CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa -- The fact that the Iowa High School Athletic Association offers only a summer high school baseball season can work against the state's top prospects in their quest to secure coveted college scholarship offers.
The players that choose to play for their high school teams during the summer must forgo the chance to join national travel teams that spend the summer on the prominent Perfect Game tournament circuit and provide boatloads of much sought-after national exposure. Those Iowa prospects are largely absent from the prestigious July events like the PG WWBA National Championships and PG BCS Finals that are attended by hundreds of college coaches and MLB scouts.
That's why events like the PG Midwest Top and Midwest Underclass Showcases -- being held Saturday and Sunday at Perfect Game Field at Veterans Memorial Stadium -- are so important to the roughly 180 prospects who are here, most of them Iowans.
A classic case in point is top Iowa shortstop/outfield prospect Anthony Denkinger, an incoming senior at Dowling Catholic High School in West Des Moines who is ranked No. 227 nationally and No. 2 in the state. Denkinger has yet to make a college commitment.
"My dad and I, we just wanted to come out here and get a little more work (and) get a little more exposure" he said on a perfect Saturday morning at Perfect Game Field.
Anthony made the two-hour drive over here with his father, Steve Denkinger, who has also been with him at the other PG events he's attended.
"This is just another chance for him to get out and be seen," Steve said. "He's still in flux as far as what he wants to do and where he wants to go and this is another chance to keep playing baseball. He's not playing football anymore so the more baseball he can get in, the better."
Denkinger was impressive in a couple of arm velocity workouts Saturday morning. He threw 86 mph from the outfield (tied for the second best effort) and 83 across the infield (tied for seventh best).
He not only gave up football but will also play with the PG Iowa Select team this fall in a series of tournaments. He may miss some games while making college visits this fall, but being a member Iowa Select will provide even more valuable exposure.
"There are a lot of kids on our team that are going to be really good and it's going to be a lot of fun," Denkinger said. "We're going to all over the place, too; we're going to stay around the Midwest to begin with and then we're going to go down to Arizona" (for the Perfect Game/EvoShield National Championship.
"He's had kind of mixed emotions about not playing football this year but (the Iowa Select team) has had a few practices and he's all fired up and ready to go this fall," Steve Denkinger said.
Depending on how everything comes together, Denkinger could conceivably find himself playing for someone at the grand-daddy of them all in terms of exposure, the 2012 PG WWBA World Championship in Jupiter, Fla., at the end of October.
Denkinger started getting on the map in April when he came over to Perfect Game Field to take part in the PG Spring Top Prospect Showcase. At the completion of the event PG scouting coordinator Ben Collman ranked Denkinger as the No. 3 top prospect in attendance behind only 2012 right-handers Alec Rash and Kevin Elder. Rash was drafted by the Phillies in the second round of the 2012 MLB amateur draft but did not sign and is at the University of Missouri. Elder is at Arizona.
Collman wrote of Denkinger in his report:
"(He) earned his billing as the top position player of the showcase, showing smooth easy athleticism and defensive skills that will profile at SS or in the OF. The ball comes off his bat very well and he hit two home runs during batting practice."
After the Spring Top, Denkinger moved on to an even bigger stage. He was selected to participate in the prestigious Perfect Game National Showcase at the Metrodome in Minneapolis and earned a 9.5 grade on a scale of 10. The National featured nearly all of the top 100 prospects in the class of 2013.
"It was different," Denkinger said with a laugh that hinted at disbelief. "There were a lot of really good kids and it just kind of put into perspective where you're at compared with everyone else. There were some very good kids that you're probably going to be seeing in the major leagues down the road.
"When you see kids like that it makes you want to play a little harder and stuff just so you can compete with them."
He then spent the summer playing for the Dowling Maroons, which came into the season as the defending Class 4A (big school) state champions. They made it back to the state tournament but finished the season 33-11 after a loss in the quarterfinals.
Denkinger had an all-state caliber season, batting .356 (42-for-118) with a home run, 17 doubles, 27 RBI and a .427 on-base percentage. Dowling Catholic plays in the powerful Central Iowa Metropolitan League which sent four teams to the eight-team Class 4A state tournament -- state champion Ankeny, Fort Dodge, West Des Moines Valley and Dowling Catholic.
Denkinger's Dowling teammates Jake Reinhardt, Grant Otte and Sam Schleisman are at the Midwest Top & Underclass this weekend as are prospects from each of the CIML teams mentioned above.
"This has been a lot of fun. Perfect Game is a ton of fun," Denkinger said. "I love playing with all these guys and it's fun meeting all the other guys from all over the state; a lot of those guys are still my buddies. It kind of sucks playing against them in high school but it's still a lot of fun."
But there's still that matter of finding a college, finding that place that feels right, the perfect fit, if you will. There have been obstacles to overcome.
"He's working hard at it," Steve said. "He's going to work hard all winter trying to get bigger and stronger and see what happens in the spring. He's just kind of starting to lineup his (college) visits now, and we feel a little bit behind the eight-ball because most the guys he played with up at the National (Showcase) have (committed) already. I've just told him to hang in there and play well this fall and it will all come together for him."
Anthony is confident he's doing the right thing by being here this weekend.
"I'm sure (Perfect Game) is 95 percent of the reason that I'm getting looked at by different colleges," he said. "They get you out there and they let a ton of people see you, so it's been real beneficial."