mountain stage for George

Jeff Dahn        
Photo: Perfect Game

GREENWOOD VILLAGE, Colo. - When young infield prospect Max George walked onto the Cherry Creek High School campus early Sunday morning, he entered an environment somewhat foreign to him.

Not the Cherry Creek campus - oh, goodness no. George just completed his sophomore year at Regis Jesuit High School, located just on the eastern side of Cherry Creek State Park in Aurora, while CCHS sits on the western side. The foreign aspect was that George was here for his first Perfect Game event.

The inaugural Perfect Game Rocky Mountain Showcase wrapped up its two-day run Sunday, and George is one of about a dozen young prospects who were only able to attend Sunday because their high schools teams were playing in the state finals. George, a 5-foot-10, 160-pound second baseman, was happy to be here.

"I want to meet some new guys and get some more exposure because I know Perfect Game (provides) a lot of exposure," George said. "This is my first experience with Perfect Game and it's a great tool to use for (college) recruiting and stuff."

George's attendance here proved especially rewarding. He was extended and accepted an invitation to the prestigious Perfect Game Junior National Showcase, an elite event for prospects who will still be underclassmen in the fall. It will be held this year at the Metrodome in Minneapolis on June 12-13.

The rewards to be reaped from an invitation to the PG Junior National can be enormous. 2009 PG Junior National Showcase alumni Dylan Bundy, Francisco Lindor, Kevin Comer, Travis Harrison and Michael Kelly were all either first round or first round compensation picks in June's 2011 MLB amateur draft.

"What I know about it, it just brings a lot of exposure and I'm excited and eager to go. It should be fun," George said. "I'm just looking forward to meeting new guys and getting better every day."

George put up eye-popping offensive numbers during his sophomore season at Regis Jesuit, the 2011 Colorado Class 5A state champion that was eliminated Saturday by eventual state champion Cherry Creek in the finals of the championship series and settled for third place.

In 26 games, counting the postseason, George hit .544 (43-for-79) with seven home runs, eight triples, five doubles, 25 RBI, 46 runs scored and 17 stolen bases. His on-base percentage was .661 and his slugging percentage was 1.076.

George is certainly learning from one of the best at Regis Jesuit. The head coach is former big league shortstop Walt Weiss, who played 14 seasons with the Oakland A's, Florida Marlins, Colorado Rockies and Atlanta Braves, and won the American League Rookie of the Year award with the A's in 1988 and was an MLB All-Star with the Braves in 1998.

In an interview published earlier this spring after Regis Jesuit had won 11 straight games, Weiss imparted the following wisdom that young players like George should take to heart:

"The thing about this game is that when you let your guard down and you lose your focus just a little bit, the game will embarrass you," he said. "All of a sudden, the game gets real hard when you're not focused and you don't have your 'A' game mentally."

Weiss took the team on a spring break trip down to Arizona before the start of the regular season and it was an experience that proved beneficial.

"I've never really been on a team that came together as 'one' before and I feel like this team really came together," George said. "After our Arizona trip we really bonded and learned a lesson about teamwork. It was a good bonding moment for the team and I think that was a turning point for us."

It took about two weeks. Regis Jesuit started its regular season 1-3 after returning from Arizona, and then won 14 of its last 15 regular season games to gain a head of steam going into the postseason. Its postseason record was 5-2 with the losses coming in the round of  eight and the final three.

George made last year's USSSA junior national team and this summer will play in the USSSA Gold Medal Games. He will also play summer ball with the Regis Jesuit 18u team, that Weiss also coaches. That team does some out-of-state traveling and gives the junior players like George a taste of more elite competition.

George, who hit a soaring home run over the towering scoreboard in left field  and leaped to spear a line drive while playing third base during the final game of the PG Rocky Mountain Showcase Sunday, is moving on to bigger stages. With two more years of high school baseball in his future, expect even more doors to open for the talented youngster.

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